Hans and Franz Economics
The sidebar titled “Pumping Up the Economy” on page 8 of the Jan. 29/Feb. 5 issue [print only] touts the economic benefits of employing gas-station attendants. Prohibiting motorists from pumping their own gas, as is done in New Jersey and Oregon, creates jobs, after all. If this is a good thing, perhaps we should have stall attendants in public restrooms. I read online recently that self-checkout lines in supermarkets should be boycotted because they replace cashiers. This kind of thinking is similar to the flawed logic that President Trump uses to ease regulations on burning coal—so we can keep miners employed.
The notion that government should help lower the unemployment rate by mandating that businesses hire people to perform simple tasks—tasks that customers can easily do themselves—is foolish. Technological advancements often replace manual labor; this has been happening at least since Archimedes invented the water screw. Besides, the jobs these policies create are often low-paying.
Yes, automation and globalization have caused major unemployment/ underemployment in the United States over the past few decades. But the answer is not to thumb our collective nose at modern technology and say, “We’re going to keep doing it the old-fashioned way.” A better solution is to shorten the workweek so the US labor force is better matched to the reduced workload caused by technological advancements. A century ago, the labor movement got us from seven days a week to five. Way back in the 1970s, I first heard someone suggest that we go to a four-day workweek to compensate for advancements in productivity—and that was well before the digital age.
new berlin, pa.
Fear and Self-Loathing
“The Misogynist Within” [Jan. 15/22] was a superb article, but its target should be more universal, should go beyond men, because, sadly, women are also prejudiced against women. I know this because I am a woman and I have felt it, too. It’s subtle and insidious, but it’s there. I find myself preferring to see a male doctor. When I’m comfortably aboard a plane, I think of the pilot as a man. I belong to a writers’ group and find myself subconsciously dismissing the work of female writers, especially older ones—and I am one of them!
This is the ugly elephant in the room. It’s not that women aren’t as strong as men, but many have not yet learned the distinctive nature of their own strength. Achieving equality is going to involve facing lots of obstacles, and the toughest of all are the internal ones.
Millennials vs. Boomers
In her review of Kids These Days by Malcolm Harris [Jan. 29/Feb. 5], Sarah Jones applauds the author for destroying the myths about millennials, yet seems happy to employ equally specious generalizations about baby boomers and Gen Xers. She brands both older cohorts as “anti-youth” (whatever that means) and blames them for delivering millennials into an economy in which inequality is high and expectations are diminishing. Guess what? We boomers and Gen Xers are no more the striving, self-dealing, materialistic despoilers of the American dream than millennials are basement- dwelling, latte-infused, whining snowflakes. Indeed, if you look around the Nation office, I’d wager that you’ll see colleagues of a certain age who have worked for decades to promote economic and social justice and who continue to expose the shady doings of the corporate state.
The unfortunate reality is that American politics and economic policy have largely been in the hands of other types of boomers and Gen Xers—people who are happy to reduce the role of government (thank you, boomer Bill Clinton), shred the social safety net, remove worker protections, and stop funding the future by starving public education and public works. The Trump administration is an extreme manifestation of this trend; it is run by a multigenerational band of know-nothings, ranging from the superannuated Wilbur Ross to the vile millennial Stephen Miller (born in 1985). As Jones finally—and correctly—observes, this is not an intergenerational struggle.
new rochelle, n.y.
Agree to Disagree
The overblown hyperbole and moral and ethical blindness of some liberals can be a bit much. Greg Grandin’s article is a case in point [“The Death Cult of Trumpism,” Jan. 29/Feb. 5]. If liberals and moderate feminists had remained as such back in the 1970s, the white-working-class Democratic base would have remained loyal and Trump would never have gotten elected. But no—with our defeat in Vietnam, the American left went extremist: Liberals became yuppie snobs, feminists became feminazis, and both remain so to this day. Our jobs were shipped off to Mexico and Asia, our wives were talked into divorcing us for the “crime” of being poor, homosexuality was demanded, and cruel feminist ostracism remains in place. Forty years of cruelty, of stabbing your own base in the back, led directly to the election of one Donald J. Trump. You have no one to blame for his election except yourselves.
port angeles, wash.
Taxation and Miseducation
I am finally getting around to some of the back issues of The Nation, including the Sept. 25/Oct. 2, 2017, issue and the article “The Secession Movement in Education” by Emmanuel Felton.
Mentioned in the article but not elaborated on was one of the most important causes of school segregation: the reliance on tax revenues to fund schools. Areas of poverty (which almost always coincide with neighborhoods of color) guarantee unequal funding. Also, using tax revenues to fund schools implies that some children are more worthy of well-funded schools (and hence a more robust curriculum, better ability to pay good salaries to teachers, etc.) than other children. All schools should get basic funding for overhead and then equal amounts of funding per child.
Many parents—mostly white, I assume—will scream at this proposal, since “their” schools will necessarily lose some of their funding. But change the tax-based funding mechanism for schools, and perhaps some of those same parents will be screaming for a return to more robust and equitable taxes levied on corporations and the wealthy, resulting in two social-justice issues met in one fell swoop: the equitable funding of school districts and a fairer distribution of wealth.
santa margarita, calif.