Today's Chicago Sun-Times reports that Sam Zell has donated $4 million to a PAC that supports the agenda of Governor Bruce Rauner. Columnist Mark Brown sees this donation as part of a movement that he describes this way: "Rich people, no longer satisfied with the privileges of being rich, are going for complete control." This isn't simply a matter of politics. Much of Governor Rauner's agenda targets union employees. Brown quotes Zell as saying, "The 1 percent work harder." That may be true, but in a time when most American face flat wages and poverty is growing, it's hard to see how the hard working 1% are helping the rest of us. Working people need to decide if they support making people like Zell even richer or if they want to have a society where children from the middle class and the working class will have opportunities to be successful. Rich people have always had disproportionate control. Are we moving to a point where their voice is the only one that matters?
In the Grid feature of today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Francine Knowles profiles Anne Ladky, the Executive Director of Women Employed. Ladky points out that too many women still work in low wage jobs. She estimates that 17 million women work at jobs that pay less than $12 an hour. Worse still, it’s not unusual for these jobs to schedule employees at less than 40 hours a week, which means no benefits, no security.
Ladky advocates improved education and better programs to assist low wage workers. While I agree with her in these areas, which should be called common sense solutions, the trend on a national and local level seems to be flying in the other direction. Few politicians support funding any kind of social program. Instead, they call for cuts to any program that helps people (except for the very rich and corporations). Several major cities, including Chicago, are closing schools, which means young women (and men) most likely to be low wage workers are being packed in larger and larger classes. How will they be able to compete in an economy that requires greater knowledge and skills? Is it possible to talk about meritocracy if so many have no chance to succeed?
Ladky and Women Employed are fighting the good fight. May they stay strong and lead to a better world for all of us.
As Americans, we live by a belief that anyone can succeed if they work study hard and work hard. In her latest labor post in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson gives us some reason to rethink this old saw. Students from the highest income groups are more likely to complete college. Students from low and middle income groups who have similar academic backgrounds lag behind.
Can we have a meritocracy if some people are set up to achieve the academic foundation for career success? Some will argue that it’s all individual achievement. That’s a comforting rationalization for those who benefit from the current system. College is the stepping stone to a good job and career opportunities. If the wealthiest 25% have a leg up, we should not lie to ourselves about who has a chance to succeed in this game. It’s fixed. The winners are selected at birth - lucky sperm club.