Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Jo Snyder discusses how poverty makes everybody less healthy, and recognizes the need for higher basic wages as a result. And Laurie Penny highlights the futility of trying to badger young adults into service jobs which offer no opportunity for personal, professional or financial progress:
The British gov­ernment, like many others, is no longer even pretending to care about how or if the next generation gets to thrive. It is demonstrably content to sacrifice its young. That quality is not just spiteful; it is a recipe for social and cultural self-annihilation.

What are the alternatives? “Finding work” for young people, even the lowest-paid and least secure work, seems to be the only solution on the table, even from well-meaning groups such as the Prince’s Trust. The government’s sole response to the survey was that it was doing “everything possible” to help young people find work – chiefly “incentivising” them with the threat of eviction in a stagnant job market. What it is not doing is helping any young person find work that pays a liveable wage, or a wage at all – and in the meantime it’s getting harder to afford the rent and bills.

The assumption that work is a passport to dignity and security, that work is what makes life worth living, is so deeply embedded in our culture that it is almost heretical to think otherwise. But the problem isn’t just the lack of work. It’s also the lack of hope. Young people leaving school and university can no longer kid themselves that their future is likely to include a stable place to live, love and get on with growing up, even if they do manage to find paid work.
- Meanwhile, Barbara Ehrenreich offers a reminder as to the cost of trying to live with poverty. And Josh Eidelson interviews Frances Fox Piven about the connections between the Republicans' attacks on the poor and their appeals to racism.

- David Atkins points out Fintan O'Toole's commentary on the disastrous effects of corporatist policy (from deregulation to austerity) in Ireland.

- And finally, Andrew Coyne sees both Stephen Harper and Chris Christie as perfect examples of a warped political system in which political leaders are assessed largely on their ability to avoid taking responsibility for the scandals of their own hand-picked insiders:
It was all there [in Christie's press conference]: the repeated declarations that he “took responsibility” without in fact taking any; the expressions of contrition that made it clear he had nothing to be contrite about; the evocations of what a toll the whole affair had taken on him emotionally; and the almost instantaneous conversion of what ought reasonably to have been a moment for humility and introspection into yet another occasion to list off his many wonderful qualities. Change a few words here and there, and you could have been listening to the prime minister’s year-end interviews.

Indeed, the explanation both have offered is remarkably similar: My closest advisors and confidants conceived and carried out an ethically abhorrent plan, for my benefit but without my knowledge, then lied to me about it for months. Even supposing we take these at face value, it is hardly “taking responsibility” to blame it all on your staff, nor is it especially difficult to say you are “sorry” for other people’s mistakes. They are simply words politicians have been taught to say: They test well with focus groups, almost as well as “I’m not a focus-group tested politician.”
We have been taught not to expect [genuine responsibility] from our leaders. The measure by which we assess them now is their own expedience — “what they need to do” or “what they should say,” by which we mean not what is true or right but what might work. 
But these are not simply crises to be managed. They go to the heart of each man’s claims to leadership. It is pointless to offer advice on how they should “handle” the issue, because they are the issue.

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