Excluding Others Comes Home to Roost

This November, the conservative right finally succeeded in excluding themselves out of existence. White males used to be in the leadership majority in this country’s social, religious and political organizations, but no more.

Over privileged, white males are still tentatively in the majority for the elite 1%, including executives of financial, business and some religious organizations. Women who benefit short term from their patriarchy (there is no long term benefit from patriarchy) may align with them. But the handwriting is on the wall. Succumbing to racism or fear by excluding whole population groups is destructive for all of us. It’s a lethal strategy limiting the talent available to communities, companies and governments.

Clearly it is counter productive to exclude the interests of women, immigrants, people of color, homosexuals and those we decide are “disabled” or those made poor. It doesn’t work within the U.S. and it won’t work globally. To solve the complex problems we face, we must be a people willing to engage those we perceive as different (and it is only a perception – we are all part of the human family), listen to the experiences of others, include their concerns and share leadership with others in our policies, politics and decision making.

The voice of the 99% is getting stronger.

Can he play well with others? Obama had better wake up and listen.

An Economist Gets Lunch

With wheat prices spiralling out of control and food costs going up – we decided to get more creative about eating, and eating well.

I thought that Tyler Cowen’s new book An Economist Gets Lunch: new Rules for Everyday Foodies (Dutton: 2012) might help with that. For example, he suggests using Asian groceries for a more inexpensive, wider selection of greens (Hmmm, there’s a Vietnamese grocery just around the corner . . .).

However, many of his suggestions were tired; when traveling we already know to ask the locals where they eat, for example. Likewise we know to check ethnic restaurants in neighborhood strip malls away from pricey downtown areas.

Nevertheless, his idea to turn any Chinese restaurant in this country into an excellent Chinese restaurant was a good one; ask to speak to the chef and requesting what he would make for himself with tofu.

But on other fronts, I wondered how much was he paid by big agribusiness and the genetically modified food industry to wax on about how wonderful these industries are? The reality that economists are funded in academia by big agribusiness seems especially obvious here. Plus he ends up refuting his own glossy account of agribusiness by explaining at length, later in the book, how much better Mexican beef is because it’s grass fed, or how much better the tortillas are, handmade using local corn, etc. So Tyler which is it? Is big agribusiness creating better food or not?

Toward the end of the book he lost me when his section on France failed to highlight the fabulous street food (can you say golden mushroom crepes anyone?) and fresh fruits/vegies available at any Parisienne neighborhood, morning market – not to mention the delicious and inexpensive table wines at even the local Monoprix. Made me wonder, was he actually in France?

This led me to question overall what he writes about hunger, food distribution and the food industry. He may be an economist, but he’s a privileged, American, white male who doesn’t know much about the complex problem of hunger, countries made poor (by rich ones) or multi-national corporate interests when it comes to food.

Women and Children are Made Poor – by Men

In a previous post I wrote about how conventional marriage makes women and children vulnerable to poverty. The fact is that the majority of those made poor are women and children. But the ideal of conventional marriage is very powerful in our culture and idolized in magazines (Bride’s for example), wedding rituals (father giving away the bride, showers, bachelor parties, etc.) and in the way we idolize motherhood, but not fatherhood. It’s further promoted by men paying women less than men for the same work and inculturating women to be the primary care providers for children. Let’s be clear – women and children don’t just happen to succumb to poverty. People don’t just happen to be poor. They are made poor by men.

Starting with the fictional idea that there is a “public” and “private” realm – men grab power over the “public” realm and women are mostly relegated to the “private.” This means that men make laws and decisions affecting both “realms,” with women having almost no voice.

The result of these fictional realms is this, for example: violence committed against men in the “public realm” is considered assault and directly punishable by law. Violence committed by men against women or children in the “private realm” – at home – is considered a “domestic” issue and often not reported, much less punished.

The best thing we can do – as women – is not to buy into the cultural fiction that home or family is primarily the domain of women, or that “family” is everything. Ask questions -especially of men.

Get educated. Read. Genetic linkage is just that – genetic only. Where’s the arbitrary cut off line? If you go back far enough ALL are family. The idea of a “private” realm (mainly for women) and a “public” realm (for men) is pure fiction and promoted to the benefit of men who make decisions affecting everyone in the public realm and keep women powerless and poor in the private. There are no separate “realms.” All is political and women should have an equal voice in either. This means participating in political discussions. Other fictions include nationalism, “family first/only,” tribalism, clanism, etc. Ask, who is really “my family”? We all are – even though there are people with whom we have close emotional ties.

You may also like What Patriarchy Looks Like Everyday.

Economy Heads Downward – Again

In the U.S.A. the housing market drives the economy. A home is by far the largest purchase most people ever make. After the home purchase is made people typically buy additional furnishings, appliances, decor, etc. All of these puchases drive the retailing industry – one of the biggest sectors in our economy. So when the housing market declines – the retailing industry goes with it, taking along with rest of the economy.

A recent article at “The Big Picture” by Barry Ritholz details two facts that indicate underlying systemic reasons why the housing market will continue to decline driving our economy further south yet again..

First he notes, “2.8 million Americans are 12 months behind or more on their mortgages.” This means almost 3 million homes will be coming onto the market from foreclosure. This will add to the current glut of homes for sale along with those waiting to go on the market (the shadow supply). Because these are foreclosed home, it also means that these same homeowners will not be able to purchase another home. No longer homeowners or buyers – they will be entering the rental market.

Second he writes, “Since 2007, 19% of all borrowers (~9 million borrowers) have gone more than 90 days delinquent on their mortgages, or have had their mortgage liquidated.” This group will not be qualified to apply for another mortgage for many years. This means that nearly one in five borrowers (since 2007) no longer qualifies for a mortgage. The pool of homebuyers has declined dramatically. Further shrinking this pool of buyers are aging baby boomers. As baby boomers age and retire, they too are no longer buyers of large, pricey homes or homes in general.

Lack of buyers will make it even more difficult for existing homeowners to sell for possible employment opportunities elsewhere – further dampening employment. The American dream of homeownership has become, for many, an experience similar to driving with your emergency brake on – grinding down the engine & tires of family assets and guzzling resources.

So a rapidly inflating housing inventory combined with a rapidly shrinking pool of buyers will force home prices to new lows – putting more home owners underwater. I can hear the brakes of the non-existent homes sales screetching as the economy teeters on the edge of yet another cliff.

Who’s most vulnerable in all of this? Those without access to government safety nets – mainly women and children.


Extreme Weather

Part of global warming is the prediction that as the planet’s average temperature continues to increase, extreme weather will become more prevalent. This means droughts that last longer, storms that are more violent and more extreme weather in general.

The ten inches of rain and resulting flooding experienced in northern Minnesota earlier last week could be just such an experience.

The poor suffer and struggle the most from extreme weather events. Those of us who are over privileged have connections for short term housing and access to resources to start the process of rebuilding.

Grandma's Restaurant MPR.org
Suspension Bridge Jay Cooke State Park MPR.org
Gooseberry Falls MPR.org

We continue living our North American lifestyle at our peril.