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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Paul Krugman, "America’s Unlevel Field": A Marxist Diatribe

And you thought that Pravda, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party until 1991, was dead?

In his latest New York Times manifesto entitled "America’s Unlevel Field" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/09/opinion/krugman-americas-unlevel-field.html?ref=opinion), Paul Krugman declares that America is the advanced country where it matters most who your parents are, and that the US government has failed to create equal opportunity. Krugman contends:

"The failure starts early: in America, the holes in the social safety net mean that both low-income mothers and their children are all too likely to suffer from poor nutrition and receive inadequate health care. It continues once children reach school age, where they encounter a system in which the affluent send their kids to good, well-financed public schools or, if they choose, to private schools, while less-advantaged children get a far worse education.

Once they reach college age, those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to go to college — and vastly less likely to go to a top-tier school — than those luckier in their parentage.

. . . .

And if children from our society’s lower rungs do manage to make it into a good college, the lack of financial support makes them far more likely to drop out than the children of the affluent, even if they have as much or more native ability."

Goodness gracious, what a horrible country the US has become! How can we possibly begin to remedy this self-perpetuating socioeconomic tragedy engineered by nefarious Republican toads?

Poor nutrition and inadequate health care? Let's make certain that "low-income mothers and their children" are given multiple vitamin pills. If they are not swallowed, both mothers and children will either be whipped or subjected to a three-hour long upbraiding from Michelle Obama. Given the choice, I would opt for the whipping.

Let's also prevent MacDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Domino's Pizza, Cap'n Crunch and Coca Cola from advertising on television. Cigarette advertising is banned from the airwaves, so let's also do away with junk food commercials, and that means Kristy Kreme doughnuts, too.

If the children become too fat or too skinny, let's take them from their mothers and send them away to federally funded nutrition farms, where their weights will be carefully monitored, and they will only eat organic vegetables. Mothers, of course, can visit after a strip search for offending chocolates.

Private schools? Let's eliminate them, or at least require that their student bodies reflect US demographics within a percentile. If a child is half African American and half Jewish, his or her identity will also be divided equally for purposes of meeting this new quota.

Top tier universities? No more! I propose a draft system similar to that found in professional sports, whereby the best new professors will be send to the worst schools, thereby raising their academic standards to those of Harvard, Yale and the University of Chicago. (Yes, Paul, you forced it out of me: I graduated from the University of Chicago, and I'm ready to be sent away to a gulag.)

Finally, given that talented college students from poor families are more likely to drop out than dumb children from affluent families, let's provide the poor families with a stipend in addition to that being received by their children.

And when these rich and poor students finally graduate with bachelor degrees in English literature and contemporary history, and they migrate to Zuccotti Park and mingle with others unable to find jobs, Paul Krugman will visit in order to proffer comfort as all rage in unison against the inequality of the system.

8 comments:

  1. Sorry, Jeffrey, but I disagree with you. Krugman is right here and your condescending tone is inappropriate. Sorry, I don't share yours "the rich are rich because they deserve to rich." Life is more complicated than University of Chicago says. When American universities actually gain experience of ancient European universities, including my alma mater, maybe their graduates will know more about human reality.

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  2. Anonymous, I do not believe that the rich are rich because they deserve to be rich. I do, however, teach my children that life is often unfair, that they should value an honest day's work, and that they should seek joy from creativity and self-fulfillment -- not from their bank accounts.

    I wasn't aware that the University of Chicago taught me that life was uncomplicated. I do, however, remember a "Core" curriculum, whose goal, according to the University of Chicago, is "not just to transfer knowledge, but to raise fundamental questions and become familiar with the powerful ideas that shape our society."

    You say, "When American universities actually gain experience of ancient European universities, including my alma mater, maybe their graduates will know more about human reality." Does that experience and reality include two millennia of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust?

    As for "condescending" to the inflated ego of Krugman, that is indeed an achievement.

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  3. "Does that experience and reality include two millennia of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust?"
    No, just some nine hundred. Yes, American history of racism and bigotry in academia in general, including antisemitism, is shorter (less than four hundred), but equality impressive. I was responding, of course, to your snobery with my own.
    Graduates of history in America are not the problem - total and absolute ignorance of history or even scarier, total and absolute unfamiliarity with the concept "history" itself is a problem.
    When an obviously privileged young "lady" reproaches a radio host for discussing the Cuban crisis without explaining what it was and exclaims with laughter: "I wasn't even born yet" (yes, how can she know anything what happen before her birth?) the problem isn't where you see it.

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  4. "Just some nine hundred years"? Synagogues were already being burned in Europe in the fourth century (e.g., Rome in 388) and confiscated in the fifth century (e.g., Constantinope in 442).

    Graduates of history (or of any other subject) are indeed not "the problem." On the other hand, in today's Brave New World, a college degree sadly no longer guarantees employment.

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  5. I do agree with Krugman's declaration it does often matter who your parents are and where they can afford to live, and that the US government has failed to create equal opportunity.

    "The failure does start early: in America as the "state" takes school taxes and basess families choice of elementary and high school education to where they can afford to live. If your neighborhood school is terrible as many are because their is no competition the money you paid in taxes for your childs education can not be used as a voucher to go to a better school of your choice....now Krugman is correct...as this is not a problem for the more affluent who can afford to pay the taxes and then pay for private school tuition on top of the tax.....or can afford to live in a better school district. Choice is available for money to those who can afford it but the government and the politicians and the NEA want to keep everyone else in their place to maintain their power base of voters. The NEA and primarily democrats but republicans are guilty also of fighting a free and open voucher system( whether for public or or private) for schools where competition would increase quality. they think more money and nice buildings will improve their prisons. They separation of church and state when voucher money is suggested for private schools...forgetting it is the taxpayers money in the first place they are redistributing to their cronies

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  6. "Synagogues were already being burned in Europe in the fourth century (e.g., Rome in 388) and confiscated in the fifth century (e.g., Constantinope in 442)."
    Jeff, I have a degree in Jewish history. I had the history of universities in mind, of course.
    "On the other hand, in today's Brave New World, a college degree sadly no longer guarantees employment."
    Well, the problem is obviously with the Brave New World and Krugman is right, of course. Don't get me started on the topic of the future of a nation which thinks that a society can live happily, wonderfully and eternally without historians and without any sense of history.

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  7. JG, Caesarea,

    You still haven't given any evidence that disputes Krugman's claim that upward mobility in the US is worse than in other developed countries. Your article is just a whining of issues that is not related to Krugman's article at all.

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  8. "just a whining of issues . . ."

    Sorry, but I'm not familiar with this idiom.

    Evidence of upward mobility in the US? Have a look at Barack Obama: orphaned, African-American, yet today Harvard law graduate, multi-millionaire and president.

    Krugman's claim is based on an article which observes "that a Danish family can move from the 10th percentile to the 90th percentile with $45,000 of additional earnings, while an American family would need an additional $93,000." Perhaps this variance does make for a less than egalitarian setting in the US, but then why are so many persons still seeking Green Cards?

    Want more upward and downward mobility in the US? Increase estate taxes: It may make you feel better, but it won't solve the budget deficit.

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