Posted on: 10/31/08:
Why not bail out the unemployed?
by Julianne Malveaux
by Julianne Malveaux
The United States economy is shedding jobs faster than a grooming dog sheds fleas. Payroll employment has been dropping for nine months in a row with 159,000 fewer jobs on the books in September than in the month before.
So far this year, payrolls are down 760,000, and 969,000 in the private sector. The unemployment rate has held steady at 6.1 percent for the past two months, but it is up 1.4 points during the past year. Nearly 10 million people are “officially” unemployed, which means they are officially looking for work. These numbers do not include those who have dropped out of the labor force, in other words people with jobs who have just stopped looking.
It also doesn’t include people who are underemployed, or working at jobs that they are overqualified for. The Bureau of Labor Statistics develops several rates of “labor utilization,” including one that includes people who work part time because they can’t find full time work, and those “marginally attached.”
With such a measure the unemployment rate would double to 11 percent. And, surprise, surprise, African American workers are doing much worse than other workers in the labor force. While the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent for Whites, it was 11.4 percent for African Americans.
If the White unemployment rate were 11.4 percent, someone other than a humble columnist would be asking about a bailout for the unemployed. But because we are simply looking at a Black unemployment rate, there has been little discussion about what to do about excessive unemployment. According to the Economic Policy Institute (www.epi.org) all of the gains African Americans made in the 1990s were wiped out by job losses in the last several years. The report, written by Algernon Austin, suggests that African American workers have been among the hardest hit by our economic downturn. There’s nothing for Black folks, but plenty for banks.
We saw our Congress rush to action to provide a bailout for financial markets. It was said that it was an emergency, that we had no choice, that the $850 (up from $700) billion bailout was a matter of life and death for the nation’s economy. Ask the person who has been unemployed for the last six months how they feel about life and death. Some of these folks have exhausted their unemployment insurance. Some have lost their homes and their families.
One in five unemployed people have been unemployed for at least six months, the highest share of long-term unemployment in three years. Yet these people have been virtually ignored by policymakers. Furthermore, the number of people who are involuntarily part time, or who would rather work full time, has skyrocketed.
The number grew by 300,000 in September, and by 1.6 million in the past year. Six million people who hold part time jobs want and need full time jobs, the largest number in fifteen years. Again, we keep hearing about markets, but the focus is on every market except the labor market.
Just about every sector of the economy is experiencing job losses, from factory jobs, to service jobs, to jobs in the financial services industry. Only in health care and government services do jobs continue to grow. There is barely a safe haven for those who are losing their jobs. The economic policy institute cites one piece of legislation as providing possibilities for those at the bottom.
Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) programs extend jobless benefits an extra 13 weeks. That provision has run out and can be renewed by Congress. That’s the least a group of bailout-focused lawmakers can do for ordinary people who also need a hand. Realistically, though, lawmakers aren’t likely to do much more. They are rushing home to get involved in a close election, and leaving the employment mess until after November or, more likely, after January.
Yet if trends continue as they have, we will have lost at least a million jobs this year, and we will have experienced an indifferent Congress that can be whipped into fearful bailout submission by Treasury Secretary Paulson. Who speaks for workers? And will working people get a bailout?
When your Congressional representative comes home to campaign, ask what they will do for workers. It’s a fair question to raise as our economy continues to spiral out of control.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is President of Bennett College for Women. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Economic Policy Institute.
Posted on: 10/27/08:
"You Can Do It!"
Two cheers for the prosperity gospel
by Peter L. Berger
Two cheers for the prosperity gospel
by Peter L. Berger
There is an almost universal consensus, right across the Christian theological spectrum, to the effect that the so-called prosperity gospel is an aberration. One should always be suspicious when there is a universal consensus about anything; quite often it is wrong. I will momentarily voice some suspicion about this particular consensus. But first one should give credit where credit is due. In other words, the consensus about the prosperity gospel is not completely wrong.To read the rest of the article, click here
It is certainly a distortion of the Christian message if it is primarily interpreted as a program for the material improvement of the human condition. Where the prosperity gospel does that, it is an aberration—especially so when its proponents suggest, implicitly and often enough explicitly, that giving money to them guarantees that God will bless the donors with success and wealth. Protestants if no one else should recall in this connection that the Reformation began as a protest against the sale of indulgences. Recall JohannTetzel's jingle—"as soon as the coin drops into the collection plate, a soul jumps out of purgatory." Some prosperity-gospel preaching strikes one as an eerie Protestant translation of Tetzel's message.
A number of critics of the prosperity gospel have couched their criticism in an overall anti-capitalist rhetoric: The prosperity gospel is supposed to be part and parcel of a pro-capitalist ideology, seeking to dupe the poor of the global south into accepting the wicked policies of "neoliberalism." It is useful to point out that the materialist distortion of the Christian message is fully shared by the liberation theology of the anti-capitalist left. Only here the material improvement is understood in collective rather than individual terms: put your coin in the collection plate of the revolutionary movement, and the soul of the masses will be freed from the purgatory of capitalist exploitation. Theological suggestion: What is good for the rightist goose is good for the leftist gander.
The core of the Christian message is the proclamation of a tectonic shift in cosmic reality inaugurated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This proclamation radically relativizes all the empirical givens of this world, including all human institutions. Any reinterpretation of Christianity in terms of a this-worldly agenda, individual or collective, is a distortion. At the same time, one cannot ink out of the New Testament the fact that Jesus in his earthly ministry showed a special concern for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. Nor should one put aside the age-old pastoral wisdom that adversity can be an occasion of spiritual growth, that God draws closer to us when we suffer from adversity. But this does not mean that adversity should be celebrated as such. Sickness should be fought by the means medicine puts at our disposal, as marginality should be fought politically (think of the civil rights movement here). But if sickness or marginality should not be accepted passively as God-given circumstances, neither should poverty.
This train of thought, at least for me, leads from theology to sociology. In terms of poverty, one must now ask just what is good for the poor. And, as far as the prosperity gospel is concerned, what one can say about it sociologically is quite different from what one can say theologically. Different Christian traditions will have different ways of coping with this (I think, necessary) dichotomy. For Lutherans this is rather easy, due to the sharp distinction between the "two realms" of Law and Gospel. Sociology has nothing to say about the realm of Gospel. It has quite a lot to say about the realm of Law. Let me try.
The research center which I direct at Boston University, in collaboration with the Centre for Development and Enterprise in Johannesburg, has recently concluded a study of the social impact of the remarkable growth of Pentecostalism in South Africa. Not all Pentecostals adhere to the prosperity gospel; many do, especially in the Pentecostal mega-churches. One of these is Rhema Church, located in a suburb of Johannesburg. On a recent visit to South Africa I attended a Sunday morning service at Rhema. It was a memorable occasion. And it led to the reflections expressed here.
An estimated 7,000 people attended the service (one of four every Sunday), in a vast gigantic auditorium that was packed full. The atmosphere was that of a rock concert, with amplified music from a band on the center stage (the music, I was told, derived from American "Christian rock"). After a long warm-up of singing and clapping (certain to give a splitting headache to anyone not immunized against such a trivial ailment by the "baptism of the Spirit"), a collection was taken (very efficiently, given the size of the congregation). Then came the climax of the event, a long, rousing sermon by the founder of the church and its principal preacher, a white South African with a background in professional body-building (I could not help thinking of him as a born-again Schwarzenegger).
The congregation was about 85 percent black, but the whites seemed perfectly at ease. We arrived by car and had difficulty finding a space in the large parking lot on one side of the church. There was a variety of cars, among them quite a few Mercedes, BMWs, and the like. On the other side of the church sat a long line of buses, which had brought people from the townships. The same class difference was evident in the way people were dressed, some in business suits, some in cheap-looking clothes. Thus the divides of both race and class were bridged, fused together in the fire of the Spirit.
Like mega-churches elsewhere, Rhema has a large number of activities serving the multiple needs of its flock. Most of these, of course, were not in evidence on a Sunday morning, but I was particularly struck by a brochure advertising a business school operated by the church. Clearly, this was not intended to give out MBAs for individuals hoping for a career in a multinational corporation. But the courses listed were evidently suitable for grassroots entrepreneurs: how to keep accounts, plan marketing, pay taxes. One could not tell from the brochure how religion was introduced into this curriculum, but it was described as "bringing Christ into the marketplace."
The message from the preacher had two major themes. One: God does not want you to be poor! And two: You can do it! That is, you can do something about the circumstances of your life. Should one quarrel with this message? I'm inclined to think not.
Is there a theological warrant to propose that God wants us to be poor? Any more than he wants us to be sick? The prosperity gospel contains no sentimentality about the poor. There is no notion here that poverty is somehow ennobling. In that, speaking sociologically, the prosperity gospel is closer to the empirical facts than a romantic idea of the noble poor—a notion reminiscent of another romantic fiction, the noble savage. Such notions, of course, are always held by people who are not poor and who do not consider themselves to be savages. The notions are patronizing. They are implicit in the famous slogan of liberation theology: "a preferential option for the poor." Mind you, not of the poor, but for the poor—pronounced, as it were, from on high.
Posted on: 10/23/08:
A black couple from Missouri seek amends from clothing store Journeys after their son was given a receipt that said "dumb N-word" in capital letters.To read the rest of the article, click here
Boy's proof of payment shows racist insult in place of a generic store code.
Linda Slater said she's both saddened and angry that it happened and "to know that racism is still alive."
On Friday, her son Keith Slater, 22, bought a pair of loafer-style shoes from the Journeys at the Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan., about a 30-minute drive from their home in Kansas City, Mo.
When he found a less expensive pair of similar shoes at a different store a short while later, however, he returned the first pair to Journeys the next day.
The clerk, whom Linda Slater described as a 20-something white woman, asked why he was returning the shoes and Keith Slater told her about the less expensive shoes he had bought.
It wasn't until the family got home that he glanced at his receipt and saw the insult printed next to the line marked "Cust" for customer.
"Then I was like, 'Nah, no way. It can't say that," Keith Slater, a junior at Missouri State University in Springfield, told ABCNews.com today. "I was shocked, 'cause I didn't do anything for that to happen."