"I understand there's a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: 'Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.' Well, we've got no time for excuses. Not because the bitter legacy of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there. It's just that in today's hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil - many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did - all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned."Or, as Stuart Zechman unpacked this: "It's not a global race to the wage-less, democracy-free bottom, young man, it's a chance to prove your individual competence through healthy competition with billions...I mean 'millions of young people'."
Although this message of hopelessness is one Obama has been delivering to all of us, he seems to take a special pleasure in making it to blacks, as if they are some especially spoiled bunch of greedy graspers who need to face the music and start putting their shoulders to the grindstone instead of lying on the sofa eating bon bons while someone else does all the work. You know, because blacks have all the cash and get all the luxuries.
Ta-Nehisi Coates didn't like it much, either:
Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people -- and particularly black youth -- and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that "there's no longer room for any excuses" -- as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of "all America," but he also is singularly the scold of "black America."Coates is kinder to the Obamas than I would be, but he still wants to be a believer.
But I also think that some day historians will pore over his many speeches to black audiences. They will see a president who sought to hold black people accountable for their communities, but was disdainful of those who looked at him and sought the same. They will match his rhetoric of individual responsibility, with the aggression the administration showed to bail out the banks, and the timidity they showed in addressing a foreclosure crisis which devastated black America (again.)They wil weigh the rhetoric against an administration whose efforts against housing segregation have been run of the mill. And they will match the talk of the importance of black fathers with the paradox of a president who smoked marijuana in his youth but continued a drug-war which daily wrecks the lives of black men and their families. In all of this, those historians will see a discomfiting pattern of convenient race-talk.
I think the president owes black people more than this. In the 2012 election, the black community voted at a higher rate than any other ethnic community in the country. Their vote went almost entirely to Barack Obama. They did this despite a concerted effort to keep them from voting, and they deserve more than a sermon. Perhaps they cannot practically receive targeted policy. But surely they have earned something more than targeted scorn.
Right now, all over the country, communities are getting together and working hard (as Michelle Obama advises) to improve their schools and their environment, and in every area they are met with intractable government officials who have made other plans, together with some very rich, very powerful people. Like Rahm Emanuel and his insistence on closing a lot of Chicago schools. What happens when communities get together to work for their betterment? Let's see what the headlines say.... Oh, yes, here we are: "Protests Fail to Deter Chicago From Shutting 49 Schools."
I can't help the feeling that the Obamas know very well they are making it harder for people, either individually or in groups, to do anything to improve their lives. Because people with good lives are a lot harder to lure into the pleasures of working as slave-laborors. We aren't likely to beg for bad jobs when we have better options, and then "we" won't be able to "compete" with China.
But when wages fall to subsistence for most people in the United States, remember: It will be all your fault for not picking yourself up by your bootstraps and "taking personal responsibility".
Dean Baker was the guest on this week's Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.
Elizabeth Warren seems unconvinced that the Treasury Secretary is focusing on stopping banks from being too big to fail.
The New York Times finally has an editorial condemning the Obama administration's chilling effect on the press: "Obama administration officials often talk about the balance between protecting secrets and protecting the constitutional rights of a free press. Accusing a reporter of being a 'co-conspirator,' on top of other zealous and secretive investigations, shows a heavy tilt toward secrecy and insufficient concern about a free press. "
And in the WaPo, Downie himself actually complains about Obama's war on leaks. Although Pincus swears this one is different. But that doesn't make the administration any less guilty of playing a nasty game. They are happy to "leak" classified information when it makes them look "good" (macho), but what they have gone after, time and time again, is people who dissent from the propaganda. It's become too hard to trust them.
Ezra has a post up called, "Stop celebrating our falling deficits" which says, "It's time to stop celebrating last week's Congressional Budget Office report. Our deficits aren't dropping because we're doing something right. They're dropping because we're doing everything wrong." Which is true, leaving aside the fact that we haven't been celebrating and we aren't the ones doing everything wrong. But I couldn't help noticing that while he's talking about deficits, the graph he uses shows "Federal Debt Held by the Public", which is something else.
"The "unbanked" are 27% of those eligible for ObamaCare, and may be denied coverage because they have no way to pay that insurance companies will accept."
"The calculators are broken because actuarial value is a crapshoot."
"Union members with multi-employer, Taft-Hartley plans thrown under the bus." Because: "Many UFCW members have what are known as multi-employer or Taft-Hartley plans. According to the administration's analysis of the Affordable Care Act, the law does not provide tax subsidies for the roughly 20 million people covered by the plans. Union officials argue that interpretation could force their members to change their insurance and accept more expensive and perhaps worse coverage in the state-run exchanges." So that thing about being able to keep the healthcare you had before? Um, not so much.
Bruce Schneier on why, though it leads to terrible policy, It's smart politics to exaggerate terrorist threats. (This dovetails nicely with Matthew Rothchild's article in The Progressive about Spying on Occupy Activists and the unholy alliance that actually makes it harder for us to be on the lookout for real terrorism.)
Bruce in the Guardian, "Will giving the internet eyes and ears mean the end of privacy?: Corporations and governments are turning the internet into a colossal, always-on surveillance tool. Once passive objects are able to report what's happening, where is the power balance?"
Senator David Vitter (R-Slime Mold) has introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill that would permanently ban anyone who has ever been convicted of a violent crime from SNAP eligibility. Because, like, people who already can't find employment won't turn to violent crime when they have no other way to get food. A little kicker in the story: "Democrats accepted it without trying to modify it to address its most ill-considered aspects."
Thanks to CMike for reminding me that Michael Kinsley hasn't been keeping up for a long, long time (scroll down).
The shadowy Gnome Liberation Front has successfully invaded the Chelsea Flower Show.
This is cool. Now highlight between these quotation marks to see why it's even cooler:
"Alexandre Dumas hideaway on the grounds of Monte Cristo Castle in Marly le Roi, France"
Rufus Harley was a little different from other jazz musicians.