Middle Class


Politically speaking, Sarah Palin is crazy — but in an entertaining way. Speaker of the House John Boehner may look reasonable by comparison, but his supposed rationality is pretty dubious.

11

Before I proceed to pick on these GOP icons, I want to acknowledge that I spend a lot of time blasting Republicans in my columns and cartoons. Many readers assume it’s because I’m a commie-pinko, America-hating liberal Democrat. Actually, my constant critique of today’s GOP has more to do with the fact that I grew up in a time and place where Republicans were often the smart, sane ones and quite a few Democrats were part of a regressive, corrupt old guard.

12 13

Sarah Palin defines craziness for the Republican Party
Coming from a long-time-Republican family, I leaned toward the GOP in my sympathies and my votes well into my 20s. But those were the days when the word “Republican” was not synonymous with conservative and conservative was not synonymous with reactionary, anti-intellectual, gun-worshiping, gay-bashing, immigrant-fearing populism.

So, as a lapsed Republican, I am disappointed with the narrowness, rigidity and willful ignorance of those contemporary Republicans who claim the right to brand any Republican who disagrees with them a “Rino” (Republican in name only).

14

Judged by the long history of the party, if anyone is an actual Rino, it’s Sarah Palin. She has recently confessed as much, revealing an inclination to leave the GOP behind because the party lacks zeal for her list of kooky causes. One cause, in particular, has failed to ignite the passions of party leaders: the impeachment of President Obama.

15

Last week in a column on Breitbart.com, Palin declared, “Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president. His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.’ “

She wrote that “the many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored,” but failed to clarify what those crimes may be. One of the president’s worst sins, as Palin sees it, is that he has made many Americans “feel like strangers in their own country.” Setting aside the reality that sweeping demographic, cultural and economic changes are far more likely the cause of traditionalist alienation than anything the president has done, it should be noted that making some folks feel excluded is not an impeachable offense. Imagine how marginalized anti-war liberals felt when George W. Bush was president.

Boehner apparently knows that trying to lead an impeachment effort is a fool’s errand. He dismissed Palin’s impeachment manifesto with two words: “I disagree.”

Instead, he and the House GOP leadership are taking the president to federal court, saying he has overstepped the limits of his constitutional role. This might seem a saner course of action if not for the political loopiness of the premise on which they are basing their lawsuit. After fighting against Obama’s Affordable Care Act for most of the president’s time in office, after taking countless votes to repeal the act and after running in 2010 and 2012 on a platform demanding repeal of the law, the Republicans now want to force the administration to put the law into full effect.

16 17
Obama has delayed implementation of the employer mandate provision of the ACA twice since 2013. Now, penalties that will punish employers for not providing healthcare coverage to their employees will not kick in until 2016. Boehner contends Obama has usurped the powers of Congress by fiddling with the deadlines.

It is an interesting legal question that a court will decide somewhere down the line, but no one is naïve enough to believe that constitutional clarity is truly Boehner’s goal. Republicans hate the mandate as much as they hate the whole healthcare law. The lawsuit is merely a milder version of the impeachment campaign; another gambit in the ceaseless effort to block the Democratic president at every possible turn.

18 19

This juvenile partisan towel fight has consumed most of the efforts of Republicans for way too long. Immediate action is needed to keep the Highway Trust Fund from running out of money by the end of August. By the end of September, a long list of other bills must be passed to avert another government shutdown. Plus, there’s the debate about renewal of the Export-Import Bank and the bill to address the latest border crisis. But all that necessary work may not get done because the House majority is too fixated on undoing the last two presidential elections.

For her part, Palin mocks Boehner’s little ploy. “You don’t bring a lawsuit to a gunfight and there’s no room for lawyers on our front lines,” she said, boldly mixing her metaphors on Fox News.

20

These aren’t real Republicans. This is a clown troop.

 

* Text by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2014 

Americans aren’t so sure about rich people.

AP070506040610

For every revered Steve Jobs, there’s a reviled Bernie Madoff; for every folksy Warren Buffett, there’s a tone-deaf Mitt Romney. The pursuit of happiness is patriotic, but the pursuit of riches can come off as greedy. This ambivalence toward the wealthy is embedded in American democracy, and no one knows how to yank it out.

Even Alexis de Tocqueville agreed — a good thing, too, because discussing democracy in America without quoting “Democracy in America” is forbidden. “Men are there seen on a greater equality in point of fortune . . . than in any other country in the world, or in any age of which history has preserved the remembrance,” Tocqueville wrote of his travels in the United States. But then, the dagger: “I do not mean that there is any lack of wealthy individuals in the United States. I know of no country, indeed, where the love of money has taken stronger hold.”

So Americans dislike inequality but crave wealth — and this paradox propels our mixed feelings about the rich. Oppressors or job creators? Ambitious go-getters or rapacious 1 percenters?

Robert F. Dalzell, a historian at Williams College, believes he has an answer. America has a long-standing deal with the rich, he explains, one that allows the country to “forge an accommodation between wealth and democracy.” It’s simple: Yes, rich people, you can exploit workers and natural resources and lord your wealth over everyone if you like, and we’ll resent you for it. But if, along the way, you give a chunk of your fortune to charity, all will be forgiven, old sport. History won’t judge you as a capitalist; it will hail you as a philanthropist.

This uneasy bargain is the premise of Dalzell’s “The Good Rich and What They Cost Us,” which chronicles the deal from before the revolution through the recent financial crisis. Of course, just because the deal has lasted this long doesn’t mean that it will endure. Or that it is a particularly good one. Or that the rich aren’t constantly trying to rewrite the terms.

Early on, the wealthy waited until their deaths to strike the deal. Dalzell writes of Robert Keayne, a prominent 17th-century Boston merchant who sought to cleanse his price-gouging reputation by devoting his posthumous riches to college scholarships, improvements in his city’s water supply and defense, and construction of a town hall where important men like him could discuss weighty things. His will became a unilateral contract with town leaders; if anyone tried to sue his estate for past misdeeds, Keayne stipulated, all his giving would “utterly cease and become void.” Boston took the deal.

John D. Rockefeller saw no reason to wait. His Standard Oil empire — whose ruthless business tactics Ida Tarbell exposed and whose interlocking parts the Supreme Court split up — became the basis for the greatest philanthropic enterprise the world had ever seen. From major financial commitments to Spellman College and the University of Chicago, to support for medical research that developed the yellow-fever vaccine, to the financing of the Cloisters museum in Upper Manhattan and the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, to list just a few initiatives, Rockefeller and his descendants set the model for modern, large-scale philanthropy. And they did so in a way that preserved the family’s influence and wealth over multiple generations.

“There was something Medici-like about the whole effort,” Dalzell writes, “for within the soul of that great Renaissance family there lay an urge to combine what many might have thought uncombinable — vast wealth and dedicated public service.”

But he also sees a more prosaic motivation: Billionaires want to polish their reputations for posterity. Wealth does not dull their sensitivity to what we think of them; it heightens it. Dalzell thinks it is no coincidence, for example, that the Giving Pledge — a public commitment by the world’s richest individuals, led by Buffett and Bill Gates, to donate most of their fortunes — coincided with the Great Recession’s backlash against the wealthy.

So, the rich just want to be loved. Is that so wrong? If more than 100 of the planet’s wealthiest families and individuals are promising to give away unfathomable amounts of money, why quibble?

Well, there’s at least one reason: The deal gets worse as the price paid for the rich’s charity — the inequality between the affluent and the rest — keeps rising. From 1979 to 2007, the real, after-tax income of the top 1 percent of the U.S. population grew by 275 percent, compared with 18 percent for the bottom fifth, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Social mobility has become more stunted in the United States than in Europe. And Americans see themselves falling further behind: A Washington Post-ABC News polllast year found that 57 percent of registered voters believed that the gap between the rich and rest was larger than it had been historically; only 5 percent thought it was smaller.

The deal will get even worse if efforts to push laws and policies that benefit wealthier Americans succeed. In “Rich People’s Movements,” Isaac William Martin, a sociologist at the University of California at San Diego, says today’s tea party is just the latest manifestation of another American tradition: the mobilization of wealthy and middle-class citizens in an effort to cut their taxes and contributions to the state.

Before the tea party, Martin tells us, there were tax clubs — groups of bankers throughout the South that agitated for tax cuts and helped bring about the Revenue Act of 1926, which “cut the tax rates on the richest Americans more deeply than any other tax law in history.” Before we hadGrover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform, we had J.A. Arnold and the American Taxpayers’ League, and Vivien Kellems and the Liberty Belles, a 1950s women’s movement that campaigned to repeal the income tax. And before Arthur Laffer and supply-side economics, there was Andrew Mellon, the banker, philanthropist and Treasury secretary whose 1924 book,“Taxation: The People’s Business,” argued that cutting income tax rates would create more revenue through greater economic growth.

Rich people’s movements respond to perceived threats, such as the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt’s effort to cap incomes during World War II (because “all excess income should go to win the war,” FDR explained) or, now, the policies of the Obama administration. But these movements sell their efforts not as benefiting the rich alone — that would be too transparent, too tacky. Instead, they claim to protect freedom, promote growth, safeguard the Constitution or fend off an ever-more-intrusive government. Martin calls this “strategic policy crafting,” and it brings more allies to the fight.

In fact, it is not just the wealthy, but often the middle class or the slightly-richer-than-average who have campaigned for lower taxes on affluent Americans. “People need not be dupes in order to protest on behalf of others who are richer than they are,” Martin argues. “The activists and supporters of rich people’s movements were defending their own real interests, as they saw them. A tax increase on the richest 1 percent may be perceived by many upper-middle-income property owners as the first step in a broader assault on property rights.” In other words, there’s nothing the matter with Kansas.

Shortly before the Republican National Convention gathered last year to nominate a man who could have become one of the richest presidents in U.S. history, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey on American attitudes toward the wealthy. The chronic ambivalence was there: Forty-three percent of respondents said rich people are more likely than the average American to be intelligent, and 42 percent believed that the rich worked harder than everyone else. The good rich! But 55 percent said wealthy people were more likely to be greedy, and 34 percent thought they were less likely to be honest. The bad rich.

Can “giving pledges” and foundation grants sustain America’s deal with the wealthy in a time of increasing inequality and falling social mobility? In his conclusion, Dalzell worries that the belief in the generosity of the good rich leads us to “tolerate, even celebrate, the violation of some of our most cherished ideals” of fairness and egalitarianism.

Perhaps the dilemma of extreme wealth and disparities in a democracy is that noblesse oblige becomes necessary. These two books show that the wealthy give much with one hand but seek to contribute far less with the other. That makes the giving they choose to do all the more critical but all the less accountable.

And that doesn’t sound like such a good deal.

**************************************************

By Carlos Lozada, Washington Post, November 27, 2013

A single mother who has been working at McDonald’s for 10 years was detained by police last week after she interrupted the company president’s speech in Chicago to confront him about low worker pay.

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that 26-year-old Nancy Salgado was part of a group protesting the event, asking company officials to raise worker wages to $15 an hour and allow employees to form a union without fear of retaliation.

Protestors were detained for an hour, threatened with arrest, and ticketed, according to Chicagoist.

The Real News posted a video to YouTube that contains a clip of Salgado’s outburst as well as an interview with her:

Here’s what Salgado said to McDonald’s USA President Jeff Stratton: “I’m a single mother of two. It’s really hard for me to feed my two kids and struggle day to day. Do you think this is fair that I have to be making $8.25 when I’ve been working at McDonald’s for 10 years?”

Stratton’s response: “I’ve been there [at McDonald’s] 40 years.”

Salgado told The Real News that she still works at McDonald’s (although they cut her hours back) and she loves her job, but she wanted to speak out because she thought her voice needed to be heard.

“It gets harder and harder,” she said. “Sometimes I can’t provide a gallon of milk in the refrigerator.”

 

* Pamela Engel (BI, October 9,2013)

pamela-engel

If we do not make the difference between people who earn more than those who earn less, be reasonable. Then the economic world, businesses or jobs will be chaos, for most people, where injustice, selfishness, greed and arrogance is something considered normal executive.

Ratio Of Pay CEO vs. Average Worker

There should be a limit on earnings regardless one has several professional degrees or doctorates at Harvard.

 

CEO_pay_worker_pay_stocks_profits_minimum_wage

We pay fair wages to all workers, without exception, according to the cost of living in the country, where human dignity is quantified.

In this way we will have a better world, a more just and where justice, peace and social solidarity is normal.

la-fi-mo-us-ceo-pay-231-times-more-than-averag-001

Also make sure that the domestic market is positive. Be Sure that most people will have some money left over to use it to make purchases of various products or services. Otherwise only a small group will do it and many companies or businesses will have to close its doors.

See You.

CTsT

A study finds that granting citizenship to undocumented workers would increase pay, tax revenue and overall spending.

Undocumented workers till an asparagus field near Toppenish, Wash., on the Yakama Indian Reservation© Elaine Thompson-AP Photo

Adding 203,000 new jobs, $184 billion in tax revenue and $1.4 trillion to the nation’s overall economy seems like a pretty good idea for a country clawing its way out of an economic downturn.Would Americans still think it’s a good idea if that boom required granting undocumented immigrants immediate citizenship? The answer might be less than unanimous, but the folks at the Center For American Progress say it’s an idea worth considering sooner rather than later.

266036_10151065157925786_858839407_o

Five years after gaining citizenship, undocumented workers would make 25.1% more annually, according to a study obtained by The Huffington Post. That raise will “ripple through the economy” as immigrants use their income to buy goods and pay taxes.

The plan, as with nearly any mention of immigration reform in the U.S., has drawn its fair share of criticism. In his book “Immigration Wars: Forging An American Solution,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush insists that the economic benefits of a path to citizenship are outweighed by the potential damage to the “integrity of our immigration system.”

The junior senator from Bush’s state, Republican Marco Rubio, flat-out disagrees and has joined Arizona Sen. John McCain in calling for a clear and immediate path to citizenship for undocumented workers. They wouldn’t be the first or even the most high-profile Republicans to make that call, either.

cake

In 1986, Ronald Reagan made immigration a priority of his presidency by instituting the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which National Public Radio recently spotlighted for granting amnesty and, eventually, citizenship to undocumented workers who had been in the country since 1982.

How did that work out? Ask the Department of Labor, which reports that immigrants granted citizenship under Reagan’s plan got a 15.1% bump in pay immediately afterward.

But what if Americans just aren’t ready for such a sweeping change in immigration policy? Then they’re going to have to wait a whole lot longer for a payout while they make up their minds. The Center For American Progress study showed that delaying the citizenship process could put off benefits for both workers and the greater economy by a decade or more.

When Mort Zuckerman, the New York City real-estate and media mogul, lavished $200 million on Columbia University in December to endow the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, he did so with fanfare suitable to the occasion: the press conference was attended by two Nobel laureates, the president of the university, the mayor, and journalists from some of New York’s major media outlets.

6f7b288abf6ed85d94c3a4895eb7d_h338_w600_m6_lfalse

 

Many of the 12 other individual charitable gifts that topped $100 million in the U.S. last year were showered with similar attention: $150 million from Carl Icahn to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, $125 million from Phil Knight to the Oregon Health & Science University, and $300 million from Paul Allen to the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, among them. If you scanned the press releases, or drove past the many university buildings, symphony halls, institutes, and stadiums named for their benefactors, or for that matter read the histories of grand giving by the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Stanfords, and Dukes, you would be forgiven for thinking that the story of charity in this country is a story of epic generosity on the part of the American rich.

generosity

It is not. One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.

ricos-y_pobres_3 ricos-y-pobres-246x300

But why? Lower-income Americans are presumably no more intrinsically generous (or “prosocial,” as the sociologists say) than anyone else. However, some experts have speculated that the wealthy may be less generous—that the personal drive to accumulate wealth may be inconsistent with the idea of communal support. Last year, Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, published research that correlated wealth with an increase in unethical behavior: “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff later told New York magazine, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people.” They are, he continued, “more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.” Colorful statements aside, Piff’s research on the giving habits of different social classes—while not directly refuting the asshole theory—suggests that other, more complex factors are at work. In a series of controlled experiments, lower-income people and people who identified themselves as being on a relatively low social rung were consistently more generous with limited goods than upper-class participants were. Notably, though, when both groups were exposed to a sympathy-eliciting video on child poverty, the compassion of the wealthier group began to rise, and the groups’ willingness to help others became almost identical.

Royal-smackdown

Last year, not one of the top 50 individual charitable gifts went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed.

If Piff’s research suggests that exposure to need drives generous behavior, could it be that the isolation of wealthy Americans from those in need is a cause of their relative stinginess? Patrick Rooney, the associate dean at the Indiana University School of Philanthropy, told me that greater exposure to and identification with the challenges of meeting basic needs may create “higher empathy” among lower-income donors. His view is supported by a recent study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in which researchers analyzed giving habits across all American ZIP codes. Consistent with previous studies, they found that less affluent ZIP codes gave relatively more. Around Washington, D.C., for instance, middle- and lower-income neighborhoods, such as Suitland and Capitol Heights in Prince George’s County, Maryland, gave proportionally more than the tony neighborhoods of Bethesda, Maryland, and McLean, Virginia. But the researchers also found something else: differences in behavior among wealthy households, depending on the type of neighborhood they lived in. Wealthy people who lived in homogeneously affluent areas—areas where more than 40 percent of households earned at least $200,000 a year—were less generous than comparably wealthy people who lived in more socioeconomically diverse surroundings. It seems that insulation from people in need may dampen the charitable impulse.

millonario

 

 

Wealth affects not only how much money is given but to whom it is given. The poor tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities, while the wealthy prefer to support colleges and universities, arts organizations, and museums. Of the 50 largest individual gifts to public charities in 2012, 34 went to educational institutions, the vast majority of them colleges and universities, like Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, that cater to the nation’s and the world’s elite. Museums and arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art received nine of these major gifts, with the remaining donations spread among medical facilities and fashionable charities like the Central Park Conservancy. Not a single one of them went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed. More gifts in this group went to elite prep schools (one, to the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York) than to any of our nation’s largest social-service organizations, including United Way, the Salvation Army, and Feeding America (which got, among them, zero).

pobreza-riqueza

Underlying our charity system—and our tax code—is the premise that individuals will make better decisions regarding social investments than will our representative government. Other developed countries have a very different arrangement, with significantly higher individual tax rates and stronger social safety nets, and significantly lower charitable-contribution rates. We have always made a virtue of individual philanthropy, and Americans tend to see our large, independent charitable sector as crucial to our country’s public spirit. There is much to admire in our approach to charity, such as the social capital that is built by individual participation and volunteerism. But our charity system is also fundamentally regressive, and works in favor of the institutions of the elite. The pity is, most people still likely believe that, as Michael Bloomberg once said, “there’s a connection between being generous and being successful.” There is a connection, but probably not the one we have supposed.

 

By Ken Stern’s book, With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give, was published in February 2013

Elizabeth Warren said that a much higher baseline would be appropriate if wages were tied to productivity gains.

Image: Office worker
Digital Vision-Getty Images-Getty Images

What if U.S. workers were paid more as the nation’s productivity increased?
If we had adopted that policy decades ago, the minimum wage would now be about $22 an hour, said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) last week. Warren was speaking at a hearing held by the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Warren was talking to Arindrajit Dube, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor who has studied the issue of minimum wage. “With a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, what happened to the other $14.75?” she asked Dube. “It sure didn’t go to the worker.”
The $22 minimum wage Warren referred to came from a 2012 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. It said that the minimum wage would have hit $21.72 an hour last year if it had been tied to the increases seen in worker productivity since 1968. Even if the minimum wage got only one-fourth the pickup as the rate of productivity, it would now be $12.25 an hour instead of $7.25.
Some of the news media took this to mean that Warren is calling for a minimum-wage increase to $22 an hour. That doesn’t appear to be the case. She seems to be merely pointing out that the minimum wage has grown more slowly than other facets of the economy.
Warren is taking some hits on Twitter for her comments. One user describes her as “clueless and out of touch” while another calls her “delusional.” But other users are praising her arguments as “compelling,” saying she is “asking the right questions regarding minimum wage.”
By Kim  Peterson
 

Yahoo employees who work from home will have to start packing up their lunches and reporting to the office for duty. But new research suggests there may be a good reason for them to show up: a future.

MW-AZ677_smwork_20130225155717_MD

Those hired by the Internet giant with agreements that they could work partly, or entirely, from home are no doubt peeved over new CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end the company’s flexible location policies. In a memo issued last week, all employees were told they’d have to show up for work in the office starting in June, according to a report in AllThingsDigital. (Yahoo didn’t respond to requests for comment.) The memo says working from the office facilitates more brainstorming.

img_100973_working-from-home-is-a-dead-end-job

“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” it says. See: “Physically Together”: Here’s the Internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo for Remote Workers and Maybe More.

images (1)

But while studies suggest that those who work from home tend to be happier than the average cubicle drone, the chance to work in one’s pajamas often comes at a cost. Controlling for performance, working from home reduced rates of promotion by 50%, according to a report published last week by professors at Stanford University, which reviewed a working-from-home program at a 16,000-employee, Nasdaq-listed Chinese travel agency over nine months. One reason for the bleaker career prospects: less on-the-job training. See: Does Working From Home Work?

6c0538a8b41178a765cb4a4b7acbe2e4

With its new policy, Yahoo (US:YHOO)  is moving in the opposite direction of much of corporate America. The number of people working from home has almost doubled in 30 years, from 2.3% in 1980 to 4.2% in 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census. In fact, the Census data found that about 10% of the workforce works from home at least one day a week, and the wage discount for working from home — 30% in 1980 — has effectively vanished. The company saved around $2,000 per employee, primarily because it paid less rent for office space and increased productivity, the study found.

Aside from fewer promotions, those working from home face other obstacles, says Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford and a co-author of the study. “Even though their productivity went up, they got less face time at the office.” Some also said they were lonely, he says. On the upside, the percentage of workers who quit was halved to 25% from 50% among those who worked from home. Many of the people who volunteered for the work-at-home study were married women with children.

Young graduates are in debt, out of work and on their parents’ couches. People in their 30s and 40s can’t afford to buy homes or have children. Retirees are earning near-zero interest on their savings.

older-articleLarge

In the current listless economy, every generation has a claim to having been most injured. But the Labor Department’s latest jobs snapshot and other recent data reports present a strong case for crowning baby boomers as the greatest victims of the recession and its grim aftermath.

These Americans in their 50s and early 60s — those near retirement age who do not yet have access to Medicare and Social Security— have lost the most earnings power of any age group, with their household incomes 10 percent below what they made when the recovery began three years ago, according to Sentier Research, a data analysis company.

Their retirement savings and home values fell sharply at the worst possible time: just before they needed to cash out. They are supporting both aged parents and unemployed young-adult children, earning them the inauspicious nickname “Generation Squeeze.”

New research suggests that they may die sooner, because their health, income security and mental well-being were battered by recession at a crucial time in their lives. A recent study by economists at Wellesley College found that people who lost their jobs in the few years before becoming eligible for Social Security lost up to three years from their life expectancy, largely because they no longer had access to affordable health care.

“If I break my wrist, I lose my house,” said Susan Zimmerman, 62, a freelance writer in Cleveland, of the distress that a medical emergency would wreak upon her finances and her quality of life. None of the three part-time jobs she has cobbled together pay benefits, and she says she is counting the days until she becomes eligible for Medicare.

Arynita Armstrong, 60, at her home in Willis, Tex. She last worked five years ago. When you're older, they just see gray hair and they write you off, she says.

In the meantime, Ms. Zimmerman has fashioned her own regimen of home remedies — including eating blue cheese instead of taking penicillin and consuming plenty of orange juice, red wine, coffee and whatever else the latest longevity studies recommend — to maintain her health, which she must do if she wants to continue paying the bills.

“I will probably be working until I’m 100,” she said.

As common as that sentiment is, the job market has been especially unkind to older workers.

Unemployment rates for Americans nearing retirement are far lower than those for young people, who are recently out of school, with fewer skills and a shorter work history. But once out of a job, older workers have a much harder time finding another one. Over the last year, the average duration of unemployment for older people was 53 weeks, compared with 19 weeks for teenagers, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report released on Friday.

The lengthy process is partly because older workers are more likely to have been laid off from industries that are downsizing, like manufacturing. Compared with the rest of the population, older people are also more likely to own their own homes and be less mobile than renters, who can move to new job markets.

Older workers are more likely to have a disability of some sort, perhaps limiting the range of jobs that offer realistic choices. They may also be less inclined, at least initially, to take jobs that pay far less than their old positions.

Displaced boomers also believe they are victims of age discrimination, because employers can easily find a young, energetic worker who will accept lower pay and who can potentially stick around for decades rather than a few years.

“When you’re older, they just see gray hair and they write you off,” said Arynita Armstrong, 60, of Willis, Tex. She has been looking for work for five years since losing her job at a mortgage company. “They’re afraid to hire you, because they think you’re a health risk. You know, you might make their premiums go up. They think it’ll cost more money to invest in training you than it’s worth it because you might retire in five years.

“Not that they say any of this to your face,” she added.

When older workers do find re-employment, the compensation is usually not up to the level of their previous jobs, according to data from the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

In a survey by the center of older workers who were laid off during the recession, just one in six had found another job, and half of that group had accepted pay cuts. Fourteen percent of the re-employed said the pay in their new job was less than half what they earned in their previous job.

John Agati, 56, lost his job in 2009, and has had part-time jobs.

“I just say to myself: ‘Why me? What have I done to deserve this?’ ” said John Agati, 56, of Norwalk, Conn., whose last full-time job, as a merchandise buyer and product developer, ended four years ago when his employer went out of business.

That position paid $90,000, and his résumé lists stints at companies like American Express, Disney and USA Networks. Since being laid off, though, he has worked a series of part-time, low-wage, temporary positions, including selling shoes at Lord & Taylor and making sales calls for a limo company.

The last few years have taken a toll not only on his family’s finances, but also on his feelings of self-worth.

“You just get sad,” Mr. Agati said. “I see people getting up in the morning, going out to their careers and going home. I just wish I was doing that. Some people don’t like their jobs, or they have problems with their jobs, but at least they’re working. I just wish I was in their shoes.”

He said he cannot afford to go back to school, as many younger people without jobs have done. Even if he could afford it, economists say it is unclear whether older workers like him benefit much from more education.

“It just doesn’t make sense to offer retraining for people 55 and older,” said Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas in Austin. “Discrimination by age, long-term unemployment, the fact that they’re now at the end of the hiring queue, the lack of time horizon just does not make it sensible to invest in them.”

Many displaced older workers are taking this message to heart and leaving the labor force entirely.

The share of older people applying for Social Security early spiked during the recession as people sought whatever income they could find. The penalty they will pay is permanent, as retirees who take benefits at age 62 — as Ms. Zimmerman did, to help make her mortgage payments — will receive 30 percent less in each month’s check for the rest of their lives than they would if they had waited until full retirement age (66 for those born after 1942).

Those not yet eligible for Social Security are increasingly applying for another, comparable kind of income support that often goes to people who expect never to work again: disability benefits. More than one in eight people in their late 50s is now on some form of federal disability insurance program, according to Mark Duggan, chairman of the department of business economics and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

The very oldest Americans, of course, were battered by some of the same ill winds that tormented those now nearing retirement, but at least the most senior were cushioned by a more readily available social safety net. More important, in a statistical twist, they may have actually benefited from the financial crisis in the most fundamental way: prolonged lives.

Death rates for people over 65 have historically fallen during recessions, according to a November 2011 study by economists at the University of California, Davis. Why? The researchers argue that weak job markets push more workers into accepting relatively undesirable work at nursing homes, leading to better care for residents.

Earlier this year, Peru passed a resolution to reduce its carbon footprint. It prescribed the use of clean energy and a stop to the illegal culling of Amazonian rainforests. Peru acted with good reason. Peru is a country that relies on its agricultural and fishing sectors as major sources of employment and food. A majority of the country’s population lives in the coastal desert, and relies on water from shrinking mountain glaciers and ever-more erratic rains in the Andes. As a result, climate change could hammer the Peruvian economy and Peruvians’ way of life.

That said, Peru produces just 0.4% of the world’s carbon emissions. Any solution to global climate change will have to come from beyond Peru’s borders, and one of the places where that change must happen is the United States of America. The U.S. produces some 18% of the world’s carbon emissions, second only to China. Nonetheless, the U.S. has failed to implement wide-ranging policies to reduce carbon emissions. How do Barack Obama and Mitt Romney see the problem of climate change, and what solutions do they offer?

ROMNEY
Mitt Romney has expressed some seemingly contradictory positions on the causes of climate change, according to a  timeline compiled by Climate Silence. In his 2010 book No Apology, Romney questioned the scientific consensus attributing climate change to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. On the campaign trail the next year, however, he told a town hall meeting that he believed that humans were contributing to global warming, and that therefore, “…it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.”

Months later, however, Romney again began publicly questioning the idea that global warming is caused by humans. “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans. … What I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to,” he said in Lebanon, New Hampshire. This year, however, Romney told Science Debate, “I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences.”

That said, Romney’s policy recommendations on issues of energy and government regulation suggest that concerns about climate change will not weigh heavily on his decision-making. Romney is strongly advocating an increase of gas and oil drilling both on-and-off-shore in the United States. Romney opposed a tax credit for the production of wind energy.

Romney has also taken a dim view of proposals to regulate carbon emissions. He stated that he disagreed with the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to oversee carbon emissions as pollutants. While Romney voiced some support for cap and trade (in which carbon emission limits would be set, and companies could buy and sale credits for emissions) while governor of Massachusetts, the policy is not part of his 2012 platform.

OBAMA
For those concerned about climate change, Obama’s first term in office has been a mixed bag of success and disappointment. Obama has continued U.S. resistance to the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty which prescribes cuts in carbon emissions, despite the U.S. having signed the document in 1997. While Obama pushed cap and trade legislation through the House of Representatives in 2009, the bill died in the Senate and has shown no signs of being resuscitated.

After the failure of cap and trade, however, Obama empowered the EPA to regulate carbon emissions as pollutants. His administration also toughened emissions standards for cars and trucks. His administration has sought to have subsidies for oil and gas companies lowered and eliminated, while pushing for tax credits and other incentives for renewable energy providers.

Looking ahead, Obama has made little mention of climate change in the 2012 campaign. One notable exception was his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, when he said that, “Climate change is not a hoax,” and promised further carbon reduction. Nevertheless, Obama’s platform includes more oil and gas drilling the United States.

 

By Nick Rosen, October 3, 2012

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The U.S. presidential election and Peru: Immigration

In little more than a month, millions of Americans will head to the polls to select the next president of the United States. What would the election of Mitt Romney or the re-election of Barack Obama mean for Peru? This multi-part series will seek to answer that question, issue-by-issue. Today, we look at the two candidates’ positions on immigration.

Peruvians in the United States
It’s hard to track down a firm number on how many Peruvians are living in the United States. The U.S. Census finds about 600,000 people claiming Peruvian origins in the country, but that includes native-born and naturalized U.S. citizens. A press release from Peru’s representatives in the Parlamento Andino estimated that there a million Peruvians living in the U.S., with half of them undocumented. Other estimates say that two-thirds of the Peruvians resident in the U.S. are undocumented. Most estimates suggest that between 2% and 4% of Peru’s citizens live in the United States.

Peruvian immigration to the U.S. has a huge economic impact back home. The Inter-American Development Bank calculates that in 2011, Peruvians in the U.S. sent some $902 million back to their families in Peru. Whil remittances from Europe have fallen, those from the United States have grown in the past year.

Positions on undocumented immigration
As estimates suggest that at least half of the Peruvian immigrants living in the U.S. are doing so without a legal visa, the candidates’ positions on “illegal” immigration are important for the Peruvian community.

When Barack Obama ran for the presidency in 2008, one of his campaign promises was to implement comprehensive immigration reform, providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. That has not happened.

A more modest bill, the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children and later completed high school, was voted down by the Republican majority in Congress. The president later implemented an executive order which, at least temporarily, accomplished much of what was outlined in the DREAM Act. Still, Obama recently said that the failure to implement comprehensive immigration reform was the greatest failure of his first term, and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria remains part of his platform in the 2012 campaign.

Under Obama’s government, deportations of undocumented immigrants increased, with some 1,100 Peruvians deported from the country in 2010 and 2011, according to El Comercio. On the other hand, the administration’s Justice Department sued to stop an Arizona state law that would have allowed local law enforcement officers to question anyone they believed to be in the United States illegally.

Mitt Romney’s position on undocumented immigration deviates sharply from Obama’s. Rather than advocating a path for citizenship, Romney has called for creating incentives for undocumented immigrants to leave the United States. Among the initiatives would be a “mandatory employment verification system that will enable employers to be sure that those they hire are eligible to work. This will discourage illegal immigrants from coming to America to seek jobs,” according to his campaign’s website. Romney says that he would  reform the temporary worker program to make it a viable alternative to illegal immigration.

Romney also believes that denying undocumented immigrants benefits, such as state drivers licenses and in-state tuition at public university, will help stop the flow of undocumented workers. The Romney campaign has repeatedly refused to state whether Romney supports the Arizona state law, though it has said that Romney believes that states should have more power to draft immigration laws. Romney has said that he would veto the DREAM Act, but does say that young people who come to the U.S. as children and later serve in the military should have a path to citizenship.

Positions on legal immigration
The two candidates’ positions are significantly closer on legal immigration. Both candidates have called for more visas for high-skilled workers and those with advanced degrees, citing the positive impact that these immigrants have on the economy. Both candidates have stated that there is a need to reform the temporary worker program so that economic sectors like agricultural and tourism can get the workers that they need.

Romney says that he would facilitate and speed up the processing of visas for the relatives of American citizens and permanent residents, and would raise the caps of high-skilled immigrants from many countries.

Barack Obama opposes the designation of English as the official language of the United States, saying that it would keep Spanish speakers from accessing government services. Mitt Romney says that he would support legislation designating English as an official language.

A loose-knit populist campaign that started on Wall Street three weeks ago has spread to dozens of cities across the country, with protesters camped out in Los Angeles near City Hall, assembled before the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago and marching through downtown Boston to rally against corporate greed, unemployment and the role of financial institutions in the economic crisis.

With little organization and a reliance on Facebook, Twitter and Google groups to share methods, the Occupy Wall Street campaign, as the prototype in New York is called, has clearly tapped into a deep vein of anger, experts in social movements said, bringing longtime crusaders against globalization and professional anarchists together with younger people frustrated by poor job prospects.

“Rants based on discontents are the first stage of any movement,” said Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University. But he said it was unclear if the current protests would lead to a lasting movement, which would require the newly unleashed passions to be channeled into institutions and shaped into political goals.

Publicity surrounding the recent arrests of hundreds in New York, near Wall Street and on the Brooklyn Bridge, has only energized the campaign. This week, new rallies and in some cases urban encampments are planned for cities as disparate as Memphis, Tenn.; Hilo, Hawaii; Minneapolis; Baltimore; and McAllen, Tex., according to Occupy Together, an unofficial hub for the protests that lists dozens of coming demonstrations, including some in Europe and Japan.

In the nation’s capital, an Occupy D.C. movement began on Saturday, with plans to join forces on Thursday with a similar anticorporate and antiwar group, October 2011, for an encampment in a park near the White House.

 

About 100 mostly younger people, down from 400 over the weekend, were camped outside Los Angeles City Hall on Monday morning. Several dozen tents occupied the lawn along with a free-food station and a media center. People sat on blankets playing the guitar or bongo drums or meditating. Next to a “Food Not Bombs” sign, was another that read “Food Not Banks.”

At the donations table, Elise Whitaker, 21, a freelance script editor and film director, said the protesters were united in their desire for “a more equal economy.”

“I believe that I am not represented by the big interest groups and the big money corporations, which have increasing control of our money and our politics,” she said, adding that she was not against capitalism per se.

Javier Rodriguez, 24, a former student at Pasadena City College, held a sign that read “Down with the World Bank” in Spanish, and said he was anti-capitalist.

“The monetary system is not working,” he said. “The banks are here to steal from us. Everybody is in debt whether it’s medical bills or school or loans. People are getting fed up with it.”

In Chicago on Monday morning, about a dozen people outside the Federal Reserve Bank sat on the ground or lay in sleeping bags, surrounded by protest signs and hampers filled with donated food and blankets. The demonstrators, who have been in Chicago since Sept. 24, said they had collected so much food that they started giving the surplus to homeless people.

Each evening, the number of protesters swells as people come from school or work, and the group marches to Michigan Avenue.

“We all have different ideas about what this means, stopping corporate greed,” said Paul Bucklaw, 45. “For me, it’s about the banks.”

Sean Richards, 21, a junior studying environmental health at Illinois State University in Normal, said he dropped out of college on Friday and took a train to Chicago to demonstrate against oil companies.

He said he would continue sleeping on the street for “as long as it takes.”

Strategists on the left said they were buoyed by the outpouring of energy and hoped it would contribute to a newly powerful progressive movement. Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, in Washington, noted that the Wall Street demonstrations followed protests in Wisconsin this year over efforts to suppress public employee unions and numerous rallies on economic and employment issues.

The new protesters have shown a remarkable commitment and have stayed nonviolent in the face of aggressive actions by the New York police, he said. “I think that as a result they really touched a chord among activists across the country.”

But if the movement is to have lasting impact, it will have to develop leaders and clear demands, said Nina Eliasoph, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California.

With the country in such deep economic distress, almost everyone is forced to think about economics and politics, giving the new protests a “major emotional resonance,” she said.

“So there is a tension between this emotionally powerful movement,” she said, “and the emptiness of the message itself so far.”

 

* By ERIK ECKHOLM and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS (NYT; October 3, 2011)
Ashley Southall contributed reporting from Washington, Ian Lovett from Los Angeles and Steven Yaccino from Chicago.

For a few hours at the mall here this month, Nick Griffith, his wife, Lacey Lennon, and their two young children got to feel like a regular family again.

Never mind that they were just killing time away from the homeless shelter where they are staying, or that they had to take two city buses to get to the shopping center because they pawned one car earlier this year and had another repossessed, or that the debit card Ms. Lennon inserted into the A.T.M. was courtesy of the state’s welfare program.
They ate lunch at the food court, browsed for clothes and just strolled, blending in with everyone else out on a scorching hot summer day. “It’s exactly why we come here,” Ms. Lennon said. “It reminds us of our old life.”

For millions who have lost jobs or faced eviction in the economic downturn, homelessness is perhaps the darkest fear of all. In the end, though, for all the devastation wrought by the recession, a vast majority of people who have faced the possibility have somehow managed to avoid it.
Nevertheless, from 2007 through 2009, the number of families in homeless shelters — households with at least one adult and one minor child — leapt to 170,000 from 131,000, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
With long-term unemployment ballooning, those numbers could easily climb this year. Late in 2009, however, states began distributing $1.5 billion that has been made available over three years by the federal government as part of the stimulus package for the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which provides financial assistance to keep people in their homes or get them back in one quickly if they lose them.

More than 550,000 people have received aid, including more than 1,800 in Rhode Island, with just over a quarter of the money for the program spent so far nationally, state and federal officials said.
Even so, it remains to be seen whether the program is keeping pace with the continuing economic hardship.
On Aug. 9, Mr. Griffith, 40, Ms. Lennon, 26, and their two children, Ava, 3, and Ethan, 16 months, staggered into Crossroads Rhode Island, a shelter that functions as a kind of processing and triage center for homeless families, after a three-day bus journey from Florida.
“It hit me when we got off the bus and walked up and saw the Crossroads building,” Ms. Lennon said. “We had all our stuff. We were tired. We’d already had enough, and it was just starting.”
The number of families who have sought help this year at Crossroads has already surpassed the total for all of 2009. Through July, 324 families had come needing shelter, compared with 278 all of last year.
National data on current shelter populations are not yet available, but checks with other major family shelters across the country found similar increases.
The Y.W.C.A. Family Center in Columbus, Ohio, one of the largest family shelters in the state, has seen an occupancy increase of more than 20 percent over the last three months compared with the same period last year. The UMOM New Day Center in Phoenix, the largest family shelter in Arizona, has had a more than 30 percent increase in families calling for shelter over the last few months.
Without national data, it is impossible to say for certain whether these are anomalies. Clearly, however, many families are still being sucked into the swirling financial drain that leads to homelessness.
The Griffith family moved from Rhode Island to Florida two years ago after Mr. Griffith, who was working as a waiter at an Applebee’s restaurant, asked to be transferred to one opening in Spring Hill, an hour north of Tampa, where he figured the cost of living would be lower.
He did well at first, earning as much as $25 an hour, including tips. He also got a job as a line cook at another restaurant, where he made $12 an hour.
The family eventually moved into a three-bedroom condominium and lived the typical suburban life, with a sport-utility vehicle and a minivan to cart around their growing family.
In January, however, the restaurant where Mr. Griffith was cooking closed. Then his hours began drying up at Applebee’s. The couple had savings, but squandered some of it figuring he would quickly find another job. When he did not, they were evicted from their condo.
They lived with Ms. Lennon’s mother at first in her one-bedroom house in Port Richey, Fla., but she made it clear after two months that the arrangement was no longer feasible. The family moved to an R.V. park, paying $186 a week plus utilities. By late July, however, they had mostly run out of options.
They called some 100 shelters in Florida and found that most were full; others would not allow them to stay together.
They considered returning to Rhode Island. An Applebee’s in Smithfield agreed to hire Mr. Griffith. They found Crossroads on the Internet and were assured of a spot. Using some emergency money they had left and $150 lent by relatives, they bought bus tickets to Providence.
Now, the family is crammed into a single room at Crossroads’ 15-room family shelter, which used to be a funeral home. All four sleep on a pair of single beds pushed together. There is a crib for Ethan, but with all the turmoil, he can now fall asleep only when next to his parents. A lone framed photograph of the couple, dressed up for a night out, sits atop a shelf.
The living conditions are only part of the adjustment; there is also the shelter’s long list of rules. No one can be in the living quarters from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The news is even off-limits as television programming in the common area. Residents were recently barred from congregating around the bench outside.
Infractions bring write-ups; three write-ups bring expulsion.
The changes have taken a toll on the family in small and large ways. Ethan has taken to screaming for no reason. Ava had been on the verge of being potty-trained, but is now back to diapers. Their nap schedules and diets are a mess. Their parents are squabbling more and have started smoking again.
Mr. Griffith found that he could work only limited hours at his new job because of the bus schedule. The family did qualify last week for transitional housing, but that usually takes a month to finalize. They are still pursuing rapid rehousing assistance.
Others at the shelter with no job prospects face a steeper climb meeting the requirements.
Every few days, new families arrive. A few hours after the Griffiths got back from the mall, a young woman pushing a stroller with a toddler rang the shelter doorbell, quietly weeping.

By MICHAEL LUO, (NYT),PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Set.2010

WILL women soon have a Viagra of their own? Although a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recently rejected an application to market the drug flibanserin in the United States for women with low libido, it endorsed the potential benefits and urged further research. Several pharmaceutical companies are reported to be well along in the search for such a drug.

The implication is that a new pill, despite its unforeseen side effects, is necessary to cure the sexual malaise that appears to have sunk over the country. But to what extent do these complaints about sexual apathy reflect a medical reality, and how much do they actually emanate from the anxious, overachieving, white upper middle class?


In the 1950s, female “frigidity” was attributed to social conformism and religious puritanism. But since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, American society has become increasingly secular, with a media environment drenched in sex.


The real culprit, originating in the 19th century, is bourgeois propriety. As respectability became the central middle-class value, censorship and repression became the norm. Victorian prudery ended the humorous sexual candor of both men and women during the agrarian era, a ribaldry chronicled from Shakespeare’s plays to the 18th-century novel. The priggish 1950s, which erased the liberated flappers of the Jazz Age from cultural memory, were simply a return to the norm.


Only the diffuse New Age movement, inspired by nature-keyed Asian practices, has preserved the radical vision of the modern sexual revolution. But concrete power resides in America’s careerist technocracy, for which the elite schools, with their ideological view of gender as a social construct, are feeder cells.
In the discreet white-collar realm, men and women are interchangeable, doing the same, mind-based work. Physicality is suppressed; voices are lowered and gestures curtailed in sanitized office space. Men must neuter themselves, while ambitious women postpone procreation. Androgyny is bewitching in art, but in real life it can lead to stagnation and boredom, which no pill can cure.


Meanwhile, family life has put middle-class men in a bind; they are simply cogs in a domestic machine commanded by women. Contemporary moms have become virtuoso super-managers of a complex operation focused on the care and transport of children. But it’s not so easy to snap over from Apollonian control to Dionysian delirium.


Nor are husbands offering much stimulation in the male display department: visually, American men remain perpetual boys, as shown by the bulky T-shirts, loose shorts and sneakers they wear from preschool through midlife. The sexes, which used to occupy intriguingly separate worlds, are suffering from over-familiarity, a curse of the mundane. There’s no mystery left.
The elemental power of sexuality has also waned in American popular culture. Under the much-maligned studio production code, Hollywood made movies sizzling with flirtation and romance. But from the early ’70s on, nudity was in, and steamy build-up was out. A generation of filmmakers lost the skill of sophisticated innuendo. The situation worsened in the ’90s, when Hollywood pirated video games to turn women into cartoonishly pneumatic superheroines and sci-fi androids, fantasy figures without psychological complexity or the erotic needs of real women.


Furthermore, thanks to a bourgeois white culture that values efficient bodies over voluptuous ones, American actresses have desexualized themselves, confusing sterile athleticism with female power. Their current Pilates-honed look is taut and tense — a boy’s thin limbs and narrow hips combined with amplified breasts. Contrast that with Latino and African-American taste, which runs toward the healthy silhouette of the bootylicious Beyoncé.


A class issue in sexual energy may be suggested by the apparent striking popularity of Victoria’s Secret and its racy lingerie among multiracial lower-middle-class and working-class patrons, even in suburban shopping malls, which otherwise trend toward the white middle class. Country music, with its history in the rural South and Southwest, is still filled with blazingly raunchy scenarios, where the sexes remain dynamically polarized in the old-fashioned way.


On the other hand, rock music, once sexually pioneering, is in the dumps. Black rhythm and blues, born in the Mississippi Delta, was the driving force behind the great hard rock bands of the ’60s, whose cover versions of blues songs were filled with electrifying sexual imagery. The Rolling Stones’ hypnotic recording of Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster,” with its titillating phallic exhibitionism, throbs and shimmers with sultry heat.


But with the huge commercial success of rock, the blues receded as a direct influence on young musicians, who simply imitated the white guitar gods without exploring their roots. Step by step, rock lost its visceral rawness and seductive sensuality. Big-ticket rock, with its well-heeled middle-class audience, is now all superego and no id.
In the 1980s, commercial music boasted a beguiling host of sexy pop chicks like Deborah Harry, Belinda Carlisle, Pat Benatar, and a charmingly ripe Madonna. Late Madonna, in contrast, went bourgeois and turned scrawny. Madonna’s dance-track acolyte, Lady Gaga, with her compulsive overkill, is a high-concept fabrication without an ounce of genuine eroticism.


Pharmaceutical companies will never find the holy grail of a female Viagra — not in this culture driven and drained by middle-class values. Inhibitions are stubbornly internal. And lust is too fiery to be left to the pharmacist.


Camille Paglia, a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts, is the author of “Sexual Personae.”


By CAMILLE PAGLIA (NYT. June 25, 2010)