Friday, September 29, 2017

Numbers vs People

When I read this article I thought immediately - REALLY?  Numbers are just that data and what that means is nothing when in reality those living in day to day reality.   While wages may have returned to higher levels I question how those came to be.  Were they due to States and Cities raising the minimum wages or was it due employers in certain fields due to labor shortages to retain workers? 

Living in the most appalling state well next to the others in the South which are by far worse I see a Catch 22 situation.  The largest industry here is service and hospitality and related businesses which are minimum wage with no benefits.  As a result, there is a great deal of turnover and job hopping to find both hours and wages commensurate with the increasing cost of living in the Nashville area.  Add to that many are taking on the McJobs of the Gig Economy in which supplement incomes.  Second jobs are almost required here unless you are in a well paying field.  The median income is 42K but cost of living is 75K so there is a big need to meet that gap.

Then I read the article about non-compete clauses in the fast food industry.  To say I have heard everything would now relate to this.  Honestly you have to have this in an employment agreement in the fast food world?  No, Rosa you can't go to Arby's as you are our best fryer here and I can't risk you leaving as you may take our McDonald's customers with you!  Fuck me.

I spoke yesterday to our buildings maintenance man and he is black and I said to him after being in a school yesterday for a half a day watching only black children rage and rant on to the point of extreme I was once again ashamed and embarrassed to be witness to this.  The kids had no clue on how to even behave for longer than a minute.  And we concurred it was a problem with regards to the kids of color living in extreme poverty.   We spoke about how racism is much more subtle and that this way it divides and disintegrates communities almost intentionally.  Then he said the magic phrase I have said repeatedly since I moved here: "It was better in the 50s"  This is the time before desegregation and in turn when community of colors thrived in segregation but that while they were not great they had a self reliance that enabled them to live in stability.   Jefferson Street in that era was thriving and Vinegar Hill in Charlottlesville another example of how less may not be more but it was better than nothing. Separate and Equal?  Ah MAGA.  Yes I have thought that since day one here and to have someone black confirm my belief was all I needed to realize that is exactly what Nashville wishes it was.

Where this school was in the outlying area of a massive gentrifying area in East Nashville.  While most of it focuses on the sections closest to downtown Nashville, this area is still very much an area of extreme poverty.  And having recently heading into Madison the next township to this area I saw what was once a thriving working class area now the epitome of what white trash meth addiction can do.  I thought, "Well if I wanted Meth I could just slow down the car at an intersection and just wait for someone to come to the window to throw in the stuff and I could throw out the money without ever stopping." 

And my drive to this school passes both public housing and vintage homes adjacent to new complexes with all six figure prices.  There is no way any families would send their children to that school if they have a choice.  Good thing as in Nashville they do, up to 80!  I knew that when I signed up that the Talented and Gifted program was non-existent and sure enough I was right.  There just being functioning is considered such  so I agreed to do another.  This was a SPED push in and  irony that the first classroom was again with another older Gentleman who wants to be a Teacher and is now subbing.  I watched him struggle with what to do and I saw garbage lesson plans left and offered my thoughts on how to handle this type of class.  The worst was the the cohort of girls who were so appalling and vulgar I just packed it in after 20 minutes.  The laugh we both had was the conflicting and contradicting messages on the board - "Build a Community" next to "I know how many pencils I have so they better all be there at the end of the day."  No paper, no board markers no anything to facilitate teaching just lesson plans with more threats on them.   I hoped his day went well and I was off to the next class.

I watched this one Teacher just fail to get any management or structure for any point of time.  She attempted to Teach and I just went in the hall and tried with a small cohort with mixed results I got one little girl to do something. This was with kids ripping each others papers up, smack talking and one little girl just went downstairs.  I did not stop her or care.  Why?   I looked in room after room and saw similar levels of chaos.  After class I spoke to this Teacher and she had tears in her eyes, she had taught at another challenging middle school in the area but they had a discipline structure in place and in turn the problems were less to this level but that this school had no such plan.  The move to restorative justice is not working here but I have no idea what would.  Well I do but it is pointless to have discussions beyond that and considering she is a Science Teacher, a highly demand field,  why she is staying?   Well that whole Christian/Southern Martyr bullshit or perhaps more complex and again not something I want to get into.   

Then I was escorted to the next room with a Black Teacher and a man who came at the request of the Dean of Students to teach math after a Teacher left after the first two weeks of the year.  His management was threats, yelling and doing little else.  I saw no Teaching nor attempt to do so.  Again there I found a little girl and in the din of noise and chaos I managed to get her to work through the worksheet, but what is sad is that  she is in 5th grade and cannot do even rudimentary multiplication.  I brought this to his attention and he repeated the same story, I repeated mine about how I ended up in this gig and after circle jerking I just informed them I needed to make this a half day and leave.  He was really stupid frankly and I questioned if he was a licensed Teacher.  He seemed utterly clueless as a Teacher or well even an Adult, seemingly confused  as to my explanation of what happened with regards to my gig  but then I could not tell if he had comprehension issues or the chaos which lent to confusing conversations and in turn our need to repeat ourselves.  Frankly I went with the prior as I have seem to have these conversations a lot which at one point made me question my communication skills but nope they are really really ignorant here.  When is it acceptable to have a woman walk from room to room to stand there and watch chaos then try to teach those who want to learn but instead be given discipline problems because the Teacher no longer wants to handle them?  That is not my job and the first woman was doing just that, so I simply took them into the hall and sat there.  I felt bad for everyone  not letting me work with kids who needed and more importantly wanted my help told me what I was there for; I was there for babysitting.  Toting my purse from one room to another, up and down stairs just to watch this was not something I needed nor wanted to do.

The kids that were bilingual or African were self segregated in the classroom and  they were trying to function.  The American black boys and girls were insane.   What is the point of this and what will happen to them as they go along the chain of education.  They will never function fully into society and they only validate the stereotypes that White Americans carry about race.  The Administration is largely black, the Superintendent of Public Schools is black, many of the Teachers are black. And it is deliberate in the policy. Again there is a book on this district and their crazy policies.   The woman who I was sent to to supervise me on this Odyssey was also black. 

So this woman whose name I could not remember nor her mine came to get me to chaperone me from room to room.  The Teachers did not know why I was there but sure another warm body to do what was unclear.   I saw her frequently look in to see if I was there and what was going on but she said nothing, so when I caught her on  the next pass through I  said I was taking leave at the half day. She was clearly angry and of course decided I was a racist as that must be the only reason it was obvious by her tone and face, another thing I have become accustomed to, the veiled distrust as the standard go to when I speak to Black Educators.  They are almost always indignant and shocked when I say would like to leave. Yet I watched a Black Sub grab her purse at one school while yelling that she was out of here that these kids were crazy.  Funny the white folks always stay as we don't want to be thought of as racist and I did stay in that school and watched school aggression and violence that scared the shit out of me.  A School where a Teacher was found with a gun in his backpack.  Okay then.  So now I just leave and don't care.  I have zero problem with that as I have no guilt for what is not my problem nor my responsibility and if you actually spoke to me in a civilized manner you may find that out.

 In turn she got her boss an elderly white woman and I just said, "This is not for me and I will leave at the half day mark."  They never thought it was odd or expressed understanding that it okay to walk from room to room, carrying a purse, my coat, lunch or whatever as they just thought another body might be a great idea.   Maybe but I was not that body.  What I loved is when I left the Secretary asked if I had a job for the next day.  Yes I did but even if I did not why would I come back, really?

I am becoming used to this in Nashville but the increasing violence here proves there are massive class issues and in turn racial  I told our Maintenance dude that I went up to Madison finally and that is the white trash equivalent of ghetto and I was more worried than when I pass through North Nashville on a regular basis.  The reality is that many here struggle and the public housing units are awash with crime and violence but all of it is inter racial and filled with the same anger resentments, jealousy and needs that I saw in the children at this sad mess of a school.

What is the message here?  If you are of color, if you are poor you deserve this.  Well I am neither and I didn't so I left.  I cannot wait to leave Nashville and this as my feelings about race and poverty have not changed but I fear they will if I stay much longer or at least stay in the public schools. Today I am at the highly achieving school and I will meet normal kids who have a secure path.  What a contradiction and that defines the South.  Contradictions.  Notes on boards about community and awards for good behavior and then notes that threaten and demean students. No notes or plans or any kind of clear direction on how to help the room function and I want nothing to do with that.  That is what poor education is - keeping people poor.  Numbers may not lie but they don't tell the truth.

Minorities and Americans without college degrees showed greatest gains in wealth since 2013, new data says

By Heather Long and Tracy Jan The Washington Post September 27 2017

Americans who were left behind as the country pulled out of the Great Recession — African Americans, Hispanics and people without college degrees — saw large gains in net worth over the past three years, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday.

But the improvements failed to narrow the inequality gap: The share of America’s income held by the top 1 percent of households reached 24 percent in 2016, a record high, and the median net worth of white households, at $171,000, was nearly 10 times larger than for black households.

The findings suggest that while a robust economy has benefited all economic groups, the wealthiest and most educated have been in a position to benefit even more because they began with such a significant advantage.

“The gap between the haves and have-nots hasn’t closed in recent years. It still remains a gulf,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “These groups have a lot of financial catch-up to do.

Even so, the gains of the past three years marked a dramatic shift from the period between 2010 and 2013, when wealth fell for all racial and ethnic groups except whites.

Every slice of America — young, old, rich, poor, black, white — saw their incomes grow and the value of stocks, homes and other assets climb over the past three years.

Economists said the Fed report was an encouraging sign that the recovery from the devastating Great Recession and financial crisis of 2008 is picking up steam as more people are able to get jobs, pay off debt and invest more.

The Survey of Consumer Finances, published every three years, is seen as a strong barometer of Americans’ household wealth because it queries over 6,200 households about a wide array of assets, including salary, stock portfolios and home and car ownership.

For the first time since the crisis, a majority of Americans have money in the stock market, the Fed reported. The tally includes all investments in stock, whether through a pension, 401(k) retirement plan or a brokerage account

“We’re glad the recovery is spreading to a lot of households,” the report said.

Household wealth for African American and Hispanic families and Americans without college degrees or high school diplomas rose the fastest of all groups from 2013 to 2016, according to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which surveys more than 6,000 households about their pay, debt and other finances.

Black households went from $13,600 in net worth in 2013 to $17,600 in 2016, a gain of almost 30 percent. Hispanic households went from $14,200 to $20,700 over the same time frame, a 46 percent increase, the Fed reported.

Net worth includes all the assets a family has: homes, vehicles, savings accounts, retirement funds and other stock and bond funds.

The widespread gains were driven largely by people getting back to work. The unemployment rate has fallen substantially in recent years from 7.5 percent to 5 percent last year.

As more minority workers found jobs, those families were able to save money and pay off debt. Many states have also raised the minimum wage in recent years, giving a boost to low-skilled workers in fast food and retail.

“The 2014 midterm elections ushered in a whole new era of higher minimum wages at the state and local level. Many of the increases kicked in starting in 2015,” said economist Diane Swonk, founder of DS Economics.

The construction sector has also been adding employees at a rapid rate in the past several years, said Ken Simonson, chief economist at Associated General Contractors of America.

“Many of these construction jobs are held by workers with a high school education,” Simonson said, and the wages are generally higher in construction than in sectors such as retail.

But despite the larger percentage gains, the median net worth of African American and Latino families remained below $21,000.

“White households had a head start in rebuilding wealth relative to black and Hispanic households,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy. “Black and Hispanic households see larger percentage gains simply because they were starting from a lower level.”

Among the factors that contribute to disparities in net worth: homeownership rates, retirement savings and student debt.

More than 70 percent of white families own their homes, compared with less than half of black and Hispanic families. Among homeowners, white families hold higher levels of equity in their homes.

Sixty percent of white families reported having retirement savings, double the rate of black and Hispanic families. White families are also twice as likely to own a business.

And black families were the most burdened by education loans, with 31 percent reporting having such debt, compared with about 20 percent of Hispanics and whites.

Fed economists offer other potential reasons for the racial wealth gap: White households are older, more highly educated, more likely to have received an inheritance, and less likely to be run by a single parent than their black and Hispanic counterparts.

But even among families headed by someone with a college degree, median net worth for white families is substantially higher at $397,100 — compared with well below $100,000 for black and Hispanic families.

“In dollar terms, blacks and Hispanics are continuing to fall further behind,” said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who focuses on asset and wealth building.

The wealth gap also grew for those with college degrees and those without. Families led by someone with only a high school diploma went from $54,100 in net worth in 2013 to $67,100 in 2016, a 24 percent gain.

But people with college degrees have a median net worth of $292,100, over four times as much as those without bachelor’s degrees. Their wealth increased by only 2 percent over the past three years, but those households were already far ahead of people without higher education degrees. The wealthiest and best-educated families continued to pull away from everyone else.

“Shares of income and wealth held by affluent families have reached historically high levels,” the Fed wrote in its report.

The report showed growing income inequality over the past three decades. In 1989, the top 1 percent held only 17 percent of the nation’s income. The bull market on Wall Street and surging prices for mansions around the world helped the super rich accumulate more wealth.

As the mega-wealthy have seen their share of the total pie climb, the bottom 90 percent have lost ground. Last year, the bottom 90 percent took home less than half of America’s total income for the first time since the Fed began calculating this statistic in the 1980s. In 1992, the bottom 90 percent captured over 60 percent of the income. It has been a steady decline since.

Economists said the large financial gains made by blacks and Hispanics were largely explained by the fact that the two groups have far less money to begin with, compared with whites, and so any increase as a result of the nation’s economic recovery would appear to be disproportionately large.

“You’re looking at people with lower net worth, so when the economy recovers, you are going to see them benefit disproportionately as a percentage,” said Jeffrey Eisenach, an economist and managing director at NERA Economic Consulting, which released a study in December on Latino prosperity.

“If you’re poor and you go through a tough period, you use all your savings to get through it,” Eisenach said. “If you go from having very little to doubling that, you still may not have very much, but you see a big percentage gain.

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