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A Few Facts About Farmworkers | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

A Few Facts About Farmworkers

A few facts about farmworkers: nearly three-quarters of US farmworkers earn less than $10,000 per year, and three out of five farmworker families have incomes below the poverty level, according to the most recent findings of the National Agricultural Workers Survey.

In addition to low wages, farmworkers rarely have access to workers' compensation, occupational rehabilitation or disability compensation benefits. Only twelve states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands provide farmworkers with workers' compensation to the same degree as other workers. Farmworker coverage is optional in thirteen other states but not required by state law.

Even though many farmworkers fit eligibility profiles for programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, very few are able to secure these benefits. Migrant health centers estimate that less than 12 percent of their revenues are derived from Medicaid, and it is believed that fewer than 25 percent of eligible farmworkers receive food stamps.

Migrant farmworkers’ health status is at the same standard of most third world nations, while the country in which they work, the United States, is one of the richest nations on earth. Unsanitary working and housing conditions make farmworkers vulnerable to health conditions no longer considered to be threats to the general public.

Poverty, frequent mobility, low literacy, language and cultural and logistic barriers impede farmworkers' access to social services and cost-effective primary healthcare. Economic conditions make farmworkers reluctant to miss work in order to seek health services. Farmworkers are not protected by sick leave, and they risk losing their jobs if they miss a day of work.

These circumstances cause farmworkers to postpone seeking healthcare unless their condition becomes so severe that they cannot work. At this point, many farmworkers must rely on expensive emergency room care for their healthcare needs. Migrant health centers provide accessible care for farmworkers, but existing centers have the capacity to serve fewer than 20 percent of the nation's farmworkers.

OK, now feel free to complain about Stephen Colbert—well, read this and then complain all you want.

Congratulations to Heather MacDonald for this powerful and, given where she lives and works, brave piece about the evil that is Forbes magazine and Dinesh D’Souza.

The Panel, though I’m not actually sure I said this.

I came across this new collective culture blog done by some really young people called TheNewInquiry.com, and I suppose it won’t cost me anything to plug a couple of pieces on it, below. So take a look:

1. "Resistance, Addiction and the Digital Natives," by Rob Horning.

Rob questions the notion that one can be "addicted" to the Internet. The "digital natives" (children who grew up with the Internet) view the web as a location of labor and production. The only distinction between these kids and their supposedly addicted elders is that young people have not yet begun to understand themselves as a brand. Here's a quote:

[Digital Natives] are able to resist the internet’s vortical pull through sheer indifference. It wouldn’t occur to them to consider themselves addicted to being online anymore than being addicted to riding the bus to school everyday. It is simply part of the mundane and necessary infrastructure of social life. But the article suggests also that kids must be trained to view the Web as a site for immaterial labor and for anxious self-production. The teens in the study seem to prioritize their social life in the real world and use internet-facilitated communication merely to supplement it. They have not yet become aware of themselves as a brand.

2. "Intimacy as Text; Twitter as Tongue," by Helena Fitzgerald.

Helena explores what kind of "intimacy" is possible when so many of our relationships are digitally mediated. A quote:

For all the internet’s much-noted permissiveness and available pornography, the increasing presence of computers in our private lives enables a new, overwhelming prudishness—something akin to a second age of letters.

 

Internet socialization is far closer to a 19th century mode of intimacy than to a dystopian future of tragically disconnected robot prostitutes. There’s a Jane Austen-ish quality to online social life. The written word gains unmatched power and inarguable primacy.

I am a moron in four parts.

I am a moron I

I am a moron, II

I am a moron, III, IV:

You Are a Dork
Dorkville
Peretz is as bad as Beck and Limbaugh? You are such a stupid dork, you are going to be forgotten. Peretz just says some true things about Arabs, which bugs the hell out of you and all the other liberal dopes, for some reason.
 
Who Cares
Boy was that Hitchens text the most boring thing ever or what. Usually when writing about a wit the writer steals some of his best lines. What you've done is write what is no doubt the worst and most boring article on Hitchens ever. Good work.

In the meantime, here’s Reed:

Reed Richardson writes:

I Know What I Know

H.L. Mencken’s famous quote “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public” has perhaps always had a similarly cynical political corollary (i.e., “Nobody ever lost an election…”) that could also apply. That’s because our country just isn’t as bright or knowledgeable as it thinks it is, whether we’re talking about financial literacyscience, our nation’s history, the Constitution or—as we learned this week—religion.

Of course, this is a phenomenon a fellow Altercation contributor has well limned in the past, but this election season seems to have magnified our nation’s embrace of the slow, the ill-informed, and the intellectually incurious to a point where facts and figures are being smothered under a furious fusillade of bald-faced, outright lies. This new Know-Nothingness is why, this campaign season, on any given day, the American public can hear a major political party’s elected representatives and/or candidates make ridiculous, stupid, craven and downright dangerous comments. Whether it’s:

--conflating the terms "Muslim" and "terrorist" in a campaign ad,

--claiming that Social Security is somehow unconstitutional,

--promoting the idea that racial discrimination and the Civil Rights movement should have been left up to the free market to fix,

--stating that evolution has been disproven because monkeys aren’t changing into humans before our very eyes,

--shamelessly opposing a $7 billion health bill for sick and injured 9/11 responders as an unaffordable, “massive entitlement program,” when it’s little more than a rounding error on that same party’s plan to extend $700 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

With these folks as one major party’s choices for political representation, it’s little wonder that many voters significantly underestimate how much wealth is in the hands of the few at the top (which, if they did know, this study suggests would drive the conversation about taxation in a much more progressive direction).  Of that they remain mired in ignorance about the recently passed healthcare reform, since they don’t even understand how existing healthcare programs like Medicare or Medicaid are funded (even though they know they like them better than private insurance). Or that only one in eight Americans know that 95 percent of taxpayers, in fact, did get a tax cut from the federal government thanks to Obama and this Congress, despite what some bloviating disc jockeys try to say to the contrary.

This miasma of misinformation can be blamed on a lot of things, from an overwhelmed and underfunded education system to an angry and disaffected populace suffering through an abjectly disappointing economy, but the media have to shoulder some of the burden here as well. Too often, larger policy issues get obscured by the press’s fondness for horse-race coverage—the who’s up and who’s down stories that obsess over sound bites and opinion polls but give few column inches or minutes of air time to parsing the pros and cons of the policies themselves. With this as the standard journalistic fare, it’s perhaps not surprising, yet nonetheless still ominous, that younger Americans, who are less smitten by the press’s holier-than-thou objectivity model, are increasingly tuning out the news altogether.

Indeed, the traditional media’s complicity in letting what will surely be a handful of unadulterated cranks being elevated to power on Capitol Hill this November is nothing short of a tragedy for our democracy. I take hope, however, that this, too, our Republic will survive, because as none other than Mencken pointed out nearly ninety years ago in a quote that is as apt today as it was then, a lack of intelligence infects the press as much as it does the public that it serves:

“[The press] is seldom intelligent, save in the arts of the mob-master. It is never courageously honest. Held harshly to a rigid correctness of opinion by the plutocracy that controls it with less and less attempt at disguise, and menaced on all sides by censorships that it dare not flout, it sinks rapidly into formalism and feebleness.”

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