Unemployment as a recurring feature of the social landscape only caught American attention with the rise of capitalism in the pre-Civil War era. Before that, even if the rhythms of agricultural and village life included seasonal oscillations between periods of intense labor and downtime, farmers and handicraftsmen generally retained the ability to sustain their families. Hard times were common enough, but except in extremis most people retained land and tools, not to speak of common rights to woodlands, grazing areas, and the ability to hunt and fish. They were -- we would say today -- “self-employed.”
PUBLISHED: Sept. 12, 2011
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3643 words)
At the time I wrote Nickel and Dimed, I wasn’t sure how many people it directly applied to—only that the official definition of poverty was way off the mark, since it defined an individual earning $7 an hour, as I did on average, as well out of poverty. But three months after the book was published, the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., issued a report entitled “Hardships in America: The Real Story of Working Families,” which found an astounding 29% of American families living in what could be more reasonably defined as poverty, meaning that they earned less than a barebones budget covering housing, child care, health care, food, transportation, and taxes—though not, it should be noted, any entertainment, meals out, cable TV, Internet service, vacations, or holiday gifts. Twenty-nine percent is a minority, but not a reassuringly small one, and other studies in the early 2000s came up with similar figures.
PUBLISHED: Aug. 9, 2011
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3933 words)
Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington's wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council's own futuristic methodology to suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, US global power could reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today). The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War III.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 8, 2010
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4713 words)