SB Left – 2 Column
I just stumbled on this great list of resources from early this year, on a blog by Alison Stenning:
Head to the blog for the rest of the post, which also has links to academic works on austerity: The Social Geographies of Recession and Austerity | researchingrelationships.
Also check out her own post about the costs of Austerity in Britain: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/alisonstenning/the-costs-of-austerity/
Looks like she isn’t writing more, but always nice to find someone with kindred interests…
Great article about the consequences of turning over parts of the criminal justice system to private, for-profit companies. How do the companies make money? By charging offenders on probation for their own monitoring, and by racking up fines and interest charges on the cost of traffic tickets and small court fines. There are already many well-documented Kafkaesque nightmares emerging from this turning over of a basic function of governance.
Collection companies and the services they offer appeal to politicians and public officials for a number of reasons: they cut government costs, reducing the need to raise taxes; they shift the burden onto offenders, who have little political influence, in part because many of them have lost the right to vote; and it pleases taxpayers who believe that the enforcement of punishment — however obtained — is a crucial dimension to the administration of justice.
As N.P.R. reported in May, services that “were once free, including those that are constitutionally required,” are now frequently billed to offenders: the cost of a public defender, room and board when jailed, probation and parole supervision, electronic monitoring devices, arrest warrants, drug and alcohol testing, and D.N.A. sampling. This can go to extraordinary lengths: in Washington state, N.P.R. found, offenders even “get charged a fee for a jury trial — with a 12-person jury costing $250, twice the fee for a six-person jury.”
(Leaving the connection between austerity and gentrification/displacement to the reader…)
This is one of the seemingly never-ending series of New York Times articles about wealthy young people having to leave uber-hip neighborhoods for new, cheaper destinations (like Queens and Jersey!). I read the Times pretty faithfully, and these articles never (1) talk about non-wealthy non-young people and how they are managing these prices and transformations; (2) express the same bewilderment that I (and many of its commentators) have about how there can be SO MANY PEOPLE with $500k +in cash; (3) hint at even the slightest sentiment of ennui or schadenfreude at the fate of these interlopers, many of whom colonized Brooklyn in the first place and who seem blissfully ignorant of the havoc they will now be wreaking on Queens and Jersey.
In my class this summer, I told my students that the term gentrification sometimes limits real understanding of the many forces at work in places like Brooklyn. Instead, when we talk about displacement, real estate pricing, bank practices, and then try to tell a story about their interaction we can identify sites of transformation and political possibilities, rather than being forced into a debate of “Gentrification: good or bad.” I would love to see the New York Times put some journalistic resources into these transformations instead of just following young wealthy (and mostly white) families around the boroughs.
It’s not hard to find examples of the uneven implementation and consequences of austerity. A great study out last week by the Institute of Policy Studies looks at several indicators at public universities and finds some interesting correlations.
The student debt crisis is worse at state schools with the highest-paid presidents. The sharpest rise in student debt at the top 25 occurred when executive compensation soared the highest.
As students went deeper in debt, administrative spending outstripped scholarship spending by more than 2 to 1 at state schools with the highest-paid presidents.
At state schools with the highest-paid presidents, part-time adjunct faculty increased 22 percent faster than the national average at all universities.
At state schools with the highest-paid presidents, permanent faculty declined dramatically as a percentage of all faculty. By fall 2009, part-time and contingent faculty at the top 25 outnumbered permanent faculty for the first time.
Average executive pay at the top 25 rose to nearly $1 million by 2012 — increasing more than twice as fast as the national average at public research universities.
It’s fair to say these trends exist at all universities, so these institutions are failing an already low bar. My experience at Berkeley makes these findings all to hard to believe.
Report available here.
Even the NYT editorial board picked up the story:
The report also noted that, like executives in the banking sectors, “public university presidents weathered the immediate aftermath of the fall 2008 financial crisis with minimal or no reductions in total compensation.
Subtitle: Recessions, Budget Battles and the Politics of Life and Death.
By David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu —thebodyeconomic.com
This book came out in 2013, and is frequently cited in discussions of austerity and the damage – short- and long-term – resulting from budget cuts, particularly at the national level. The book is organized in three sections: History, The Great Recession, and Resilience. The book focuses on the health impacts of budget cuts: not just cuts to health programs but broadly conceived impacts of austerity.
The book begins by describing the New Deal’s response to the Great Depression in the U.S., to the bump in mortality following the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union (driven by stress, alcohol, despair, and poor nutrition), and the Asian Financial Crisis.
The second and third parts of the book contrast Greece and Iceland (whose leaders rejected the IMF austerity prescription)
The authors use a combination of health data and reviewing economic data and public policy. Analyzing health indicators along with economic ones is an important, but difficult, endeavour. Questions of causality and of data quality dog any enterprise like this, and would be enormously difficult at a sub-national scale. (I once spent months trying to figure out how to measure access to healthcare in U.S. suburbs, and eventually abandoned the effort). There may be many other explanations for the difference between Greece – plagued by suicides and an HIV epidemic after EU-imposed austerity – and Iceland. The authors’ valiant and unsuccessful effort to get Greek politicians to take action on the spike in HIV – which they link to rising heroin use, unemployment, and the end of needle-exchange programs – raises questions about the relationship between multinational governance, local democracy, and science that can’t be simply answered. But the overall claims are well argued and documented, and bolster a hypothesis that most people would agree with on its face: a poor economy fuels poor health. Of course, so can a growing economy, as evidenced by the U.S.
The book’s U.S. segment features a common story of deferred healthcare leading to avoidable personal tragedy. The U.S. healthcare system has failed its citizens in good times and bad, but in recession more people may take such terrible gambles. This chapter is in the section on resilience, along with a chapter on the relationship between suicide and unemployment, and a chapter on U.S. homelessness that documents the rise of West Nile disease carried by mosquitos thriving in the pools of foreclosed and abandoned homes.
There is an anecdotal feel to the book, but many of the stories provide a compelling illustration of the misguided approaches to economic crisis that dominant the U.S. and Europe, and the way that austerity can backfire. It would be great if this study fuels more research into the relationship between health and public spending, especially research that moves beyond anecdotes and enables broader policy recommendations for public health spending in times of both boom and bust.
Five decades after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty, the nation’s poor are more likely to be found in suburbs like this one than in cities or rural areas, and poverty in suburbs is rising faster than in any other setting in the country. By 2011, there were three million more people living in poverty in suburbs than in inner cities, according to a study released last year by the Brookings Institution. As a result, suburbs are grappling with problems that once seemed alien, issues compounded by a shortage of institutions helping the poor and distances that make it difficult for people to get to jobs and social services even if they can find them.
In no place is that more true than California, synonymous with the suburban good life and long a magnet for restless newcomers with big dreams. When taking into account the cost of living, including housing, child care and medical expenses, California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, according to a measure introduced by the Census Bureau in 2011 that considers both government benefits and living costs in different parts of the country. By that measure, roughly nine million people — nearly a quarter of the state’s residents — live in poverty.
The New York Times looks at suburban poverty in California, mentioning the lack of social services in the suburbs, but doesn’t dig too deep. I worked on a research project several years ago that asked me to try to conceptualize the material difference in suburban versus urban poverty. Many fine-grained indicators of financial insecurity are hard to map at a sub-metro level: health insurance, use of food stamps, etc. Although there has been a boom in literature about suburban poverty (and a hearty anecdotal understanding across the country that poverty is not an inner city issue), I haven’t seen much in the way of robust research on what this means for policy.
This article is an example of a description that surprises less than it seems to think it will, and raises fewer questions than it should: Why don’t those suburbs, in some cases huge municipalities, offer services? Is the reliance on private charity really much higher in the suburbs, or are urban residents also drawing heavily on them?
Researchers and journalists, take heed!
More and more coverage of American inequality, but I’m curious about how it’s often framed as the disappearance, or decline of the middle class. This article paints an interesting picture of American middle class decline relative to its counterpart in other countries, and paints a picture of economic crisis fueling the relative decline of Americans below the top income percentiles. Stagnant wages (relative to corporate profits) and America’s lost grip on education superiority are mentioned, but the role of government in mediating income distribution is only hinted at. Is this a story of austerity, or economic restructuring, or both? How Americans respond to their growing sense of falling behind, and of their children inheriting lower economic possibilities, will be driven by how they see government’s role in this story.