Monday, December 31, 2018

Check to Check

The reality of America is that most people live paycheck to paycheck, regardless of class, education and race.  It is as if America is on fire and we are just hoping the wind turns another direction, the fire fighters make it on time to save us and some of us end up running for our lives.  And the rich are no different, they just have assets to use to sell, to move to or simply stash if that time comes.  They are by far more paranoid as they are by far more over extended in which to prove they are the Joneses.

I am White Trash with money.  I am lucky as I have no ownership, no commitments or obligations in which requires me to ensure that all of those under my  care are provided for.  I am funding my dental reconstruction on credit, then selling Antiques to pay that off and I am just old enough that if I did default it would not harm me in ways that would affect me in a serious way.  Finally a perk of being 60.  But that is not the case for my peers as they struggle with the obligations of declining age, health and resources which they must also provide for family who are not in any better shape.

I do worry and rightfully should about finances but as I see myself as one with no obligations it frees me and how I do choose to live and it allows me to be flexible and I know how lucky and privileged I am.   When I meet most Americans they are not and it is hard to pretend they are not the Jonses nor even close but they do and I see it everywhere I have been this summer and fall.

I began in Pittsburgh and found it proudly working class in a city working forward, then to Louisville where everyone is betting on a winner but you realize there as you cross Kentucky how neglected it has been and that neglect is not being resolved in ways that clearly are fast enough nor even enough to make a difference.  But I found kind people, genuine people and with good humor that even with their faith they had no problem being open to those not like them.   The same with Cleveland and it is funny I cannot say the same for here in Nashville as the process of gentrification has thrown the city off course and they are not handling change well in the least. 

I was in New Orelans for a week.  I normally don't stay that long anywhere but recovering from being ill and getting ready to enter isolation starting next month I wanted to extend my stay and just explore and again that proved the best way to find New Orleans by accident as you turn down one street and find another that opens doors to a history and culture that always reminds you that this oldest city in America is still alive and well, well that is another story.  The gentrification is odd and the city has never restored its population pre-Katrina and the reality of corruption and race has not been resolved nor even addressed but there are some returnees that are now of an age to realize they have more power and voice then they were led to believe. The Tour Guide who despite having a degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a desire to be a Teacher decided that Charters were not an option so he takes tourists around the city and wants to be voice of change if not a reminder that the people of NOLA are more than refugees or poor souls that need guidance.  The same with my Lyft driver Franklin who was so engaging, intellectually curious that I only wanted it to be the best for him in the New Year.   Funny leaving Nashville on Christmas Eve I met the Unicorn here, the educated, travelled intelligent individual and wait for it - Gay.  He stays here and he and his Brazillian boyfriend remain with the idea that they can be models to teach others about how they are not a threat and are normal but he is here driving Lyft and yet I felt he was the best Christmas gift I could have ever received. And here in Nashville this is a rare gift.

But here I am talking to Lyft drivers to get a sense of place and finally a young couple, transplants for New York (he is originally from NOLA) have moved there as they got an opportunity for better work.  He was highly educated, well traveled and uber sophisticated and she was charming and intelligent they were a well matched pair but their insight and observations about what was transpiring in NOLA enabled me to compare it to what is transpiring here in Nashville and the rise is always followed by a fall and I truly feel it is coming.  It is no Katrina but it is not good.

My discussion with Franklin centered on the rise of interest rates, the tax cuts that failed to raise wages across the board although some companies did share they followed it with layoffs. Can you hear me Verizon?  GM?  The idea that much of the money seems to be out of state and in turn when the payoffs don't arrive or the interest rates rise further and in turn return on investment is delayed this is 2008 only less residential more commercial which is not a good thing.  There is something in the air and that is not the delightful taste of a quality roux.

Nashville has endless money pouring in and yet salaries are not in line with costs and that is a problem that will not change in this red state.   GE promised major jobs in NOLA that may never pan out and they are finding the same with Harrah's casino.   The same goes for Amazon, Alliance Bernstein and the rest here in Nashville.  We don't have the educated trained populace and could not in the time required (two years) in which to do so.  And in turn I have never believed the job numbers nor the salary range so out of proportion to the median that exists, so it is all absurd.  And the new Google office, the Amazon offices, the Apple offices are all being located in areas that are coastal and well established cities with infrastructure that exists and is expanding to meet demand.  Housing costs are off the chain but in reality the costs in Nashville and NOLA are parallel so go figure.  I pay the same rent for less here than I did in Seattle and the couple from New York pay the same living in NOLA.  Less for more I call it.

And let me frank Americans on average are not well educated.  The reality is that with or without college, Americans are highly uniformed and confuse the bullshit on social media as information and fact.  Not.  The young man I met getting coffee one day in NOLA had lived in Seattle briefly and lived in his car for a small period till he got a job and then was a desk clerk at a shitty Day's Inn. He did make $20/Hr which is 3 times what he makes no.  Then he lived in a cell pod at $800/month and felt the culture shock was too much so he came home.  I know how he feels in reverse.  And he expressed a desire to move to Ventura California.  Really?  The region hit by severe floods and fires and a housing shortage? That Ventura.  He said the Manager there told him there was tons of cheap housing and jobs so he should do it.  Really? Then why is he there then?  The lad said he wanted to change places and I then I showed him an article from the New York Times where it negated that version of events.  He was shocked and while I think it is great to want to move try somewhere less away, try Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Kansas City where the jobs are the same but the place is different.  He was truly dumb.  He did not know their major newspaper was published only three days a week and had never read a newspaper.  Okay then.    He also called himself privileged as he was only displaced during Katrina to a family home in Alabama and their home was not flooded.   Meeting the young men displaced his story is rare.  Franklin did not return until two years ago and the same with the tour guide.  They are America's refugees and some of them are angry as shit.  The Bartender at Balise was perhaps the one asshole I met in NOLA and he was in the same peer group but he clearly has never recovered and his rage showed.  I will never set foot in that restaurant again he should move to Nashville he would fit right it.  Our flood was only 10 years ago and no one ever talks about it so he should think about it. 

And many Americans as I stood in line at the airport had no idea that TSA and Airport Traffic Control are federal employees and that after January 1st they are working with no paychecks so while the line may be long think about it if they were not here.  People were shocked and admitted they had not thought about it.  Of course many could not manage the line leading a Southwest employee to explain how to expedite it.  I laughed and said out loud, "This is the South" leading the man in front of me to reprimand me and said I should do his job as everyone could hear me.  I said, "Really as you seem to be the only one who turned around and clearly I need to project louder as I have lost my touch as both a Teacher and New Yorker."  He then said well that explains it and he had never been to New York.  I told him to not bother as we could not offer the same hospitality as Southerners extend and all the women are Bitches like me.... he turned away.  Ah that honor code is something I have found in Southwest lines consistently exhibited by men in the South. Same airport same line last year when a man felt compelled to scream at me for moving ahead of him in the line (I honestly did not see them and thought they were just standing there is that weird Southern way they do here) then he went and got a Southwest employee to remove me.  I just went outside to the curb check checked my bag an waved at him going through TSA pre check as he waited in the longer line.  I have never met any men like Southern men who are such assholes.  So much for hospitality. 

Americans are not making it work tell that to Tim Gunn.  Income is not raising and costs are rising despite the fed's efforts to offset inflation hence the rise in interest is doing nothing more than rising our interest rates on credit cards and mortgages, which is how the great unwashed live.

Living paycheck to paycheck is disturbingly common: ‘I see no way out.’
The struggle is everywhere.

By Danielle Paquette
The Washington Post
December 29 2018


“It's a constant stressor.”

“I see no way out.”

What do professors, real estate agents, farmers, business executives, computer programmers and store clerks have in common?

They’re not immune to the harsh reality of living paycheck to paycheck, according to dozens of people who responded to a Washington Post inquiry on Twitter.

They’re millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers. They work in big cities and rural towns. They’ve tried to save — but rent, child care, student loans and medical bills get in the way.

National data on the paycheck-to-paycheck experience is flimsy, but a recent report from the Federal Reserve spotlights the prevalence of extra-tight budgets: Four in 10 adults say they couldn’t produce $400 in an emergency without sliding into debt or selling something, according to the 2017 figures.

The partial government shutdown, which began last Friday and is temporarily halting pay for some 800,000 federal workers, has touched off a heated discussion on Twitter about what it means to get by in the United States. (President Trump warned this closure could “last a very long time” if Congress doesn’t meet his demands for billions of dollars for a border wall.)

Even brief income lapses can spell disaster for some households.

“My husband is a Park Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and he had to sign his furlough papers,” one woman tweeted. ”We have a 4 yr. old and a 4-month-old, and we don’t know when his next check will come. Mortgage is due, Christmas 2 days away.”

“Broke my lease to accept new fed job for which I have to attend 7 months of training in another state,” another Twitter user said. (He later deleted the tweet). “Training canceled with shutdown. Homeless. Can’t afford short(?)-term housing/have to work full-time for no pay/returning Christmas presents.”

These and other #ShutdownStories took off online after U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) suggested last week that a gap in wages wouldn’t be so bad.

“Who’s living that they’re not going to make it to the next paycheck?” he asked reporters, adding that most of those impacted would qualify for back pay.

According to economists: A lot of people.

“It’s astronomical what people need just to make it month to month,” said Heidi Shierholz, a former chief economist at the Department of Labor who now studies how middle-class families spend their wages at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that is funded by foundations and unions. “Given the high cost of transportation, housing, health care … There is often no wiggle room."

About 2,000 custodians, security guards, housekeepers and other federal building workers are losing money this holiday season because of the shutdown, according to 32BJ SEIU, an East Coast labor union — and because such staffers are employed by contractors, they won’t be eligible for makeup checks.

“My supervisor told me we won’t be getting paid,” one State Department cleaner told The Post last week, “so my bills won’t be getting paid.”

Beyond the federal labor sphere, workers across a variety of professions struggle to make ends meet.

Sol Smith, chair of liberal arts at a Southern California college, said he landed his job after earning three degrees. But with four daughters and mounting health care costs, he said, saving just isn’t possible.

“I see no way out,” he wrote in an email to The Post. “I am 40, have built a strong career, have 17 years experience, and if something were to happen to me, my wife and kids would be homeless within a year when my life insurance ran out.”

Lani Harrison, 43, said she and her software engineer husband have trouble buying groceries after paying the $2,249 rent on their two-bedroom Los Angeles apartment. They’re raising three young kids and rely on her husband’s income, she said. Her work as a certified car seat installer earns her $40 per appointment, but the work isn’t steady.

“Each month, we have to stretch his paycheck to make things work,” she said. “We really don’t have any savings. Many months we go under.”

Sometimes, she confides in trusted friends.

“I’m often surprised that their stories are so similar to ours,” she said.

Dillon Holt, a housekeeping assistant at a Nashville hotel, said he’s down to one piece of chicken in his freezer. His checking account often hovers around zero, and he is unable to put away any money for the future or an emergency.

“I make $12.50, work 40-50 hours a week,” he said. “I still don’t have a savings account.”

Emily Webb, 38, said she works full time as an arts administrator in Columbus, Ohio, and waits tables on the side. Staying afloat each month, she said, is a precarious dance.

“It’s a scramble at the end of a paycheck to deposit my tips and make sure none of my automatic payments bounce,” said Webb, who has master’s degree but cannot make her student loan payments.

She’s grateful to work in her field, though, and loves her job. One big financial boost, she said, awaits her at the end of 2019.

“I can finally pay off my 9-year-old car,” Webb said. “The plastic part of the back bumper was slowly sliding off the back of it. I got rear-ended by an uninsured driver 2 years ago, so I reattached it with zip ties.”

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Welcome to Flyover Country

I think this article explains more about the region of America often defined as "flyover country."  And in reality there are amazing cities that over time have decayed due to larger economic forces that led to the inevitable decline and collapse in some cases of large swaths of America.

There is no Magic 8 Ball that can enable anyone to predict the way policies and in turn market forces can enable and disable large parts of what defines a regions economic contributions to the GDP but we have seen over the last 30 years a part of what is due to the push to global economy, the trade agreements and of course some personal switch in tastes and of course costs associated with a switch in consumer focus.   When I think of this I think of Green Build which is how this blog began and my enthusiasm for energy savings and building green that led me to start my business Vida Verde and in turn close it when demand was less than expected and of course the 2008 housing collapse that contributed to my switching gears and going back into education.

I am watching the current economic climate and the parallels are there with the rise in interest rates and in turn the stock market erratic declines are once again showing that we have a dark cloud on the horizon.  Add the tariff's, trade wars and odd global issues that include chaos and irrationality seemingly further isolating America are all issues of concern and not just socially but economically.

The President is weird, irrational and utterly incompetent. Any rational, intelligent and competent people have long left or finding the exit doors in case of emergency.  And some of this I see here in Nashville and that is alarming.  If I read one more happy bullshit about Nashville in the New York Times I will fly to New York to sit with these reporters and ask them to come here and see first hand what it is like to live here.   Even Birmingham laughed off the negative comparisons.   What is the difference between corporate welfare and individual welfare?  Millions.  And the last sentence in that article says what I have thought all along:

Sometimes around here, you get the feeling that a lot of the folks in charge of the city were so eager to make Nashville the Next Big Thing that once it happened they didn't really know what to do next. Instead of celebrating more affirmation from The New York Times, we maybe ought to spend some more time on that

  I have said that when an educated elite work force arrive from New York to work in the Alliance Bernstein offices and Ernst and Young they will not stay.   There is nothing here nor any reason for them to other than having no income tax or you don't care.  Frankly earning 150K you will spend all of it to live in safe areas of town (we have 500 unsolved homicides here and the shootings continue to break records and it is not year end). and commuting in to your work.   And add to that we have the most regressive tax system in America and it shows.

What has happened in Nashville was a rebirth post flood and in turn a push to build an economy that enabled further growth and that was medical and tourism. Since that time a push to diversify the economy led to more incentives to draw financial services and tech which I do say is smart but the workforce here are neither qualified nor trained to do most of the skilled jobs that these businesses need.  As for most of the schools here they were gearing up to add more hospitality programs to fit that need when they were thrown a curve ball to add Amazon's play list to the curriculum.  What that is and which to do will take at least two years and in turn another two to at least have graduates ready for said jobs, which skill set and qualifications have not yet been established until Amazon starts posting those next year.  And then it is about another year or so before any significant presence will be established in which to hire said workforce.  Again Amazon is promising these 5K jobs over 5 years with supposedly 150K salary.  Sure. Don't tell real estate agents as they are already marketing properties as get in before Amazon.  This will undoubtedly further drive up the housing market and lead to even more houses be built and in turn supply and demand may level off.  Right now I see a ton of supply and less demand but shhh don't tell anyone as my building is going condo its just not listed on the MLS which may hamper demand.  But with the rising rates of interest coming that too will undoubtedly affect demand just not only residential build.

Today we have an industry devoted to property flipping and not just houses but commercial and in turn many out of state investors dropping massive cash on properties that were worth less only two years ago.  So in turn they promise improvements which means more costs and in turn the rents on the space will rise.  So if you have a commercial space you have rented for years and the new landlord spends 150K for what was 75K a year ago and rents were based on the latter the new owner has to make his costs so rents will rise appropriately.  Did those tenants make a rise in income too?  True they may get more customers and in turn make a few bucks more annually but that amount which could be used to improve the business and raise the wages of workers is immediately absorbed by the rent increase.  Crash crash bang bang.   I tried to have this discussion which again was a waste of time as my Lyft driver who moved here from New Jersey to take advantage of the boon was sure that the profit was more important and that is all that matters.  And he then used the analogy that the same type of housing structure he had in his properties in New Jersey are only worth 150K and here they are 350K. And he wished he could move the houses here.  I see... then I changed the subject as right there I again am having a conversation with an idiot who thinks himself as an entrepreneur and driving Lyft in his car.  I did not tip since he clearly did not need the money.

What Nashville did bring was the people that are much like those in the article below, lowly skilled and educated and they are filling jobs that pay minimum wage and require little more than showing up.   I work in the schools where you are required to have degrees and education and even that makes me question their skill set as much of their education comes from third rate and largely non-secular schools.  The few that do come from established institutions don't stay long due to the lack of pay and the lack of respect.  Education is not valued in this part of the world and it was not necessary to find work and with that changing I am not sure who will change first, the transplant or the city?  It will take a generation for this region to actually have critical thinking, to begin to ask questions and demand answers.  This is not how they do things here and they resent anyone who thinks otherwise.  Good luck with that.  

Read this article and it may provide insight into the thinking process here that I call a conundrum wrapped in a contradiction.  But again that times may be a changing.

Where Government Is a Dirty Word, but Its Checks Pay the Bills

The residents of Harlan County, Ky., depend heavily on federal assistance. That hasn’t deterred, and may explain, their swing to Republican voting.

By Eduardo Porter
The New York Times
Dec. 21, 2018

HARLAN, Ky. — Gov. Matt Bevin skillfully worked the room at the old courthouse building here in Harlan, one more town-hall meeting in the long campaign toward next year’s election. He deplored the parlous state of a half-mile stretch of U.S. 421 and said $802,000 would be spent to rebuild it. He commiserated with the man who wanted to know how he should deal with the bears tearing through his trash bins, now that it’s forbidden to shoot them.

The line that got the governor a standing ovation, however, was about Medicaid. More precisely, about his plan — so far frustrated by the courts — to require thousands of able-bodied Medicaid recipients between 19 and 64 to work, get training or perform community service for 20 hours a week to keep their health insurance.

“Yeahs” rippled across the room as the governor extolled the value and dignity of work, which propelled him from a hardscrabble youth in rural New Hampshire to the governor’s mansion in Frankfort. “People tell me it’s too much to ask,” he noted, incredulously, about his plan to demand that people on Medicaid get a job. “Baloney.”

And the line from Ronald Reagan got chuckles all around: “The worst thing you can hear,” the governor told Harlan’s gathered residents, is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Mr. Bevin’s distaste for government is not news. His insurgent campaign to take the Kentucky governorship in 2015 was heavy on attacks on government spending. What’s more notable is the people’s applause. Harlan County residents rely on government programs more than pretty much anybody else.

Harlan County is the nation’s fifth most dependent on federal programs, according to the government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 2016 some 54 percent of the income of the county’s roughly 26,000 residents came from programs like Social Security and Medicaid, food stamps — formally known as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — and the earned-income tax credit. That is up from 28 percent in 1990.

Federal assistance has grown all over the U.S., but particularly in Appalachia and the South, where many people now get more than a third of their income from the government.

Surrounding counties are similarly dependent. Part of a coal-mining region in long, inexorable decline, this pocket of the nation exemplifies a political paradox: Why are so many American voters hostile to the government hand that feeds them?

“The SNAP card works every month; the kids eat two meals a day, but people don’t think about where the food comes from and go vote for Republicans,” said Larry King, a Kentucky farmer who is chairman of the Democratic Party in McCreary County, whose residents get 55 percent of their income from federal transfers.

It’s not just about Kentucky. Research by Dean Lacy at Dartmouth College on the presidential elections in 2004, 2008 and 2012 found that states receiving more federal spending for every tax dollar they contributed were more likely to go Republican.

The phenomenon produced a 2004 best seller, Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” It argued that Republicans drew working-class voters to their platform against taxes and spending not with economic arguments, but by appealing to their conservative cultural preferences — against gay rights, abortion rights, affirmative action and gun control.

The contradiction has only become more pronounced over time. As Americans have grown more reliant on federal programs over the last 50 years, they have increasingly embraced the Republican Party, a trend put in stark relief by President Trump’s 2016 victory. Of the 10 states in which government transfers account for the largest share of income, seven voted for Mr. Trump. Speaking to the economic and social anxieties of blue-collar white voters over immigration, trade and demographic change, Mr. Trump has championed tax cuts for the well-to-do paired with benefit cuts for the struggling voters in his base.

Nowhere has the strategy worked better than Kentucky. In a new book, “The Government-Citizen Disconnect,” Suzanne Mettler, a political scientist at Cornell University, observes that Mitch McConnell was known as a pro-civil rights, union-friendly moderate as a county executive in Louisville in the late 1970s. As federal transfers grew from around 10 percent of the income of the average Kentuckian in 1970 to 24 percent in 2016, seven percentage points more than the national average, the ideology of Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader — and the rest of Kentucky’s congressional delegation — moved sharply to the right.

And local Democrats — who once thrived in heavily unionized mining towns — gradually lost ground. In 2015 Mr. Bevin became only the second Republican since the 1970s to take the governorship. And in 2016, Republicans captured the State Assembly and for the first time gained full control of Kentucky’s executive and legislative branches.

Transfers from the federal government account for more than half of residents’ personal income in 11 counties across the country. Ten are in eastern Kentucky; another is in West Virginia. Nine of those sit in Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District, which was the first in the nation to declare a winner on election night, Nov. 6: Harold Rogers, a Republican who has held the seat since 1981. He won 79 percent of the vote.

Even excluding health insurance — which some experts argue should not count — people in this patch of Appalachia draw between a fifth and a third of their income from the public purse.

Perhaps the politics of welfare is changing — up to a point. Democrats made big gains this year in elections for the House and several statehouses, running largely on the promise that they would protect the most recent addition to the safety net: the Affordable Care Act, including the expansion of Medicaid in many states. But championing the safety net does not necessarily resonate in the places that most need it.

Take Daniel Lewis, who crashed his car into a coal truck 15 years ago, breaking his neck and suffering a blood clot in his brain when he was only 21. He is grateful for the $1,600 a month his family gets from disability insurance; for his Medicaid benefits; for the food stamps he shares with his wife and two children.

“Every need I have has been met,” Mr. Lewis told me. He disagrees with the governor’s proposal to demand that Medicaid recipients get a job. And yet, in 2016, he voted for Mr. Trump. “It was the lesser of two evils,” he said.

About 13 percent of Harlan’s residents are receiving disability benefits. More than 10,000 get food stamps. But in 2015 almost two-thirds voted for Mr. Bevin. In 2016 almost 9 out of 10 chose Mr. Trump.

Conservative values surely run strong in this county of many churches and only one liquor store. But the politics of Harlan, a storied Democratic enclave whose yearlong strike against the Duke Power Company’s coal-mining interests in 1973 is seared into union lore, can’t be explained simply by voters’ cultural leanings.

As Professor Mettler points out, the people who rely most on government transfers are least likely to vote. Only 31 percent of Kentucky’s electorate voted in 2015; only 16 percent voted for Mr. Bevin. Participation was lowest in the counties most dependent on federal aid. The governor’s victory was not propelled by the neediest Kentuckians.

The Most Conservative Counties Are the Ones That Get the Most Government Assistance

A cognitive disconnect is at play: People often don’t link benefits they rely on with the idea of government welfare. Professor Lacy’s research, for instance, suggests that ideology and identity influence how people perceive their benefits, and can outweigh their personal experience of such assistance. He finds that Democrats and African-Americans, but not whites or Republicans, were much more likely as groups to feel they were benefiting from government programs in 2012, when Mr. Obama was president, than during the George W. Bush administration in 2008.

But Harlan’s experience suggests that the steepest barrier keeping voters from embracing the government payments that help them get through the day comes from fundamental mistrust. It’s not necessarily that people here don’t understand they benefit. They fear that Washington — so distant from rural America — does not understand their plight or have their interests in mind.

“People in Harlan County have been on the front lines of the war on poverty for 50-plus years and can see its actual effects,” said Preston Jones, the 31-year-old assistant director at the Pine Mountain Settlement School, over the mountain from Harlan. “It is degrading.”

Mr. Jones, a Republican who not long ago was a Democrat, speaks from a deep well of grievance over the fact that generations of Harlan residents have had to turn to the government for sustenance. That sentiment mixes in with a vague but powerful resentment across the county toward a political system that people here blame for allowing, encouraging even, the decline of coal, its economic backbone.

Harlan is one of the poorest counties in the nation. It has been poor for a long time. The typical household takes in barely $25,000 — less than half the national median. Opiate abuse is rampant. Over the last century or so, the population has shrunk by more than two-thirds.

Coal still provides some of the best jobs in the county, paying about $1,550 a week, on average — more than twice the average county wage. But it employs fewer than 600 people. Fewer than 4,000 work the coal mines in all of eastern Kentucky, down from over 15,000 in the early days of the Obama administration. In Harlan County, little more than a third of working-age residents have a job.

Data from Mark Muro and Jacob Whiton at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program shows that as the coal industry has withered since 2010 — squeezed out by natural gas as cheaper fuel for power generation — productivity in terms of economic output per Harlan County worker has shrunk by an average of 8.6 percent a year.

There are few open storefronts downtown, mostly occupied by disability lawyers and pawn shops. “The biggest business for a long time was the U-Haul rental business as people moved out of state,” said Jay Nolan, who runs a string of newspapers based in London, some 70 miles northwest. “In Harlan you had to wait for days to get one.”

Many people blame Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan for killing coal and credit their vote for Mr. Trump to his promise that he would revitalize the industry. Some are skeptical of a government that saved Detroit’s automakers but not Appalachia’s lifeline. And this feeling is going to be hard to shake.

Harlan has few answers to its economic tribulations: few roads linking it to the world’s markets, few good broadband links, few college graduates, few investors willing to risk their money there. “Most of the kids from here who have a chance to go to university never come back,” said Colby Kirk, executive director at One Harlan County, a nonprofit economic development group serving the area.

Success, when it happens, happens on a small scale. This year, the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce gave its business-of-the-year award to a fledgling coal-mining company that has grown to 220 jobs, almost twice as many as last year.

Therein lies a monumental obstacle to transforming the politics of America’s safety net. As small towns lag behind prosperous urban centers along the coasts, as rural communities shed businesses and jobs, and as their residents turn to welfare as a last line of sustenance, the more they will resent Washington’s inability, or unwillingness, to stem the decline.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

This Must Be True

 The New York Times had not one but two articles singing the praises of Nashville. They were both lacking information, actual data and facts that I face palmed by shoving my face against a table while using my palm to prevent breakage.

I live here.  I know people who live here and have a reality and perspective that enables me to cut through the bullshit. I am utterly amazed at these articles that somehow have Nashville the nirvana that Seattle was in the 90s.  And that turned out well as the city is now awash with a homeless crisis, small business is shutting down, vacant retail and housing out of reach for most of the residents who do not earn six figures.  That however did not stop Apple from opening a satellite office, there or in Portland which also is undergoing tremendous gentrification and in turn making an already white city pretty damn white.

Nashville was a chocolate city and the immense housing projects that ring the city confirm this.  The Politicians, Lawyers and other Executives lived in Williamson County or in Belle Meade and comforted themselves with their own Police Force (yes they have literally a Police Force that is public and paid for by tax dollars to keep the white and rich protected) and quasi non-gated communities.  Hard to miss as they don't have sidewalks either so you can't just walk up to say hi.

The reality is that despite the strong health care presence the salaries for medical gigs are notoriously low that we laughed at the constant proclamations of 150K salaries that none of the techs or nurses at Vanderbilt would be there as they would garbage collect if it meant better pay.  All of them commute hours to work and have no idea where this bullshit about all these high paying jobs are coming from given that Surgeons and Lawyers have littered the streets here for years and compared to their counterparts in larger cities make much less.  But wait! Is not the cost of living less? No kids gas is the national average but given the costs of commuting (aka the bad driving and accidents) Insurance costs are nationally high.  Then we have housing costs which are rising.  Then we have a regressive tax system where everything is taxed, including my monthly magazines and daily newspapers.  Medical care is cheaper but few are insured and health of the average citizen lacks.  Then we the public education system which I have long discussed.  The reality is Nashville is a dump unless you are rich and can isolate yourself from the scrum.  And they can and they do.

What brought any of these businesses are demand for accounting as there is always that so again the 600 jobs over 5 years means every year once they open said offices in two years they will have to hire 100 people a year.  Sure can we audit that?   Then we have the operations office of Amazon which again has up to 5 years to hire the 2500 people whom will be earning an average of 150K. Again putting that payroll into the billions to make that actually work out.  Funny that was the same wage for higher cost of living New York and Virginia.  Interesting how that worked out.

Then we have Nashville which is a red state.  Very very red. We have elected a Plumber as a Governor.  We have religious figures that figure prominently in Politics as they are the nod to "equality."   We have no mass transit and that will never happen as in never.  I predict that it would take a generation (that means 25 years) for any of this dynamic to change.   So to set up satellite offices is one thing.  And for the record Alliance Berstein is doing just that to take advantage of the tax incentives, the no income tax and the lower costs of wages for individuals doing the same job. They cannot nor should pay a person six figures for a job that one is doing here for five.  Sorry folks then everyone will leave and in turn how does that work?

These concerns are hardly irrational. In May, Alliance Bernstein, the prominent investment house, announced that it was moving its headquarters to Nashville. Although the firm would retain a presence in Manhattan, close to 1,000 jobs would be lost to a place that has evolved in the past decade as a nexus of urban cool. Like so many revitalized cities around the country, Nashville has great food, great design, great style. (It does? Where?)

When Kathryn Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City, the business advocacy group founded in part by David Rockefeller in the 1970s, heard what was happening, she organized a meeting with the company and a group of political figures to try and better understand what had motivated Alliance Bernstein to relocate.

Although there were several factors at play, the first grievance mentioned by the firm’s representatives, Ms. Wylde said, was that New York had gotten tough to live in: a company survey revealed that average commuting times for employees were reaching the 90-minute mark. “Then,’’ she said, “they listed all the other reasons.”  (Such as taxes)

Last year, as it happened, the Partnership set out to study the dozens of foreign companies in its membership, talking to them about the attractions and obstacles of operating in New York. The resulting report noted that “in every interview conducted,” the condition of airports, subways, roads and trains was cited as a major challenge
“The number one reason companies chose not to expand in New York,” Ms. Wylde told me, “was the condition of transportation infrastructure.” This is not a small thing. Foreign companies currently employ close to 300,000 New Yorkers and contribute 11 percent of the city’s total $761 billion economic output.

Yes come here where we have a sufficient airport and expanding it but that is about it.  But this is where we had to and the rush of post flood money enabled the pols to do this and it was required to attract both Bridgestone and Nissan.  Again taxpayers paying for corporations to do what they would do anyway. 

The endless speculation of real estate seems to be a full time occupation here and the reality is that much of it is owned by out of state investors who have no vested interest in other than making money. They don't have to worry how people get to work or don't and those who can afford to live in the never ending overpriced Apartments that are being built will until they can't and they move to the outlying areas for an hour or more commute a day, one way.

Did any of these individuals do any homework or call anyone local to talk about the endless bullshit being peddled to the media?  No.  No mention of the city budget crisis, the schools selling buildings to make ends meet (well they have to pay for endless lawsuits), the percent of residents who fail to have degrees and higher education, let alone the literacy issues.  Then we have the corruption that exists in the MDHA who permits these structure. the failure to have full inspections for buildings, the demand from FEMA to pay back millions back over the flood payments. Then there is.the endless violence and crime.  Sure neglect those facts.   I know more college graduates working at the YMCA then should.  The reality is there are many faces of color that have degrees and work in less that secure jobs and have worked in hotels and other hospitality trade gigs to make it work. That is the real industry here.

 Comparing Nashville to Birmingham is a farce. The poverty, the lack of an urban core that has been neglected for years (not unlike Nashville until that flood hit and the water and money poured in) shows that in reality is the greed and desperation of others to ensure that one city succeeds while one fails.  We are playing checkers here and that is all. 

***ETA****And since I composed this student arrested with a gun at high school that he admitted he stole from a car and in turn carried for protection.  So not one but two crimes.  Do the New York Times not know of our greatest news source: Scoop Nashville Facebook?   This along with the endless lawsuits on sexual harassment in the public schools are all neglected when mentioning the it city.  The city budget which is challenged and yesterday they decided to censure the former Mayor Slattern months after she plead guilty and paid restitution to the city for her "crimes."  I suspect as always that this had to do with the upcoming vacant Senate seat and her possibly being put up as a candidate.  Nothing here happens without intent and purpose here.  But keep on publishing misinformation and I can see how the media gets labeled with fake news.

Nashville’s Star Rises as Midsize Cities Break Into Winners and Losers

Nashville and others are thriving thanks to a mix of luck, astute political choices and well-timed investments, while cities like Birmingham, Ala., fall behind.

By Ben Casselman
The New York Times
Dec. 16, 2018

NASHVILLE — Forty years ago, Nashville and Birmingham, Ala., were peers. Two hundred miles apart, the cities anchored metropolitan areas of just under one million people each and had a similar number of jobs paying similar wages.

Not anymore. The population of the Nashville area has roughly doubled, and young people have flocked there, drawn by high-paying jobs as much as its hip “Music City” reputation. Last month, the city won an important consolation prize in the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters: an operations center that will eventually employ 5,000 people at salaries averaging $150,000 a year.

Birmingham, by comparison, has steadily lost population, and while its suburbs have expanded, their growth has lagged the Nashville area’s. Once-narrow gaps in education and income have widened, and important employers like SouthTrust and Saks have moved their headquarters. Birmingham tried to lure Amazon, too, but all it is getting from the online retail giant is a warehouse and a distribution center where many jobs will pay about $15 an hour.

Amazon’s announcement has been widely described as a rich-get-richer victory of coastal “superstar cities” like New York and Washington, regions where the company plans to employ a total of at least 50,000 workers. But the company’s decisions also reflect another trend: growing inequality among midsize cities.

Nashville and the other Amazon also-rans, like Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, are thriving because of a combination of luck, astute political choices and well-timed investments. At the same time, Birmingham and cities like it, including Providence, R.I., and Rochester, are falling further behind.

Last week, for example, Apple said it would invest $1 billion in Austin, Tex., and could eventually employ 15,000 people in the area, up from 6,000 now. Like Nashville, Austin is a booming state capital with a prominent university and it has a lively music scene.

Nashville started with advantages. But local leaders also made some smart decisions like merging the city and county government in the 1960s, allowing Nashville and its suburbs to work together rather than at cross-purposes. And in the 1990s, when many downtowns across the county were struggling, the city built a convention center, a hockey arena and a new home for the Country Music Hall of Fame.

By contrast, economic misfortune and poor choices have hobbled Birmingham. Once a center of steel production, the city suffered when that industry declined in the 1980s because of foreign competition and corporate bankruptcies. Local leaders tried to pivot by luring banks and insurers, but that bet soured during the financial crisis, and the city hasn’t recovered the jobs it lost then.

“A place like Birmingham hasn’t fallen off the map, but it’s been bypassed by these places that have moved into this more clearly defined second tier,” said Adam Kamins, an economist for Moody’s Analytics. “It’s treading water, and treading water tends to not be enough.”

When many downtowns around the country were struggling in the 1990s, Nashville invested in big projects that helped revive its downtown. That was one key to its success. The city has a number of other advantages, starting with being the state capital, which brings in lucrative public investments.

When many downtowns around the country were struggling in the 1990s, Nashville invested in big projects that helped revive its downtown. That was one key to its success. The city has a number of other advantages, starting with being the state capital, which brings in lucrative public investments.

Ask Ralph Schulz, president of Nashville’s Chamber of Commerce, why this city has done so well and he begins with the Civil War. Nashville surrendered early, allowing it to avoid the destruction that befell many Southern cities. Union troops used the city as a logistics hub, which laid the groundwork for its postwar economy.

Nashville stood apart in other ways, too. The city was less dependent on manufacturing, in part because being Tennessee’s capital brought lucrative — and relatively recession-proof — public investments. Its colleges and universities, anchored by Vanderbilt University, earned it a reputation as the “Athens of the South.”

The music business, which grew out of a 19th-century publishing industry, gave the city an international reputation, while the growth of Hospital Corporation of America in the 20th century turned the city into a health care hub.

As a result, Nashville had a diversified economy and an educated work force that left it well positioned for the 21st century. But success wasn’t inevitable. As recently as the 1990s, the city was portrayed as a backwater on the variety show “Hee Haw.”

Ronald L. Samuels, a local banker and civic leader, recalled being asked about Graceland — which is in Memphis — when visiting New York with the Chamber of Commerce in the 1980s.

“We had to answer the ‘Where’s Nashville?’ question many times,” Mr. Samuels said.

Beginning in the early 1990s, though, political, business and nonprofit leaders tried to promote Nashville. State and local leaders adopted a regional approach to economic development to recruit companies such as Bridgestone, Nissan and UBS. Tennessee overhauled its community college system and work force development efforts to align better with the jobs being created.

Starting under Mayor Phil Bredesen, who later became Tennessee’s governor, the city invested in big projects that helped revive downtown, a key part of the city’s success.
Subscribe to With Interest

Catch up and prep for the week ahead with this newsletter of the most important business insights, delivered Sundays.

Economists disagree about what policies are most effective at helping cities grow — or if policies matter much. Some, such as Michael Porter of Harvard and Richard Florida of the University of Toronto, have emphasized the importance of cultivating a “creative class” of artists, designers and entrepreneurs. Others, such as Jan Rivkin of Harvard, stress the importance of civic leadership. Pretty much everyone agrees that having an elite university is a big advantage.

Whatever the exact ingredients, Nashville hit on a winning recipe. The urban renewal that began under Mr. Bredesen turned into a boom after the Great Recession, which, thanks to Nashville’s diverse mix of industries, was comparatively mild here. The Gulch, a former rail yard and industrial district, was transformed into a vibrant neighborhood full of hip bars, luxury condominiums and boutique hotels.

Tourism took off, thanks in part to the ABC television country-music drama “Nashville.” Some of those tourists stuck around: The number of college graduates younger than 35 nearly doubled over a decade, to 155,000 by 2017.

Employers soon followed. Among them are Eventbrite, a San Francisco tech company, and EY, the accounting firm, which last month announced plans to open an office downtown for 600 workers. AllianceBernstein, an investment company, decided in May to move its headquarters to Nashville, from New York, in part because of the big-city-worthy cultural amenities and the small-city cost of living.

The company has been flooded with calls from finance industry workers interested in moving to Nashville, said Karl Sprules, an AllianceBernstein executive who is helping lead the transition.

In recent decades, the most successful cities have achieved a kind of economic gravity drawing the best jobs and most talented workers. That’s why few economists were surprised when Amazon chose New York and the Washington area for its big expansion.

But the effect isn’t limited to a few urban giants. Mark Muro, who researches cities for the Brookings Institution, likened it to a fractal pattern: Look past the top cities and there is another layer of inequality. “Nashville is not a superstar, but it’s at the top end of this next echelon,” Mr. Muro said.

Birmingham Plays Catch-Up

The success of the superstars and the substars like Nashville has come at the expense of Birmingham and other smaller cities.

Birmingham’s great boom arrived a century before Nashville’s, when the region’s iron and mineral deposits helped it become one of the nation’s largest steel producers. But as the steel industry declined across the country, Birmingham struggled to find a replacement.

A bet on finance and insurance — the city was at one point a significant regional banking center, home to Regions Financial, SouthTrust and AmSouth Bancorp — proved disastrous in the Great Recession, when the area lost nearly 45,000 jobs. The city still has millions of square feet of vacant office space.

But Birmingham also has some significant assets. It has a research university, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, with a top-flight medical school and hospital. Research conducted at the university has helped fuel a budding start-up scene, and an affiliated incubator in a former Sears store, Innovation Depot, is home to more than 100 new companies.

Last year, the city elected a young mayor, Randall Woodfin, who has put economic development at the center of his agenda. He has created a Neighborhood Revitalization Fund to fix up homes and demolish dilapidated structures, and wants to use business tax incentives to help lift wages, not just create jobs.

“As a midsize city, we have to be very intentional about diversifying our economy,” Mr. Woodfin said. “I’m not waiting on Amazon or some other company to come in and save Birmingham.”

The question for city leaders is whether they can overcome the economic forces driving inequality among cities.

A report released this year outlines the challenge. The study, conducted by the research firm Burning Glass Technologies for local business and nonprofit groups, found that Birmingham lagged in “traded” industries such as manufacturing and technology, which bring in dollars from elsewhere. Instead, it relies heavily on restaurants, retailers and other “nontraded” industries, where money mostly passes back and forth between residents.

Birmingham’s work force is also less educated than the work forces in other cities of comparable size, and its schools aren’t training workers with the skills they need, the report concluded.

Mr. Woodfin faces another challenge: Instead of collaborating, cities and towns in the area often compete against one another. Birmingham proper accounts for just a third of the population of Jefferson County, with cities frequently offering multimillion-dollar tax incentives to lure businesses across town lines.

“It’s less than a zero-sum game — it’s a negative-sum game,” said David Sher, a local business owner who runs a blog on economic issues.

Mr. Sher would like Birmingham to follow Nashville in merging the city and county governments. He noted that Louisville, Ky., saw substantial growth after it did that in 2003.

But even as some look to Nashville as an example, they want to avoid repeating its mistakes. Nashville’s boom has brought congestion and soaring housing costs, making the city unaffordable for many longtime residents, particularly African-Americans.

In May, Nashville voters defeated a ballot question that would have expanded the transit system, which many attributed to a backlash against gentrification and breakneck growth.

“What is the policy, other than growth?” asked Paulette Coleman, a local affordable-housing activist. “If economic growth is only benefiting a small percentage, you just keep getting these widening disparities.”

Those concerns raise questions about Nashville’s future. The city has thrived in part by being an affordable alternative to New York and Atlanta. It may soon have to compete with them directly by trying to become a superstar in its own right.

In Birmingham, Mayor Woodfin said the city must follow a different path.

“I am 100 percent convinced we do not have to be the next Nashville or the next Austin or the next Charlotte,” he said. “We can be the best Birmingham.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Welcome to 1950

I have long thought that MAGA was a code phrase for let's take America back to the Fifties where women and the coloreds knew their place and by coloreds we mean black and that eliminates all the confusion about who is not white or oriental that is not just a rug. Ah the good old days!

Well they have never left. We had some moment where it was just close to the finishing line and perceptions are often enough to accept that all our attempts at equality have been met, I mean we elected that black guy with the funny name as President. That has to mean something. Yes and we promptly followed him with perhaps the weirdest human being possible.

The Devos cohort is rolling back the Ed policies of the Obama Administration that is about school discipline and that ship has sailed bitch and despite the fact that the old discipline policies were inherently racist the current ones are not much better as school violence has reached new heights with no one knowing what to do to resolve the crisis in the classroom. And yes it is a crisis. There is a huge correlation between bullying and exposure to violence and many of the problems that result.  Then we have the rising tide of income inequity contributes to this as poverty also begets violence. It is like nothing I have ever witnessed in nearly 60 years on the planet since I moved to Nashville and the next 9 months is a countdown to getting away from it. Maybe that is what they mean when they describe Nashville as an "it" city.

I do find some common ground between the North and the South and the push to gentrify means a further push to segregate and isolate those faces of color and of language to their own communities.  So while I love a trip down Nolensville as it offers a variety of food and shopping, much of it is conducted in their own language which often means less interaction and opportunity for all residents to experience another culture.

The schools were the meeting place, the land that enabled everyone to gather and mingle and learn together. Not just curriculum but traditions, exposure to others not like oneself and the opportunity to experience a new tradition and history that comes from the rituals that schools provide.   And today's underfunded under appreciated and largely out of their depth as schools are working past the point of intent.  Welcome to our America.

Stanton Peele Ph.D.
Psychology Today

How Are African Americans Doing? I: Violence and Segregation
Black Americans' status has declined for 50 years as whites isolate themselves

Posted Oct 09, 2017

While Americans of all stripes pay lip service to a racially egalitarian society, on every key measure — violence, economics, education, health — African Americans' status in society has deteriorated over the last fifty years. For their part, white Americans' response has been to do everything possible to avoid contact with average black Americans. This is equally true for liberals and conservatives, although liberals are more likely to obfuscate both African Americans' status and their own isolation from blacks, along with poorer whites whom they regard as prejudiced.


When the Las Vegas shooter killed 58 people, journalists rushed to assert that mass violence is a white ("privileged white") phenomenon:

"These shooters are almost exclusively coming from a single socio-economic class and racial group,” wrote actor Cole Sprouse in a widely shared Twitter thread. We must now address “what part of whiteness influences this kind of Petri dish for gun violence and killing.”

This wasn’t just a social media phenomenon. The Huffington Post published Sprouse’s tweets as a “Powerful Take on Whiteness and Mass Shootings.” An article in Elle called the link between white men and mass shootings “a general rule” and proposed that “our refusal to confront toxic white male violence is why this problem will metastasize.” The progressive news site ThinkProgress said that “when we talk about mass shootings, we are talking about white men.” Newsweek wondered if “white men commit mass shootings out of a sense of entitlement.” A CNN opinion piece bemoaned the fact that “America has silently accepted the rage of white men.”

In a narrow sense, these stories are correct: The plurality of mass killers are white. But the notion that white men of privilege are disproportionately represented among mass shooters—indeed, that they make up “nearly all” of them—is a myth.

The above was written by Daniel Engber in Slate. It is remarkable how widespread the view he cites is; it's even more remarkable that a liberal publication would publish his data-based refutation of this view. For, Engber shows (using the data base compiled by Mother Jones Magazine), while 56 percent of mass murderers (defined by the CDC as involving three or more victims) are white, this underrepresents the presence of whites in the general population, from which the rate of mass murderers is calculated, while Asians and African Americans are overrepresented:

According to this data set, then, Asians and black Americans are overrepresented among mass shooters by about the same proportion (a bit more than one-fourth) that whites are underrepresented. This means the population rate of mass shootings by whites is 0.021 per 100,000 people, while the corresponding rate of mass shootings by blacks is 1.7 times higher, at 0.037.

Engber then writes (extremely provocatively) that the reason we are impressed by African Americans only being 25 percent more likely to shoot many people at once is because they are so much more likely to kill individuals than whites are—630 percent more likely—with most of those victims being black:

This disparity [25% more mass shootings], which could be thought of as the statistical non-whiteness of mass shootings, is much smaller in magnitude than the one for killings nationwide. Overall murder rates among black Americans are 6.3 times higher than they are for whites, according to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Another report suggests white offenders made up just 45.3 percent of everyone who committed homicides between 1980 and 2008.* In other words, white Americans may be somewhat underrepresented among mass shooters, but they’re even more underrepresented among all killers. In that limited sense, it would be fair to say that whites are responsible for more public massacres than you might expect. . . . [But] I think it makes more sense to ask why those classified as non-white might be disproportionately represented among killers, from mass shooters down the line.

That's a tough question that we liberals don't like to pose, perhaps even to acknowledge. What does it say that American inner cities are highly violent places? The ten most violent cities in the U.S., with the percentage of African Americans in each city in parentheses, are: 1. Baltimore (64%), 2. Detroit (83%), 3. New Orleans (60%), 4. Kansas City (28%), 5. Cleveland (53%), 6. Memphis (63%), 7. Newark (52%), 8. St. Louis (49%), 9. Chicago (33%), 10. Milwaukee (40%).

It's fair to say that all of these cities, as well has having large black populations, are deeply segregated. Many whites, obviously, have left cities because of their fear of black Americans, while remaining neighborhoods are highly segregated. The Wall Street Journal rated the 16 most segregated cities in the United States (including nearby suburbs). Eight of the ten cities with the highest murder rates are in the top 11 in terms of segregation: Detroit (#1), Chicago (#2), Memphis (#4), Cleveland (#5), New Orleans (#6), Baltimore (#8), St. Louis (#9), Memphis (#11).
article continues after advertisement


While we Northerners booed Southerners for segregated schools, the last half century has proved beyond doubt that whites will do whatever they can to avoid living near, or sending their children to school with, substantial numbers of blacks. Brown v. Board of Education (1954) was the landmark Supreme Court decision to end school desegregation. Now more than 60 years later, school segregation is rapidly increasing, including the most virulent form, called Apartheid, in which 99 percent of the students in a school are students of color.

Such schools educate one-third of black students in New York City and half of the black students in Chicago; nationwide, according to a report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, they educated more than 15 percent of African-American kids and 14 percent of Latinos in 2012. Even in places where racial segregation isn’t quite so absolute, the physical divide between white kids and kids of color in public schools—and charter schools—keeps growing. (my italics)

We’ve gotten used to explaining the segregation we see in our schools by pointing to the segregation we see in our neighborhoods. It seems pretty simple: Kids who don’t live in the same place aren’t likely to go to the same school.

But that explanation has it backwards. In many cities across the U.S., public schools were the first and nearly always the most effective of the tools white residents had to police the boundaries of their neighborhoods. Often, it was school segregation that created neighborhood segregation, not the other way around. (my italics)

In other words, white people move rather than sending their kids to school with a large proportion of blacks that they move. Remarkably, in the North, neighborhoods (and schools) were much more integrated, with a minority of students being black, earlier in the last century. There was a tipping point at which whites refused to continue to send their kids to school that were predominantly black, or nearly so.

But before that, Baltimore was like many other other multiracial cities: Black people and white people were often each other’s neighbors, living side by side in one historian calls a “salt and pepper” pattern. For example, on one working-class West Baltimore block, the 1900 Census counted a white grocer and his family living next door to an African-American waiter and his family; down the street, an Irish marble-polisher lived between a white butter dealer and a black musician. As historian Karen Olson notes in The Baltimore Book, at the turn of the 20th century, “although African Americans constituted 10 percent or more of the total population in three-fourths of the city’s 20 wards, no single ward was more than one-third black.”

But that all changed, as neighborhoods segregated in order to preserve primarily one-race schools. Today, pioneering in the South, but extending throughout the country, new school systems are being set up to keep the races separated (see Whites Only: School Segregation Is Back, From Birmingham to San Francisco):

A middle-class Birmingham suburb called Gardendale wants to leave the Jefferson County school system. Gardendale, which is mostly white, says race has nothing to do with its push for secession: It simply wants to control its schools. . . . “The intent is to create a local school system where they will have control over who comes in and that they will minimize the number of blacks who come in". . . . Local control has become a popular rallying cry in municipalities across the nation—including liberal states like New York and California—that want to form their own school districts.

But, critics assert, what people want to control is the racial composition of schools.

Charter schools (which have been trumpeted by liberals and conservatives alike) have accelerated this process, for example in Washington:

D.C. charter schools, which serve over 40 percent of the city’s student population, are more segregated than D.C.’s other public schools. In 2012, over two-thirds of charter schools. . . were “apartheid schools” (defined as having less than 1 percent white enrollment), whereas only 50 percent of public schools had such completely segregated populations. Voucher schools, another model that DeVos favors, often heightened this problem, according to the report, concentrating in affluent, white communities and underserving black families, who could often not afford to pay fees required beyond the vouchers themselves.

New York—an extremely liberal, diverse city—is intensely segregated by race: "Despite its polychromatic diversity, New York City has one of most deeply segregated school systems in the nation." Indeed, New York intentionally created a system where children could move outside of their local districts to attend school. While of course (as in D.C.) neighborhoods are deeply segregated, this flexible enrollment exacerbated school segregation. It did this by separating children according to their academic abilities. While this seems like an open-minded, liberal policy, it has the effect of ruling blacks (and Latinos, but not Asians) out of the best schools:

Getting into the best schools, where almost all students graduate and are ready to attend college, often requires top scores on the state’s annual math and English tests and a high grade point average.

Those admitted to these most successful schools remain disproportionately middle class and white or Asian, according to an in-depth analysis of acceptance data and graduation rates conducted for The New York Times by Measure of America, an arm of the Social Science Research Council. At the same time, low-income black or Hispanic children . . . are routinely shunted into schools with graduation rates 20 or more percentage points lower.

In particular, New York's selective schools (e.g., Bronx School of Science, Stuyvesant) require admission tests. Blacks and Latinos rarely get into these schools. But whites don't dominate these elite public schools either—Asians do (thus challenging easy ideas of bias and prejudice).

NY's most selective schools' racial composition:

Asians (57%)
Whites (27%)
Blacks (7%)
Hispanics (8%)

So, you see, in terms of the related topics of residential segregation and education, America may be as bad as—or worse than—ever. It is certainly not improving.


Monday, December 17, 2018

River Deep Mountain High

Ah yes the Boycott.  This is where an enraged group take to Social Media to express their outrage over something someone said or did like Papa John, Chick Fil A or Starbucks to show these companies they mean business.  This lasts as long as the attention span of Americans which seems to be about 8.5 minutes or two commercial breaks.  Some companies do respond and we saw that with the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas and that like the issue of gun control has been pushed aside with all the other issues demanding attentions, caravans, separating children from parents, a sports star assaulting a woman (when doesn't that happen, not on camera?) and whatever issue du jour is on the front page of Facebook which may or may not give a shit about the disinformation it peddles.

So when I read about the Amazon boycott in The Guardian I thought, "Well join the club." This year I was planning to avoid any excess use of Amazon in search of other retailers to provide me with what I needed this season.  That lasted a hot minute.

First was my glassware purchase from Kauffman Mercantile. They shipped them separately, meaning the tumblers from the juice glasses which I specifically requested not to and sure enough two different colors arrived. Their concierge told me to take a photo and return the wrong ones then they would send the right ones or I could just get a store credit.  No on all of the above.  I returned the lot and demanded a full refund.  They had missed the Thanksgiving holiday and I did not want this dragging on for weeks.  Went to Amazon and in a week new glassware arrived ready to go.   My intent to buy books at Barnes and Noble or Parnassus ended after two trips and I really did not want to bother to get a bus, get out, walk over and get back on a bus to buy two books.   Again Nashville has no center core of shopping other than Green Hills and this time of year it is a challenge to get there and back under an hour.  Not to mention transit or the lack of sidewalks. It is not worth it in the best of times but this time of year? No.  Two clicks and the books are in my living room two days later.

Then we have the other odd items, such as home scent and when Candle Delirum wanted to charge me 5 bucks to ship it, one click it on Amazon it arrives today.

Or when I went grocery shopping I went to Whole Foods right across from the YMCA and I combined a work out with a shop out and was run and done literally in a couple of hours. Then I came home and prepared dinner while watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and yes it was marvelous.

As for  shopping for shoes, for clothes and for other items that seemingly are not Amazon I find myself back to Amazon.  I have shopped on Shopbop since its inception and then it was bought by Amazon and the same with Zappos. They have not changed but the owner has as  they have amazing offers and prices that are hard to compete with traditional vendors and the shipping? Free.

I still buy a great deal from Etsy.  Amazon is trying to edge into that market and that is just okay and I cannot for the life of me recall what that site is and let's keep it that way.   As for retail, I still shop at Bloomingdales, Saks, Neimans and I have taken to ship and pick up at Macy's.  I loved the old Macy's and this store here is a raging dump but you peruse online and the sheets and towels and home items are all there online and free to send to the store. No package pirates and again in and out in an hour or go to a movie while there or to yoga as again it is right there near where? Whole Foods where I shop.   I rent cars on weekends and ironically park in an empty building across the street from the mall so I don't even have that issue as an excuse.   I walk unlike most so even when I have a car it is a good habit to maintain.

Amazon is a deep river with endless tributaries that extend beyond the books and less mortar they began with.  As for Boycotts? Ask Chick Fil A, Starbucks and Papa John about that now they are closed for business, oh wait.    As for retail, ask Sears about that.

Amazon faces boycott ahead of holidays as public discontent grows

A growing number of customers are fed up with the company, from its working conditions at warehouses to anti-tax lobbying

Jana Kasperkevic in New York
The Guardian
Mon 17 Dec 2018

The holiday season is all about spending the time with your loved ones and, judging by most office mailrooms, shopping on Amazon. Last year, 76% of Americans who shopped online for Christmas presents said that they planned to do most of that shopping on Amazon.

Amazon now accounts for just shy of half of all online sales in the US and Santa’s not so little helper is expected to have another bumper Christmas this year. But there are a growing number of people whose front steps won’t be graced by Amazon packages this festive season – consumers boycotting the online retailer.

No one denies the convenience of shopping on Amazon but for some there are a host of reasons – from the working conditions at Amazon warehouses, the company’s aggressive anti-tax lobbying, its impact on local business or its selling of white nationalist merchandise – that make that convenience too high a price to pay. But even those shoppers concede their boycotts come at a price.
Sign up for the new US morning briefing

Steven Shamrock, 51, had been considering boycotting Amazon for a while. First when he learned how Amazon workers were treated. Jeff Bezos might be one of the richest men in the world, but Amazon’s median salary is a paltry $28,446 a year. The second time Shamrock considered boycotting Amazon was when he read about the company’s dominance in web services. Amazon Web Services controls around 45% of the world’s cloud-computing capacity and provides the web services for customers ranging from Netflix to the CIA to the UK’s Ministry of Justice.

The last straw came in May of this year when he read that Amazon was banning customers who made too many returns.

“If a company gets so big, they can start picking and choosing their customers, it’s really not a business that promotes competition,” said Shamrock, who runs his own public accounting practice in the Chicago area. According to him, nothing is good in extremes, especially large companies that can end up controlling prices or distorting them. “I think anytime a company gets that large and gets that much economic power, it never ends well.”

Recently, Amazon announced that it was going to start paying its employees at least $15 an hour and that it will exert some of its influence on Capitol Hill to lobby for an increase in the federal minimum wage. While on the surface this announcement seems to benefit the workers, the move also benefits Amazon. With the unemployment rate dropping below 4% and fewer Americans looking for jobs, companies have been scrambling to attract potential job candidates. And in order to get all those Amazon Prime packages out on time for the holidays, Amazon had to hire 100,000 more people this year.

Shamrock, who said he might reconsider his boycott if the company were to treat its employees better, was not impressed by the news.

“The increase is still not to a living wage and I have not heard of any improvements in working conditions. We are still boycotting Amazon,” he said. His wife and their twin 21-year-old sons have also joined the boycott.

Laura Klein, too, would like for Amazon to make more effort in order to get her to end her boycott. When she gets an urge to shop, Klein goes online and checks whether Amazon is still streaming NRATV, the National Rifle Association’s streaming media service. Shopping on Amazon is very convenient, but for the last 10 months Klein has been boycotting the company.

Klein decided to boycott Amazon shortly after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February that claimed 17 lives. At the time, the New York Times published a feature about NRATV, the National Rifle Association’s online TV channel which broadcasts pro-gun content and is streamed by Amazon Fire TV as well as Apple TV and Roku. It wasn’t long before calls for Amazon boycott spread like wildfire across the internet. Months later, nothing has changed.

As a result, Klein has done most of her holiday shopping at a local brick-and-mortar store and has resolved to boycotti the second season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, which premiered on Amazon Prime on 5 December.

Every time Klein has to make a purchase online, she has to remind herself not to go on Amazon. That’s why she continues to check if they are still streaming NRATV.

“Because if they stop, then I’d say: ‘Oh, wonderful! I would love to do business with them again!’ But as long as they continue to, I just can’t. Morally, I just can’t,” said Klein, 45, who lives in New Jersey and works in pharmaceutical marketing during the day. In her spare time, she works as an interfaith minister.

The decision was not an easy one. Klein has been shopping on Amazon since the 90s, when she used the website to buy books and CDs. By 2018, she bought almost everything via Amazon – even her groceries. She had supported boycotts before of companies like Chick-fil-A, which faced a backlash for opposing same-sex marriage. However, those boycotts didn’t really affect her personally because she wasn’t really buying from those companies that much anyway.

“I thought: ‘Oh, that’s a really good idea,’ but I wasn’t the one giving something up and in giving up my business with Amazon, I wasn’t just giving up on things. It felt like I was giving up pretty much everything,” said Klein. This boycott felt like a breakup. “I really had to think about: how do I buy things now? Where do I go? What do I do? I’ve gotten so used to not going to a physical store or using other online sources for shopping and figuring out how else to buy ebooks. It was really almost like starting from scratch in a lot of ways.”

Amazon is not simply a marketplace. For many loyal shoppers, it’s a way of life.

To resist the temptation of Amazon, Klein deleted all Amazon apps from her phone and iPad. She started shopping for groceries in the store and has been reading books that she bought in the past but hasn’t gotten to yet. Throughout the months, she would occasionally tweet about her experience with the hashtag #boycottAmazon.

Experts are not convinced that boycotts work. “While I suspect that corporate protests or proposed boycotts rarely lead company executives to ‘see the light’, morally speaking, the bad PR surrounding them can be prohibitively expensive,” said John Paul Rollert, adjunct assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

There are recent examples of successes. Take Bank of America, said Rollert, which was forced to scrap a $5-a-month fee for using one’s debit card to make purchases unless a customer had a minimum of $20,000 in her bank account. “Bank of America floated the plan in late September of 2011, at the height of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Within a week, one of their customers started a Facebook campaign proposing a ‘Bank Transfer Day’ on 5 November. The protest got so much attention that, on 1 November, Bank of America caved and rescinded the plan.”

The potential loss of business was enough to make Bank of America reverse course but perhaps Amazon is just too big to boycott. For years, some spurned Amazon in favor of local bookshops. Then more recently, people sat out Prime Day in solidarity with workers protesting against the company in Europe. Yet Amazon barely shrugged and continued growing. Earlier this year, the company disclosed that the number of Prime members surpassed 100 million. More new members signed up for Prime in 2017 than in any other year.

Both Shamrock and Klein know of no one else that is actually boycotting Amazon. Klein’s friends told her they would give it a try, but she doesn’t know if they actually went through with it.

The few times that the boycott has come up in Shamrock’s conversations, he said others were “a little bit confused” and then just moved on.

In order for such boycotts to work, “a lot of people have to do it, obviously”, said Shamrock. “But I haven’t heard of any large-scale efforts for that.” His guess is that Amazon is too convenient – and too big.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Shopped Out

Growing up the birth of the mall took over and going to one was a treat.  I found it interesting but as a City kid who rode the 5 Phinney downtown was an easy commute and one I preferred.  Today I live in a city that has no real downtown and I find it exhausting trying to just figure out how to get a Mascara, go to movie or just look at seasonal decorations.

I grew up in retail and worked retail seasonally and long term when I was in College and post divorce and I loved it. I made money, lots of money and I grew up with a Mother who started with Nordstrom when it was a tiny single store in Seattle.  I worked there and hated it.    I rarely shop in the store and it is a our singular "elegant" store in Nashville as the Macy's and Dillard's compete to have nothing I want and rarely what I need.  I am not sure I need anything but frankly Nashville is where fashion came to die.   So I shop how? Online or when I go to New York and hit the streets re-known for them. 

Ah, the infamous 5th Avenue, a center for retail but even New York City is seeing the closing of Lord and Taylor  and Henri Bendel's this holiday season. But it is also a reflection of  an overall shrinking of retail as apparent by it many vacant storefronts throughout the city.   Even the host of the annual Thanksgiving Parade, Macy's has shrunk its footprint in many of its flagship stores.  Most of the space is being sold to WeWork the faux co-working tech company but actually a real estate company  that takes advantage of fire sales to arrange short time leases for businesses looking to establish an office or start ups needing space.

Over time the annual walk and shop which led people to wander from store to store to see iconic displays and designs that often were simply traditional to the extraordinary, such as Barney's, the lack of a downtown and retail core turns this event to the mall.   But malls are closing and those that remain are trying to catch the same customer as there are only so many unique stores to offer largely the same products, all that can be bought online.  Which brings another annual Christmas story about the death of retail,  but even in the Holidays there is something about wandering through aisles, among stores looking for a bargain or the unique item that would make a great gift for that special someone.  But that too is going away as I suspect people hate each other more and think less about giving gifts than receiving them in any way that is about surprise and joy.  Shopping is now like phone booths gone the way of technology and ease.  So now trying to dig up a quarter to make a call, stand on the corner in a glass booth and have a conversation can now be done on the same corner without at least the veneer of privacy. 

I do think that money is truly the story behind the decline of retail and not Amazon. Amazon is today's generation Walmart.  It is just sitting fat on your sofa versus going in sweatpants to the larger retailer that enabled you to get substandard food and a lube for both your vagina and car.

CBS Sunday Morning did a great story about the decline of Sears and how it was cutting edge for its day and yes years before even Amazon was the Sears of today they were experimenting with a type of online commerce using their infamous catalog and they already had the transportation and delivery system well established that could have been doing what Amazon is planning to do today.  Yes kids Amazon wants to compete with UPS, USPS and Fed Ex and have their own control over all aspects of the product.  Next up instant manufacturing like print on demand only more complex depending on the product.  Care for a Solar Panel? A Car battery?  Amazon 3D can make it for you and have it air dropped within the day.   Think I am kidding? Think again, Bezos never does stop thinking of ways to world dominate and I am sure this is on the table.

But remember visionaries have just that visions and they too think they are the most progressive and advanced of its era.  GE did once.  As did Carnegie and Rockefeller.  Ah days gone by but the names still exist even when their companies have long been gone.

Sears was bought by a "genius" investor and run into the ground by the same "genius." So much for thinking that all men have the solutions when they are often the problem. Understanding history is how we understand the present and in turn prepare for the future. Or not. What comes up must come down and history bears repeating.

Chicago Tribune
Rise and fall of Chicago icon: 132 years of Sears

By Kori Rumore

Sears Holdings Corp. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company's chairman, Edward Lampert, will step down as CEO and 142 stores -- including Sears and Kmart stores -- will close. Here's a look back at the company since its founding 132 years ago.

Richard Sears begins selling watches in Minneapolis

Sears was a station agent in Minnesota when a shipment of gold watches arrived for a local jeweler, who refused them.The rebuffed wholesaler told 22-year-old Sears he could have the watches for $12 apiece. He said yes, pivoted, and offered them to agents along the line for $14. With that type of watch retailing for $25, there was room for the agents to profit, and Sears pocketed $2 for each one sold.Within six months, Sears had made $5,000, and his watch business started to outstrip his railroad salary. “The tail had begun to wag the dog,” he said in a 1906 Chicago Tribune story.

Sears moves to Chicago, hires Alvah Roebuck

Setting up at Dearborn and Randolph streets, Sears hired a watchmaker “thin to emaciation,” Alvah Roebuck. Their watch company grew rapidly into a general mail-order company that used high volumes to enable low prices.

First catalog released

Sears first uses a printed mailer to advertise watches and jewelry. Under the banner “The R.W. Sears Watch Co.,” Sears promises his customers “we warrant every American watch sold by us, with fair usage, an accurate time keeper for six years — during which time, under our written guarantee we are compelled to keep it in perfect order free of charge.”

Key financier joins company

Julius Rosenwald would later become president of Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 1908, when Richard W. Sears retired, then chairman of the board in 1924. The philanthropist’s generosity can still be seen throughout Chicago.

Sears retires as president

Richard W. Sears’ fortune, at the time, was estimated at $25 million. Sears became chairman of the board and continued to participate in the company for several more years.Sears died in 1914 — a decade or so before the company he founded opened a single store.

Feb. 2, 1925
First retail store on Chicago's West Side

The Homan Square site was already home to the company’s mail-order plant when the store, which featured an optical shop and a soda fountain, opened. Sears national headquarters was based here on a 55-acre site. Retail operations moved to the new Sears Tower headquarters in 1973, then the current headquarters in Hoffman Estates in 1995.

Launches Craftsman tools, Kenmore appliances

Sears pays $500 for the rights to name from the Marion-Craftsman tool company. The products, which include power tools and lawn mowers, become known for their warranties.A Chicago street provided the name for Sears’ lines of home appliances, according to company lore. The Kenmore name appeared on washing machines starting in 1927, though the nameplate debuted on a Sears sewing machine in 1913.

Establishes Allstate

Launched to provide mail-order car insurance, Northbrook-based Allstate Insurance Co. was founded as a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears. In choosing a name for the new business, managers borrowed the trademark of a Sears product, Allstate Automobile Tire.

Launches Christmas catalog

The 87-page catalog featured toys, holiday decorations, housewares, tools, clothing, jewelry and appliances — something to appeal to every family member.

Sept. 10, 1973
Moves HQ to Sears Tower

Four hundred people are the first of 7,000 Sears employees to be moved — from 13 buildings at two locations in Chicago and one in Skokie — into the company’s new headquarters in what was then the world’s tallest building.

Becomes the exclusive retailer of Pong

Produced by Atari, the popular home version of the electronic ping-pong game with its “blips” and “bloops” is sold only at Sears.

Jan. 26 1986
Discover Card debuts nationally

Two months ahead of schedule, the credit card is introduced nationally to compete with industry giants MasterCard, Visa and American Express.

February 1991
Loses its crown as king of American retail

Based on total sales revenue for fiscal 1990, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart becomes the country’s top retailer, followed by Kmart. Sears slips to No. 3 on the list.

Jan. 25, 1993
Catalog discontinued

The company announces the closing of its money-losing catalog division and the demise of its storied Big Book. Founder Richard W. Sears first offered his watches and jewelry for sale in a catalog in 1888. A general merchandise catalog came along in 1896.

November 1994
Sears Tower sold

Getting out with unpaid interest mounting, Sears announces it will give up ownership of the tower as part of a restructuring of the massive debt. AEW gains control of the property.

March 31, 1995
Allstate, Sears split

Sears began cutting the cord with Allstate, then the country’s second-largest insurance company, in 1993, when Sears sold almost 20 percent of its stock at an initial public offering.The split let Sears proceed without dealing with any catastrophic payouts common in the insurance industry, while Allstate investors didn’t have to be concerned about the ups and downs of retailing.

Aug. 10, 1995
HQ officially moves to Hoffman Estates

Sears headquarters had been in Chicago since Richard W. Sears moved his watch company here from North Redwood, Minn., in 1887.Now, nearly 5,000 employees would be working at the suburban site.

Christmas catalog debuts online

One year before launching, the company places its Christmas items for sale on

May 13, 2002
Acquires Lands' End for $2 billion

Under the deal, Lands’ End clothing would begin appearing in Sears’ stores as early as fall 2002. Sears had struggled for years to bring nationally known brands to its apparel mix.

July 16, 2003
Credit division sold to Citigroup

The sale provided Sears with a $3 billion premium on its credit-card portfolio — the nation’s 8th largest with 25 million active accounts — and returned an additional $3 billion in invested capital to the company.By selling its finance arm, Sears jettisoned a division that had provided more than half of its annual profits and helped boost sales by giving customers a way to pay for big-ticket items. But it also was rid of a division that had cost a top executive his job after Sears had to boost its bad debt reserves by $222 million in October 2002 to offset rising delinquencies.

Nov. 17, 2004
Company announces merger with Kmart, led by Edward Lampert

Valued at $11 billion, Kmart Holding Corp. scooped up Sears, Roebuck & Co. The new company, which was called Sears Holdings Corp., would become the nation’s third-largest retailer and continue to occupy Sears headquarters in suburban Hoffman Estates.Leadership of the new company was controlled by Kmart’s chairman, Edward J. Lampert, a 42-year-old Connecticut investor who made his name buying Kmart out of bankruptcy in 2003 and raising almost $1 billion by selling many of its stores to other retailers, including Sears.“This is going to be an enormous undertaking,” said Lampert, who owned 52.6 percent of Kmart and 15 percent of Sears.

Feb. 2, 2008
Executive shakeup

After the company suffered through a dismal holiday selling season, CEO Aylwin Lewis is ousted.Lewis served as CEO of Kmart Corp. in 2004, and became head of the combined company after Kmart acquired Sears Roebuck & Co. in 2005.

Jan. 8, 2013
Lampert takes over as CEO

Company Chairman Edward Lampert takes over the position from Louis D’Ambrosio. Lampert was the company’s fifth CEO in eight years.

Feb. 22, 2013
Calumet City store to close

At the same location for 50 years, the Sears store in the River Oaks Center mall closed in May 2013. The company cited poor financial performance.

April 4, 2014
Lands' End spun off

Started in Chicago in 1963 as a sailboat equipment catalog, Lands’ End evolved into an upscale casual clothing retailer. Sears purchased the company for $1.9 billion in 2002.

April 6, 2014
State Street store closes

Highlighting a growing trend away from bricks-and-mortar shopping, Sears closes the 13-year-old location.

Sept. 15, 2014
CEO gives $400 million loan

One week after Fitch Ratings downgrades Sears Holdings’ credit rating to CC status, Sears CEO Edward Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments, lends the company $400 million.

Jan. 27, 2015
115 jobs eliminated at Sears

Spanning various departments, these positions were cut in an effort to reduce expenses in the face of years of losses.

Aug. 20, 2015
Posts first quarterly profit in three years

Sales declined in the second quarter, but Sears was bostered by selling and leasing back some of its buildings to a new real estate investment trust, Seritage Growth Properties.

Feb. 25, 2016
250 employees laid off

After posting fourth-quarter losses following a poor holiday shopping season, Sears eliminated 250 positions and also said 151 open corporate office positions would not be filled.

April 21, 2016
80 stores to close by summer

Two months after announcing it was accelerating plans to shutter unprofitable locations, Sears said it would close 10 Sears and 68 Kmart stores.

May 5, 2016
Ravenswood store to close

After 90 years in operation — the longest-standing store in Sears’ chain — the Lawrence Avenue Sears would close.

Dec. 8, 2016
$748 million lost in third quarter

It was the fifth consecutive quarter of losses for Sears.

Jan. 4, 2017
CEO to give loan up to $500 million; his tab now near $1 billion

CEO Edward Lampert — the company’s largest investor — agreed to loan Sears $321 million immediately with another $179 million more available in the future. It’s the second time in a week he stepped in to fund the ailing retailer. Lampert and his hedge fund had now lent Sears more than $1 bilion since September 2014.

Jan. 5, 2017
Craftsman sold

The well-known tools brand was sold to Stanley Black & Decker for $525 million and another $250 million after three years. Stanley agreed to pay Sears a percentage of its new sales of Craftsman products for 15 years, and during that time, Sears would be able to continue selling Craftsman products royalty-free.

Feb. 23, 2017
130 corporate employees laid off

Sears eliminated the employees, who mostly worked at its Hoffman Estates headquarters, as part of a restructuring plan aimed at cutting at least $1 billion in costs during 2017.

March 23, 2017
Company loses $2 billion in 2016

After years of losing money, Sears said there was “substantial doubt” it would be able to keep its doors open.

March 24, 2017
CEO takes bigger stake in Sears

Sears CEO Edward Lampert, already the company’s largest shareholder, bought nearly 526,000 shares, causing shares to jump more than 9 percent.

April 21, 2017
50 auto centers, 92 Kmart stores to close

The stores, including two in downstate Illinois, were to be closed as part of an effort to cut costs by $1.25 billion in 2017.

June 8, 2017
66 more stores in U.S. to close

Seventeen Sears and 49 Kmart stores were to shut in late July or early September.

June 13, 2017
Cuts 400 jobs, no longer qualifies for state tax breaks

The announcement meant Sears’ head count in Hoffman Estates had been cut by more than a third since 2011, when it employed 6,200 people at its headquarters and received a package of tax breaks after threatening to leave Illinois.At the end of 2016, Sears reported having just three more employees than the 4,250 minimum it was required to maintain to be eligible for the tax credits, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Econonomic Opportunity.

June 23, 2017
More store closings

It was announced that 18 Sears and two Kmart stores, sold by Sears to Seritage in 2015, would close in September.These closures came in addition to the closing of 226 stores announced earlier in 2017.

July 20, 2017
Kenmore products sold on Amazon

Sears partnered with the e-commerce behemoth to sell the full line of Kenmore appliances, including smart home appliances integrated with Amazon’s voice-controlled Alexa platform.

Aug. 24, 2017
3 more Illinois Kmart stores to close

After closing or announcing plans to close 330 stores already in 2017, Sears Holdings Corp. said it would shutter 28 more — including Kmart stores in Oak Lawn, Elmhurst and Belleville.

Oct. 30, 2017
$60 million loan is Sears' 3rd time tapping CEO's pockets in a month

Earlier the same month, Sears had borrowed $100 million — $40 million on Oct. 18 and $60 million one week later — from affiliates of Sears CEO Edward Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments.

Nov. 3, 2017
63 more stores to close

The company informed employees at 18 Sears and 45 Kmart stores that those locations would be shutting down by late January 2018.

Nov. 30, 2017
Revenue falls 27 percent as sales plunge

Revenue dropped 27 percent in the third quarter to $3.66 billion with more than half of that decline coming from store and pharmacy closures, the company said.Sales at established stores, a key measure of a retailer’s health, plunged 15.3 percent during the third quarter — more than double the decline it reported in the same period a year earlier.

Dec. 14, 2017
DieHard auto batteries, other products sold on Amazon

Less than six months after Sears began selling its full line of Kenmore appliances through the e-commerce giant, the Hoffman Estates-based retailer began selling its DieHard auto products on Amazon too.

Jan. 4, 2018
Orland Park, Boubonnais and Marion Sears stores to close

Three Sears and three Kmart stores in Illinois would close in the company’s latest round of cuts. Thirty-nine Sears and 64 Kmart stores nationwide would close by April, it was announced.The Sears in Orland Park was set to be converted into a 45,000-square foot AMC movie theater.

Jan. 10, 2018
CEO's firm gives company $100 million loan

Sears Holdings Corp. announced it had received the loan, but it did not disclose the source of the funds. But in a regulatory filing the next day, Sears said entities controlled by CEO Edward Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments, provided the loan.

Jan. 31, 2018
220 corporate employees laid off

Most of these employees worked at the company’s Hoffman Estates headquarters, and the cuts affected various business units and roles across the organization.

Feb. 15, 2018
Posts profit despite sales drop

During the fourth quarter of 2017, which included the holiday season, Sears sales fell 15.6 percent at established stores — its worst showing for the crucial holiday period since at least 2012. But the struggling department store operator posted a profit for the quarter, mainly due to a tax benefit.

March 23, 2018
Sheds more than 50,000 jobs in 2017

In the company’s annual report, Sears Holdings Corp. revealed it slashed about 36 percent of its U.S. workforce in 2017 — from 140,000 full- and part-time employees as of Jan. 28, 2017, to 89,000 as of Feb. 3, 2018.

May 14, 2018
Explores sale of Kenmore, other divisions

Sears announced it was beginning a formal process to explore the sale of three pieces of the business that CEO Edward Lampert’s ESL Investments expressed interest in acquiring: Kenmore, the home improvement business of the Sears Home Services Division and the Parts Direct business of Sears Home Services.Sears Holdings Co. had been exploring alternatives for those businesses — as well as the Craftsman tools and DieHard battery brands — for nearly two years, saying it believed they had room to grow by expanding their reach beyond Sears.

May 31, 2018
Gurnee Mills, Hawthorn Mall locations to close

Both stores were among five Illinois stores scheduled to be closed in September after another quarter of losses and slowing sales for the company. The Gurnee Mills stores opened in August 1991 and the Vernon Hills store was an anchor when its location, Hawthorn Mall, opened in 1973.These stores were among 63 closing stores Sears identified, part of a group of 100 unprofitable stores the ailing Hoffman Estates-based retailer was targeting for closure.

June 4, 2018
More time to repay loans

The company extended the maturity of two loans totaling about $320 million, originally due in July 2018, to July 2020.Lenders include affiliates of Sears Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment.

June 26, 2018
200 more employees laid off

Following a round of 220 job cuts earlier in 2018, another 200 corporate employees — about 150 of them working at the company’s Hoffman Estates support center — were laid off.

July 15, 2018
Closes last store in Chicago

Just shy of its 80th anniversary, the store on the edge of Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood shut its doors. The store opened in 1938 in a $1 million building designed by Chicago architecture fir, Nimmons, Carr & Wright.In October, it was announced that Springbank Real Estate Group was converting the four-story building into apartments and ground-floor retail space.

Aug. 14, 2018
CEO makes $400 million bid for Kenmore

ESL Investments, the hedge fund run by Sears CEO Edward Lampert, proposed buying Sears’ popular Kenmore appliance brand and a piece of its home services division.

Aug. 23, 2018
2 more Illinois stores to close

Sears Holdings announced that a Kmart in Steger and a Sears store in Bloomington would close in November as part of the latest group of 46 stores — 13 Kmart and 33 Sears locations — identified as unprofitable.

Sept. 13, 2018
Another quarterly loss

The company had now reported a loss in six of its last eight quarters. Same-store sales, a key gauge of performance, also shrank.

Sept. 24, 2018
CEO proposes selling real estate to avoid bankruptcy

Sears CEO Edward Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments, suggested selling about 200 company-owned stores to lighten the company’s debt load. But even if the plan were to succeed in preserving the company, it likely would accelerate the decline of Sears’ physical presence.

Oct. 6, 2018
Niles store to close

Though not among 46 Sears and Kmart locations previously announced to close before the holidays, the Niles store at Golf Mill Shopping Center was set to close in mid-December.

Oct. 10, 2018
Eyes bankruptcy

With a $134 million debt payment due October 15, it was unclear whether the company would be able to avoid a trip to bankruptcy court.Sears, which has lost $11 billion since 2011, announced it had added a restructuring expert to its board.

Oct. 15, 2018
Files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

The last man standing while storied Chicago competitors like Wieboldt’s, Montgomery Ward and Carson Pirie Scott fell by the wayside, Sears survived the Great Depression, adapted as its shoppers traded catalogs for downtown department stores, and followed customers to suburban shopping malls. But it faltered as discounters, specialty chains and online merchants wooed consumers away in recent decades, and it never seemed to find the niche that would bring them back.Under the bankruptcy court’s protection, Sears buys more time for a turnaround, one it’s been attempting for years. Despite efforts to cut costs by closing hundreds of stores, Sears has lost more than $11 billion since 2011. In the last two years alone, the company has closed more than 725 Sears and Kmart stores. The company will close 142 more stores before the end of the year.