Waiting Room Reading 12/10


by gwen

Abi, a professor of Materials Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science, pointed out an interesting graph posted by Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. The graph, using data from a survey of public opinion about the U.S. budget, shows how much of the U.S. budget respondents believe goes to foreign aid, how much they think should go to foreign aid…and how much actually does:

The actual figure? 0.6% in 2009.



by lisa
Philip Cohen, at Family Inequality, posted an interesting graph displaying 30-44-year-old women’s share of their household’s income by level of education:

The graph shows that, on average, women with higher levels of education have incomes closer to that of their husbands than women with lower levels of education.  Cohen writes:

It captures nicely both how women’s earning power within married couples has increased, and how that shift has been much greater for women with higher education.

In other words, the figure suggests that efforts to close the wage gap between men and women have been much more successful at the top of the economic ladder than the bottom.



by lisa
Tim Wise answers just this question in this 2 1/2 minute clip featured on his website.  Sneak peak: His answer begins with “No. You should feel angry.”



Questioner (off-camera): Um, as a white male, should I feel guilty for the sins of my fathers. I affirm that they exist, but should I feel guilty for them?

Tim Wise: No. You should feel angry. And you should feel committed to doing something to address that legacy. It’s like, for instance, with pollution, right? We think about the issue of pollution. Now none of us in this room, to my knowledge, are individually responsible for having belched any toxic waste into the air, or injecting toxic waste into the soil, or done any of the things… we didn’t put lead paint into the housing, you know?

Individually we’re innocent of that. But someone did that stuff, and we’re living with the legacy of it right now, or in this case might be dying with the legacy of it, getting ill, right?.

So it isn’t about feeling guilty about what someone did, even if you were the direct heir of the chemical company that did the pollution, but it is about saying, all of us in the society have to take responsibility for what we find in front of us. There’s a big difference between guilt and responsibility.

Guilt is what you feel for what you’ve done. Responsibility is what you take because of the kind of person you are, right? And so if I see a set of social conditions that have been handed to you, and which not only did wrong by othrs but elevated me and give me advantage that I did not earn, it’s not about beating myself up, I’m not responsible for that having happened, I’m not to blame for it, so guilt is totally unproductive

But in order to live an ethical life, to live ethically and responsibly, I have to take some responsibility for the unearned advantage, which means working to change the society that bestows that advantage. It’s not guilt, but it is responsiblity. It’s no different than looking at the issue of pollution or if you became the CFO of the company, you wouldn’t be able to come in and say, “I intend to use the assets of this company, and I insend to put them to greater use, and I intend to use the revenue stream we’ve got going, but that whole debt side of the ledger? No, I’m not paying any of that because I wasn’t here when the other person ran all that debt up. You should’ve gotten them to pay it before you gave me the job. Now I’m here, and I’m innocent.” We would realize that made no sense.

So isn’t about innocence and it isn’t about guilt, it’s about responsibility, that’s something we all have to take. White folks have to take it, people of color have to take it, uh, men and women have to take… everybody has got to take it, because we’re living with… if we don’t do it, no one does it, and it doesnt’ get done. We’re the only hope we have.




The United States is a nation of immigrants… in that the majority of its citizens are not part of the native population of North America.  In other words, because it was and remains a colonized land.

That aside, is the United States unique in receiving an extremely large number of new immigrants relative to its size?  It turns out, No.

Lane Kenworthy, at Consider the Evidence, posted this figure, showing that the U.S. population does indeed include a substantial proportion of first generation immigrants (both legal and illegal), but it is not unique in that regard, nor does it carry the highest percentage:

It also fails to be true, as many anti-immigration people claim, that the U.S. accepts a uniquely large number of immigrants who need help once they arrive:



by lisa,

The number of Americans under correctional control has more than tripled since the 1980s, up to 1 in 31 U.S. citizens.  And the U.S. incarcerates six times more of its citizens than many European countries.  As you might imagine, this is very expensive.  Between 1987 and 2007, the amount spent on corrections increased by 127%.  To put this in perspective, the amount spent on higher education has only increased 21%.

The Pew Center illustrates the disparity:

States varied in the ratio of corrections to college spending.  The dark green bars (Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut, and Delaware) are for states that spend as much or more on corrections as on higher education The rest spend less. Vermont has the most extreme ratio, Minnesota the least:





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