The WaPo's Outlook section had a really great article yesterday about why unions matter to the entire middle class. Professors Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson detail the role that unions have played in American history, a role that has diminished in recent years. As the percen tage of workers in unions has declined, income inequality has exploded. That is not good for America. In the long run, it is not even good for the very rich. Gross income inequality invites the kind of class warfare Americans have always shunned. If there really is a moderate center of the electorate, they should be paying close attention to the attacks on labor in Wisconsin and Ohio - and they should shudder.
In her last semester of college, my mother was student teaching at the Horace Porter Elementary School in Columbia, Connecticut. She was teaching a lesson on the Soviet Union. One of her less bright students unhelpfully went home and told his parents that Miss McDermott was “teaching communism.” This was the early 1950s, so predictably, my mother was removed from her student teaching assignment and hauled before the president of her college. Fortunately, in the classroom that day was another student teacher, a decorated veteran of World War II who assured the college authorities that my mother was teaching about communism not advocating for it. She was allowed to graduate.
Here is the link to my interview earlier today with Michel Martin on NPR's "Tell Me More."
Can I just say that it is such a great honor to be associated with John Allen! His report today on the New Evangelization and his other report on the culture of Rome are both of them such first class pieces of reporting and writing.
I will be talking with Michel Martin on NPR's "Tell Me More" today about Pope Benedict's comments about the Jews and deicide. You can find local times on their website and I will post a link to the audio when I get back.
The unemployment rate dipped again, despite analysts predictions it might move north, falling to 8.9 percent. Last month, according to figures released this morning, 192,000 new jobs were added to the economy. That is not enough - and it could be offset by cutbakcs in state and local governments if the Tea Party has its way, but it is nice to find some good news on the business pages.
Newt Gingrich put his toe into the presidential waters yesterday. A man known for his brashness did not jump in head first, but the confusion that surrounded his announcement – was he forming an exploratory committee or not? – brought back the old charge that Gingrich lacked the discipline and comportment necessary for a successful presidential run. Over at Politico and in this morning’s Washington Post, the main stumbling block to a Gingrich candidacy is his lack of discipline.
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has proposed a small surcharge for electricity bills to help fund a project that will produce renewable energy for decades to come. O'Malley wants the funds to help start a wind farm off the Maryland coast.
The surcharge, depending upon which estimate you choose, would amount to as little as $1.44 a month or as much as $3.61 per month. That is, a little more than a latte.
Turning America towards renewable energy is not an option, it is a necessity. As gas prices go up due to events in the Mideast entirely beyond our control, proposals such as this should be waqrmly embraced. Yes, it will cost money.
Alexander Burns at Politico has an interesting article about the growing divide within the Republican Party between social conservatives and those who want to focus on economic issues and cutting the size of government.
You can make too much of this "divide." A strong commitment to capitalism has characterized the Religious Right starting with Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority in 1979. Then, of course, the commitment to capitalism dovetailed with the anti-Communism of religious conservatives. But, make no mistake about it, the sense of American exceptionalism that characterizes the Christian Right, infused with providential zeal, has always seen capitalism as an expression of that exceptionalism.
It should not surprise that Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute should use the fight in Wisconsin over the right to collective bargaining as an opportunity to defend his spectacularly strange take on Catholic social teaching. But, when he concludes, "There is no a priori reason to back every union demand and no reason for Catholics to feel under any doctrinal obligation to do so," Sirico is being simply disingenuous.
The issue in Wisconsin is not "every demand" but a particular demand, the right to form a union and collectively bargain. And that right has been acknowledged and upheld for 120 years by the highest teaching authority of the Church. Sirico is too busy carrying water for the plutocrats to notice. But, he knows better or should know better.