“If our enemies will stop lying about us we will stop telling the truth about them”*

Though he attracted ridicule from the Right for saying it (and what could he say that wouldn’t attract ridicule from the Right?), the President is correct: the private sector is okay, creating jobs at a respectable clip.  The weakness in job creation comes primarily from the public sector, where states and municipalities are firing teachers and firefighters and police officers for lack of Federal funding to retain them–and where lack of Federal funding is the direct result of Republican policies.

So apparently McConnell was telling the truth in 2009, if at no other time, when he said that his party’s highest priority was to defeat the President.  If the Republicans have to swell the ranks of the unemployed to accomplish this goal, why should they care?  Republicans mostly aren’t unemployed, and vice-versa.

In other words: the fact that Republican deficit-cutting policies increase unemployment is a feature, not a bug.  Their success in concealing this unattractive fact is truly remarkable.


*A 19th Century political saw, revived by and therefore often attributed to Adlai Stevenson.  Adlai’s version: “I would make a proposition to my Republican friends… that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.”  This edition of Today’s Pedantic Footnote provided gratis to our readers.

Home health care workers—more than “companions” and helpers

A group of Senators wish to deprive home health care workers of minimum wage and overtime protections. Just whom do these Senators expect will bathe them when they get old?

Ten years ago, I conducted a survey of low-income new mothers in Flint, Michigan, as part of an infant mortality reduction effort there. I was astonished by the heavy percentage employed as home health care workers, assisting elderly or disabled people.  Since then I’ve met more than a few women and men who make their living bathing the disabled, cleaning seniors’ homes, and more.

This is important, sometimes difficult work. It’s not incredibly well-paid or respected. It’s also work that many of us will someday need. Today’s New York Times includes an beautifully-written and important op-ed by Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein, titled Home-Care Workers Aren’t Just “Companions.”

Boris and Klein note that the home health and personal care workforce includes 2.5 million people. It’s the second-fastest-growing job category in the country. For complicated, but rather shameful historical reasons, these women and men do not enjoy basic labor protections that other workers take for granted. People who perform personal care work in other people’s homes, and those who receive these services, are both rather stigmatized groups. Both are poorly-positioned in the political process to demand better conditions.

At one level, the home care industry is able to employ people at less favorable wages and working conditions. At another level, though, it’s wrong to point fingers at the industry. We taxpayers and consumers are complicit in, and benefit from, these exploitative arrangements. It’s also about honoring the dignity of work–including the hard work that many of us do caring for our own loved ones or for others who cannot do basic tasks for themselves. Continue reading “Home health care workers—more than “companions” and helpers”

CTW, facts and truth, and more like that

This American Life just broadcast the extended retraction of/reflection on Michael Daisey’s January account of working conditions in Apple supplier factories in China.  This  whole story is a bonfire of fact-truth-journalism ethical puzzles.  During an exquisitely painful conversation with Ira Glass, Daisey claims he told the truth, as a piece of theater, even though many of the facts he recited, especially things like “I [Daisey] saw X and Y at the Foxconn plant”, have gone up in smoke.  Glass is having none of it. He also admirably stands up on behalf of his staff to say “we screwed up”; not “we were brainwashed” or “lots of people make mistakes in this business” or “we’re sorry if anyone was offended” or “the staffer who erred has been fired”; “we screwed up, we’re sorry, and we learned from it.”

What’s the right way to think about something like this episode?  The key “facts” asserted are diverse in type and import.  For example:

Daisey saw an underage worker at the plant he visited.  (False)

Chinese Apple factories employ underage workers. (True, on other evidence) Continue reading “CTW, facts and truth, and more like that”