Tag Archives: economy

If America were a game of Monopoly

Abagond had a fascinating post recently imagining what the rules would be “If America were a game of Monopoly.”  Read some of the rules below and be sure to check out the rest of the post here.

Questions to think about as you read: What about gender -are there different rules for men and women?  How does the white player’s success depend on the exploitation of non-whites in the even larger game of Monopoly – the world?  What about class?  In the 1950s non-whites were restricted from purchasing property in white neighborhoods; in what types of ways are non-whites or poorer people restricted from purchasing property today? 


1. There are four players: one white, one red, one black and one yellow.

2. The white player is the banker.

3. Starting amounts: Before play begins give each player the following amounts to start with:

  • $1500 white
  • $1085 yellow
  • $105 black
  • $75 red

(Based on median household net worth in 2000.)

Go here to read rules 4-8.

9. Jail:

  • Going to jail: Red and black players go to jail if they land on any corner square except for the Just Visiting Jail square. (Blacks are three times more likely to be stopped by the police and have their car searched. Both blacks and Native Americans are way more likely to wind up in prison than whites.)
  • Getting out of jail: To get out of a jail you must pay $1000 or wait five turns. (Prison is way more damaging than in Monopoly. Also, it is way easier for the rich to avoid prison altogether.)

Advice to white players:

If the other players complain that the rules are unfair, say “Get over it!” Point out that the game is fair and democratic: they can always ask for a rule change and put it to a vote. Also point out that the white player does not always win, so if they lose it is their own fault.

Personal observations:

Most white players act as if the same rules and conditions apply to everyone, as if everyone starts with $1500 and gets $200 for passing Go, etc. If anything, they think yellow players get more for passing Go, that black players get more turns and that red players are too noble to care about winning.


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The End of Men – The Atlantic

Men in ancient Greece tied off their left testicle in an effort to produce male heirs; women have killed themselves (or been killed) for failing to bear sons.

That’s messed up, right?

In this article, “The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin states that gender inequality is changing at rapid speeds in America (this tune would sound a lot differently in China): Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. More than ever before parents want girls.  Is the modern postindustrial economy simply more congenial to women?

Over the course of this incredibly wonderful, long-ass, thought-provoking article, Rosin shows, through the workforce, economy, and education, how the virile macho man is becoming obsolete.  Here is the final portion of her essay, on how this shift is being reflected in pop culture, although I encourage you to take 20 minutes and absorb the entire piece.  Do it.  It’s fascinating.


“The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin,  The Atlantic

American pop culture keeps producing endless variations on the omega male, who ranks even below the beta in the wolf pack. This often-unemployed, romantically challenged loser can show up as a perpetual adolescent (in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin), or a charmless misanthrope (in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg), or a happy couch potato (in a Bud Light commercial). He can be sweet, bitter, nostalgic, or cynical, but he cannot figure out how to be a man. “We call each other ‘man,’” says Ben Stiller’s character in Greenberg, “but it’s a joke. It’s like imitating other people.” The American male novelist, meanwhile, has lost his mojo and entirely given up on sex as a way for his characters to assert macho dominance, Katie Roiphe explains in her essay “The Naked and the Conflicted.” Instead, she writes, “the current sexual style is more childlike; innocence is more fashionable than virility, the cuddle preferable to sex.”

At the same time, a new kind of alpha female has appeared, stirring up anxiety and, occasionally, fear. The cougar trope started out as a joke about desperate older women. Now it’s gone mainstream, even in Hollywood, home to the 50-something producer with a starlet on his arm. Susan Sarandon and Demi Moore have boy toys, and Aaron Johnson, the 19-year-old star of Kick-Ass, is a proud boy toy for a woman 24 years his senior. The New York Times columnist Gail Collins recently wrote that the cougar phenomenon is beginning to look like it’s not about desperate women at all but about “desperate young American men who are latching on to an older woman who’s a good earner.” Up in the Air, a movie set against the backdrop of recession-era layoffs, hammers home its point about the shattered ego of the American man. A character played by George Clooney is called too old to be attractive by his younger female colleague and is later rejected by an older woman whom he falls in love with after she sleeps with him—and who turns out to be married. George Clooney! If the sexiest man alive can get twice rejected (and sexually played) in a movie, what hope is there for anyone else? The message to American men is summarized by the title of a recent offering from the romantic-comedy mill: She’s Out of My League.

In fact, the more women dominate, the more they behave, fittingly, like the dominant sex. Rates of violence committed by middle-aged women have skyrocketed since the 1980s, and no one knows why. High-profile female killers have been showing up regularly in the news: Amy Bishop, the homicidal Alabama professor; Jihad Jane and her sidekick, Jihad Jamie; the latest generation of Black Widows, responsible for suicide bombings in Russia. In Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer, the traditional political wife is rewritten as a cold-blooded killer at the heart of an evil conspiracy. In her recent video Telephone, Lady Gaga, with her infallible radar for the cultural edge, rewrites Thelma and Louise as a story not about elusive female empowerment but about sheer, ruthless power. Instead of killing themselves, she and her girlfriend (played by Beyoncé) kill a bad boyfriend and random others in a homicidal spree and then escape in their yellow pickup truck, Gaga bragging, “We did it, Honey B.”

The Marlboro Man, meanwhile, master of wild beast and wild country, seems too far-fetched and preposterous even for advertising. His modern equivalents are the stunted men in the Dodge Charger ad that ran during this year’s Super Bowl in February. Of all the days in the year, one might think, Super Bowl Sunday should be the one most dedicated to the cinematic celebration of macho. The men in Super Bowl ads should be throwing balls and racing motorcycles and doing whatever it is men imagine they could do all day if only women were not around to restrain them.

Instead, four men stare into the camera, unsmiling, not moving except for tiny blinks and sways. They look like they’ve been tranquilized, like they can barely hold themselves up against the breeze. Their lips do not move, but a voice-over explains their predicament—how they’ve been beaten silent by the demands of tedious employers and enviro-fascists and women. Especially women. “I will put the seat down, I will separate the recycling, I will carry your lip balm.” This last one—lip balm—is expressed with the mildest spit of emotion, the only hint of the suppressed rage against the dominatrix. Then the commercial abruptly cuts to the fantasy, a Dodge Charger vrooming toward the camera punctuated by bold all caps: MAN’S LAST STAND. But the motto is unconvincing. After that display of muteness and passivity, you can only imagine a woman—one with shiny lips—steering the beast.


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How the Recession Affects AIDS Patients

David McNew/Getty Images - A person who relies on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program marches to protest millions of dollars in cuts to lifesaving AIDS services proposed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, June 5, 2009. States are facing increasing demand for AIDS treatment, but little new money is available.

by Brenda Wilson, NPR
July 7, 2010

Read or listen to the entire story here at NPR.

It’s a veritable pileup — a convergence of factors that’s led to a long line of HIV/AIDS patients waiting for assistance to pay for the medicines that have helped them live longer and healthier lives.

Now, many people with HIV are losing jobs, along with insurance, or discovering that they are infected at a time when the AIDS Drug Assistance Program — ADAP — they depend on is being overwhelmed by demands being made on it. Federal and state budgets aren’t meeting the challenge.

As of July 1, Georgia was the latest state to set up a waiting list for people applying for coverage. In June, Florida was forced to do the same. It now has more than 500 people waiting for help with paying for medications. Tom Liberti, the state’s chief of the bureau of HIV/AIDS, tried to stave off the inevitable.

“Over the last several months in the latter part of this recession, we have been averaging over 350 patients a month coming forward for assistance,” Liberti says.

Demand Increasing, But Not Funding

There are more than 1.4 million people unemployed in Florida, in addition to a population of 3.5 million uninsured. At the same time, the federal government has been expanding testing programs, pushing states to test millions of people for HIV and get people into treatment early.

“So, if you saw a picture of this, you would see that the demand and the number of patients coming forward has gone up dramatically, but the funding that pays for the pharmaceuticals and the drugs did not,” Liberti says.

ADAP provides assistance for nearly 170,000 people nationwide who can’t afford the expensive AIDS drugs — and a lot of people can’t on a working person’s salary. The drugs mean that people with HIV can not only survive many years but also lead productive lives.

Federal and state ADAP budgets are determined on a year-to-year basis, and there have been minimal or no changes every fiscal year. In fact, states, facing budget shortfalls, are cutting back. More than 2,000 people in 12 states are now on waiting lists, and just as many states are tightening requirements for clients and limiting the list of drugs they will cover.

David McNew/Getty Images) Los Angeles protesters rally against cuts in California's spending on HIV/AIDS programs, June 2009. Click here to read NPR's article on how states are cutting back on HIV/AIDS funds.

In the past, federal and state governments would appropriate money for emergency assistance. Not this time. Penner says Congress has failed to respond to an appeal from the states for $126 million.

“Everybody is supportive. We’ve got letters with lots of sign-ons from representatives and senators saying we want more money, but no one is willing to stick their neck out and put more money towards the issue,” Penner says.

So, state AIDS directors like Florida’s Liberti say they’re just hanging on until the next fiscal year.

“We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to make wrong decisions about getting tested or coming forward,” he says. “I do believe that if the economy gets better and some additional federal resources come through, we can get by this. It’s just unclear how long.”

Under the new health care law, people who are not on ADAP and don’t qualify for Medicaid would be eligible for subsidies for health care coverage, but that won’t kick in until 2014.

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Haiti’s Economy and the Rice Problem

Watch the excellent 15-minute Frontline segment on Haiti's economy by clicking here.

I read this really interesting tidbit the other day on NPR (Frontline and Planet Money) about Haiti’s economy.  Here’s the scoop:


Haiti’s earthquake left the nation’s rice economy in ruins. That’s a big deal, because many Haitians eke out a living distributing and selling rice, the nation’s staple food.

First, the quake damaged the nation’s main port, disrupting the regular supply of imported rice.

Then, aid groups distributed free rice to thousands of people — who stopped buying rice from street vendors. As demand dried up, the street vendors stopped buying from small, local rice wholesalers.

That’s been a devastating blow to many vendors and small wholesalers.

One alternative some groups are considering: Rather than giving people free rice, give them money or vouchers to buy rice from local vendors.

If done right, this holds the promise of both feeding hungry people and keeping the local economy intact.

Of course, giving out money or vouchers also carries its own set of risks. Done wrong, it can send the price of rice soaring, which makes it harder for people who don’t receive aid to get enough food to eat.


Now I’m an avid supporter of FreeRice.com which donates rice for every vocabulary question you answer correctly.  Or you can test yourself on a variety of other subjects, like art, geography, chemistry, math, and language-learning (French, Spanish, Italian, German).

So I’m just wondering now, is Free Rice essentially perpetuating poverty by donating rice to rice economies?  It seems that donating money would be the best option, as in the case of Yvrose Jean Baptiste who invested donations she received into her small business after the Haitian earthquake.  Now she has a stand at a popular market, where she sells things like corn, beer, hot sauce and vegetable oil.

Adam Davidson/NPR - Yvrose Jean Baptiste stands in her new shop.

Economics majors assemble!

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The Gist on the Gender/Race Salary Gap

President Obama declared today, April 20th, National Equal Pay Day:

“Throughout our Nation’s history, extraordinary women have broken barriers to achieve their dreams and blazed trails so their daughters would not face similar obstacles. Despite decades of progress, pay inequity still hinders women and their families across our country. National Equal Pay Day symbolizes the day when an average American woman’s earnings finally match what an average American man earned in the past year. Today, we renew our commitment to end wage discrimination and celebrate the strength and vibrancy women add to our economy.”

Read the full press release here.

If you haven’t heard, women make 77 cents for every dollar men make.  However, that statistic is true for the average white woman.  This chart, included in a report done by NPR’s Jennifer Ludden on the salary gap and current legislation’s efforts to squash it, shows how women of color make far less than 77%.  And this is fine and dandy when you’re thinking about one dollar, but do the math and multiply this over the course of your career, from starting bonuses to retirement, and there’s a lot of money hiding in this pay gap.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008 annual averages) Credit: Alyson Hurt/NPR

And sadly, this is below the global average for women’s wages in comparison to men’s.  According to a 2008 report by the International Trade Union Confederation, globally women earn on average 15.6 percent less than men (that’s 84.4 cents for every dollar). You can read their fascinating report here.  And interestingly enough, in the country of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, women make 40% more than men, which is also mentioned in the report.  Go figure.

Here’s another great chart included in Ludden’s article which shows how the gender/race salary gap has widened and lessened in America since the Equal Pay Act in 1963.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The Equal Pay Act (the details of the act found here) was signed into law by JFK in 1963.  The law argued that essentially this gender salary gap was bad for business.

This act has helped improve the gender wage gap since 1963 by almost 20%, as shown in the chart above.  The act enabled women to file suit against a company within 180 days if they suspected pay discrimination.  The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill to be signed into law by President Obama (January 29, 2009), extended that time frame by allowing women 180 days after each paycheck to file suit for suspected pay discrimination.  (Find out more details about the act from Wikipedia and Open Congress.)

Obama’s statement on the act follows JFK’s, stating, “It’s about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition and child care,” Obama said last year. It’s about “couples who wind up with less to retire on. [In] households where one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves, it’s the difference between affording the mortgage or not.”

Surrounded by leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and with the new law’s namesake, Lilly Ledbetter, at his side, President Barack Obama signs into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- a powerful tool to fight discrimination. Joyce N. Boghosian - White House

This brings us to the Paycheck Fairness Act.  This act, first introduced by then Senator Hillary Clinton in 2005 and Representative Rosa DeLauro, pretty much strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 63.  Ludden states, “the Paycheck Fairness Act would make it easier to prove gender discrimination and would toughen penalties. It would also try to erode what advocates say is a paralyzing secrecy around salaries: The bill would ban companies from retaliating if workers talk to each other about pay.”  (A great breakdown of the act can be found here from the National Committee on Pay Equity’s website.)

Ludden states: “Whether or not the Paycheck Fairness Act becomes law, the Obama administration plans to crack down on pay inequity. Labor agencies, which saw their budgets shrink under the Bush administration, are getting a new infusion of staff and money. Pay equity consultant Tom McMullen says companies should prepare…

In February, the Obama administration announced a task force to coordinate enforcement of equal pay laws. It plans an education campaign to make sure that companies know: Equal work means equal pay.”

Obama’s press release on the proclamation of National Equal Pay Day detailed his administration’s efforts for pay equality:

“To further highlight the challenges women face and to provide a coordinated Federal response, I established the White House Council on Women and Girls. My Administration also created a National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force to bolster enforcement of pay discrimination laws, making sure women get equal pay for an equal day’s work. And, because the importance of empowering women extends beyond our borders, my Administration created the first Office for Global Women’s Issues at the Department of State.”

Fantastic news, eh?  And now you are up to speed, amigos.


For those even more interested in the gender/race salary gap, Ludden’s report also has this amazingly interesting sidebar:

Equal Pay For Different Work?

Women’s groups say that fields traditionally dominated by women tend to be undervalued, and that this accounts for much of the ongoing gender pay gap. This is a contentious claim, with critics offering a number of other reasons, such as the danger associated with many mostly male fields. In any case, the Fair Pay Act — which is considered unlikely to pass Congress — would have companies evaluate their salary structure to ferret out such bias. Many large corporations, countries like Sweden and Canada, and a number of U.S. state governments already do this. The state of Minnesota has a gender pay equity law and uses an outside consultant to help set wage levels.

In 1982, a state evaluation found a sex-based wage disparity between delivery van drivers and clerk typists. The two jobs were deemed to be “equal work,” yet the drivers (mostly men) at the time earned $1,900 a month, while the typists (mostly women) earned $1,400.

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