Monday, May 4, 2015

Hard Labor

That has often been equated with prison work gangs. A great exhibit of the history of these slave style work camps is at the Marshall Project, it was called Prison Plantations. That says all you need to know about our jails and those incarcerated within them.

That has not changed as I have written about before when the Seattle Times exposed the abusive and costly practice of said work projects in prisons that are both utterly useless they are neither cost effective nor rehabilitative. That is here for those interested.

Has that changed with regards to the poor? I am not sure that the poor are not in a prison that just allows work release, all we need is a monitor in which to ensure they are under constant observation and supervision. Oh wait or aren't they? Stingrays, NSA, etc only seem to target those who are both poor and desperate as for terrorists not so much.

This week begins the month long series on Al Jazeera America on Sundays called Hard Earned.




Episode 1 covered Emila, who celebrates her 50th birthday, she takes stock of her career as a waitress and struggles to hold onto her house. A Couple DJ, his girlfriend and their children gets frustrated with working conditions at Walgreens where they make just minimum to above minimum wages. DJ's story includes the ubiquitous story of former student athlete who was subsequently injured and in turn dumped from the team and the school. And in turn left with 16K in student debt. Once again questioning that bizarre system of odd labor exploitation that allows this to continue unabated and unquestioned as to why. And the last family is a clerical worker Jose and his girlfriend Elizabeth look for a way to move out of their parents’ basements and give their son his own bedroom. Now Elizabeth has accomplished a Master's degree and works in a school as a Counselor and Jose is a former Vet adds more bull to the shit about how America recognizes those whom we tout as heroes while also the whole go to school a you can work your way up the mythical unicorn ladder. The student debt toll makes that a near impossibility for many young people.

And the series also documents the issue of student debt as the info graphic shows is a stranglehold on the economy

Add to that the immense personal debt that people take on to meet regular life expenses and of course add mortgage debt are all part of the American Dream, the debt monopoly. And when you realize that little to no advice or education is provided to most of our young in school early on to understand cost of living, debt to income ratio and the basic micro economics that it takes to live in America.

I have sat through many economics classes and they do little to actually teach the subject and there are math classes that are social economic math based classes that actually address this issue but few if any students do understand the complexity and yet basic elements of living as to why, they have no family member whom they can rely upon to discuss the matter with both knowledge and skill set.

In America we are sure that this is a fault of Teacher's unions or shitty schools that need charters to educate. Watching Bill Maher this weekend that was one of the issues under debate as some right wing kook, Dan Senor ranted about that  and mentioned that Baltimore has the highest per capita annually on spending per student, 1,500, and look what that gets. The only guest who had understanding or even tacit knowledge, D.L. Hugely, said well blaming teacher's unions seems absurd, take a look a Police Unions when it comes to excusing and protecting workers without recourse, (a massive issue with regards to much of the police violence not discussed on this show but if interested you can read this).  And he made the very salient point  about why can't a kid go to a public school in his or her neighborhood why do they have to partake in lotteries or be bused. Why are their own schools so bad supposedly with all this money, what is wrong there? Mr. Senor had no comment and the other guest seemed proud that she was a product of L.A. public schools, Jane Harman, who was married up and into the Harman Kardon money. As for when was that attendance in same public school was in the 50s and early 60s when public education was at its high point in both funding and enrollment. And her post secondary was all Ivy League and again that marriage meritocracy thing, but hey facts are for well not Bill Maher, my one complaint about the rotating subjects with few actual knowledgeable individuals to debate and the lack of time to have full discourse the subject.

What Mr. Hugely did not address that the same cost to incarcerate the youth protesting will be 35K a year and what does that get? Well it gets another generation of individuals unable to work and pay taxes and build communities. But hey prison welfare is not being a ward of the state, no not at all. Clearly we don't know how to do budgets at a macro level either.

It as if that is happening to someone else and they have little to no knowledge about it as their own families do not either as they have no idea of not living check to check. So generation after generation are being raised on the edge and that is not a good thing. You are seeing that in Baltimore and that Freddie Gray was the straw but that camels back was broken years ago. A good article about the hood that was home to Freddie in Baltimore is here. There is not all bleakness but there are true problems that need more than a patronizing attempt by those in power to quell that storm. I suspect nothing will change unless the reality of education and in turn commitment to raising wages and labor laws that protect the worker.

We have many stories from many people who exemplify the expression "hard working" but that is not what we want to see or believe. We are sure had they done things differently, not had children, not aspired, not gotten injured they would all be moving up the ladder. Really?

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