Monday, April 26, 2010

Visiting Schools

Today, during the most uninspiring visit to a public school, I thought of Yeats:

Among School Children


I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
A kind old nun in a white hood replies;
The children learn to cipher and to sing,
To study reading-books and histories,
To cut and sew, be neat in everything
In the best modern way - the children's eyes
In momentary wonder stare upon
A sixty-year-old smiling public man.


I dream of a Ledaean body, bent
Above a sinking fire. a tale that she
Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event
That changed some childish day to tragedy -
Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent
Into a sphere from youthful sympathy,
Or else, to alter Plato's parable,
Into the yolk and white of the one shell.


And thinking of that fit of grief or rage
I look upon one child or t'other there
And wonder if she stood so at that age -
For even daughters of the swan can share
Something of every paddler's heritage -
And had that colour upon cheek or hair,
And thereupon my heart is driven wild:
She stands before me as a living child.


Her present image floats into the mind -
Did Quattrocento finger fashion it
Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind
And took a mess of shadows for its meat?
And I though never of Ledaean kind
Had pretty plumage once - enough of that,
Better to smile on all that smile, and show
There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.


What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap
Honey of generation had betrayed,
And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape
As recollection or the drug decide,
Would think her Son, did she but see that shape
With sixty or more winters on its head,
A compensation for the pang of his birth,
Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?


Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;
Solider Aristotle played the taws
Upon the bottom of a king of kings;
World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras
Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings
What a star sang and careless Muses heard:
Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.


Both nuns and mothers worship images,
But those the candles light are not as those
That animate a mother's reveries,
But keep a marble or a bronze repose.
And yet they too break hearts - O Presences
That passion, piety or affection knows,
And that all heavenly glory symbolise -
O self-born mockers of man's enterprise;


Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nine Myths about Socialism in the US --Bill Quigley

Glenn Beck and other far right multi-millionaires are claiming that the US is hot on the path towards socialism. Part of their claim is that the US is much more generous and supportive of our working and poor people than other countries. People may wish it was so, but it is not.

As Senator Patrick Moynihan used to say “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But everyone is not entitled to their own facts.”

The fact is that the US is not really all that generous to our working and poor people compared to other countries.

Consider the US in comparison to the rest of the 30 countries that join the US in making up the OECD – the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. These 30 countries include Canada and most comparable European countries but also include some struggling countries like Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Slovak Republic, and Turkey. See

When you look at how the US compares to these 30 countries, the hot air myths about the US government going all out towards socialism sort of disappear into thin air. Here are some examples of myths that do not hold up.

Myth #1. The US government is involved in class warfare attacking the rich to lift up the poor.

There is a class war going on all right. But it is the rich against the rest of us and the rich are winning. The gap between the rich and everyone else is wider in the US than any of the 30 other countries surveyed. In fact, the top 10% in the US have a higher annual income than any other country. And the poorest 10% in the US are below the average of the other OECD countries. The rich in the U.S. have been rapidly leaving the middle class and poor behind since the 1980s.

Myth #2. The US already has the greatest health care system in the world.

Infant mortality in the US is 4th worst among OECD countries – better only than Mexico, Turkey and the Slovak Republic.

Myth #3. There is less poverty in the US than anywhere.

Child poverty in the US, at over 20% or one out of every five kids, is double the average of the 30 OECD countries.

Myth #4. The US is generous in its treatment of families with children.

The US ranks in the bottom half of countries in terms of financial benefits for families with children. Over half of the 30 OECD countries pay families with children cash benefits regardless of the income of the family. Some among those countries (e.g. Austria, France and Germany) pay additional benefits if the family is low-income, or one of the parents is unemployed.

Myth #5. The US is very supportive of its workers.

The US gives no paid leave for working mothers having children. Every single one of the other 30 OECD countries has some form of paid leave. The US ranks dead last in this. Over two thirds of the countries give some form of paid paternity leave. The US also gives no paid leave for fathers.

In fact, it is only workers in the US who have no guaranteed days of paid leave at all. Korea is the next lowest to the US and it has a minimum of 8 paid annual days of leave. Most of the other 30 countries require a minimum of 20 days of annual paid leave for their workers.

Myth #6. Poor people have more chance of becoming rich in the US than anywhere else.

Social mobility (how children move up or down the economic ladder in comparison with their parents) in earnings, wages and education tends to be easier in Australia, Canada and Nordic countries like Denmark, Norway, and Finland, than in the US. That means more of the rich stay rich and more of the poor stay poor here in the US.

Myth #7. The US spends generously on public education.

In terms of spending for public education, the US is just about average among the 30 countries of the OECD. Educational achievement of US children, however, is 7th worst in the OECD. On public spending for childcare and early education, the US is in the bottom third.

Myth #8. The US government is redistributing income from the rich to the poor.

There is little redistribution of income by government in the U.S. in part because spending on social benefits like unemployment and family benefits is so low. Of the 30 countries in the OECD, only in Korea is the impact of governmental spending lower.

Myth #9. The US generously gives foreign aid to countries across the world.

The US gives the smallest percentage of aid of any of the developed countries in the OECD. In 2007 the US was tied for last with Greece. In 2008, we were tied for last with Japan.

Despite the opinions of right wing folks, the facts say the US is not on the path towards socialism.

But if socialism means the US would go down the path of being more generous with our babies, our children, our working families, our pregnant mothers, and our sisters and brothers across the world, I think we could all appreciate it.

Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. There is a version of this article with footnotes for those interested.