Millennials’ finances prevent homeownership; is that a problem?

Nothing screams "stock photo" like a picture of excited millennials buying a house.

Nothing screams “stock photo” like a picture of excited Millennials buying a house.

Almost daily, there’s another article focused on the Millennials. (Seriously, a Google News search of “millennials” returned 3.17 million results in 0.30 seconds.) Generally, the articles will make broad claims that Millennials are entitled, spoiled, and lazy, while others will seek to counter those opinions about how mil. Yes, we’ve talked about America’s largest generation ad nauseam, but an issue with millennials is rearing its ugly head and it affects all of us. Millennials are growing up–with the oldest hitting their mid-30s–and more frequently, Millennials are eschewing home ownership, out of necessity or fear of another crash. With home prices and sales rising steadily across the country, this presents Millennials a cause for concern moving forward or an opportunity.

Millennials by and large would like to own a home, but cannot quality for a mortgage (thanks student loans) or they are unable to make enough to save for a downpayment. According to a recent AP story, the average time someone rents before buying a home now reaches 6 years. Forty years ago, that number was only 2.6 years. It’s a staggering increase in the amount of time Millennials spend moving from rental to rental, foregoing one of the backbones of middle class America. According to a recent study conducted by the Urban Land Institute, 50 percent of Millennials rent, 21 percent live with their parents, and only 26 percent own a home. Think about that for a second. More than 70 percent of American Millennials either rent or live with their parents. That’s nearly 53 million Americans from just one generation who do not own a home.

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The Noise Machine: How Democrats can buck historical trends and win in 2016

The only adults in the room. Will that lead one of them to victory next November?

The only adults in the room. Will that lead one of them to victory next November?

Last week, the Republican circus moved from Cleveland, to Atlanta, with no signs of slowing down. Early poll numbers suggest Donald Trump wasn’t permanently damaged by his erratic–and predictable–behavior at the debate, while Jeb! Bush and Scott Walker’s poll numbers sank. Of course, all of this is subject to change, just like a weather forecast. Meanwhile, the juxtaposition of the Democrats and the Republicans grew wider. As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continues to draw record crowds, demonstrating the frustration among Americans on the left, Hillary Clinton unveiled plans for “debt-free college,” among other major policy changes for the millions suffering under the burden of student loans.

Whether Clinton’s plans for student loans are a silver bullet remains to be seen–not including full out debt relief may stoke the ire of many progressives–but it is refreshing to see the adults in the room actually discuss policies that matter. While Republicans debated how best to repeal the Obama years, what their faith means to them, and how best to outflank one another from the right, few provided details into the issues that are truly defining the United States today. In fact, by the time the RedState Gathering started in Atlanta, many Republicans and pundits were focused on Donald Trump’s crass comments toward FOX News host Megyn Kelly, not policy, nor what it takes to govern.

While policy and governing may come off as boring, it may be Democrats’ ticket to a third consecutive term.

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I now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming…

…Why, you ask? Because a certain story of American gusto has taken the nation by storm. And, well, I am not totally buying the narrative.

By now, we’ve all heard the heart warming story. 56-year-old James Robertson walks over 21 miles to work…5 days a week…for 10 years. Let me repeat that. Mr. Robertson has walked over 21 miles to work for 10 years. After his car gave out on him over a decade ago, this man did what he needed to do in order to remain gainfully employed. In the process, the job became his life.

 

The sheer time and effort of getting to work has ruled Robertson’s life for more than a decade, ever since his car broke down. He didn’t replace it because, he says, “I haven’t had a chance to save for it.” His job pays $10.55 an hour, well above Michigan’s minimum wage of $8.15 an hour but not enough for him to buy, maintain and insure a car in Detroit.

Is this job really worth it? I mean, walking that far every Monday through Friday! Why not just quit?

“I can’t imagine not working,” he says.

Okay, so this man is no taker. He exemplifies the idea that a man who won’t work won’t eat. Right?

Robertson’s 23-mile commute from home takes four hours.

He also seems to understand that anything worth having might be difficult to obtain and keep. The four-hour journey to keep a $10.55/hour job practically yells commitment. Right? And his employers speak very highly of him. His manager speaks of Mr. Robertson as a model employee.

“I set our attendance standard by this man,” says Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering. “I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I’ll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can’t get here — bull!”

I know what you’re thinking. What exactly is the issue? What can be said other than the fact that Mr. Robertson’s actions are the embodiment of what we think of as American Spirit? His story is remarkable. I find that there are, indeed, a few remarkable things about this story. (Spoiler Alert: American spirit doesn’t make my list.)

Topping the list, of course, is James Robertson. In my view, this is not a case of American can-do spirit. In fact, America plays little to no role here save setting and nationality. This a case of a remarkably determined man doing remarkable things in order to survive. The triumph or victory (if you call it that) belongs solely to the man himself. His grit, his determination, his perseverance, and his commitment make him a man to be respected and admired.

Secondly, I find it remarkable that so many Americans read his story, recognized his actions, and responded. According to  USA Today, over $230,000 has been raised on behalf of Mr. Robertson. That number is expected to rise.  I was pretty sure that there were still good people in the world, and the response reaffirmed that belief.

Finally, I find it remarkably disheartening that this story, while touching and inspiring, is not unique. My life has allowed me to experience many, many James Robertsons. I grew up in a community where this type of feel-good story was the norm. I have witnessed single mothers walk to work after death, divorce, or abandonment removed fathers from homes. I have witnessed married women walk similarly exhaustive treks in order to supplement the father’s income so that the family could make ends meet. I have witnessed fathers walking from home to Job 1, then Job 2, and sometimes Job 3 before walking home again.

Circumstances of birth, I suppose, make these people good Americans. In my eyes, they are simply good people. And therein lies my issue…this nation is full of good people doing remarkable things on a daily basis. Not in an effort to be labeled “good Americans”, but because they must be done. The stories of James Robertson and countless others make me wonder why Americans can’t see the economic failure embedded within the feel-good.

But… I return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

Ferguson Is Your Future Too

(I wish I could say I wrote this, but alas! This post is the work of the Institute’s Cherubic Adonis, the victim of a particularly nasty tech issue.)

This is your future, America. The events in Ferguson, Missouri are a symptom of a broken country. You know it’s broken. You see the damage and you look the other way because it isn’t your children who are being killed at a frightening pace by authority figures in our society. But one day soon, it will be you and your children who are the victims. They will be drawn into the battle on one of the two sides.

Either all Americans share certain “inalienable rights” or none of us do. The problem stems from your own inability to address the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Prejudice. Now, when I say prejudice, I don’t automatically mean race, but racial prejudice is a big part of the problem. People can be prejudiced in any number of ways. Political prejudice (left vs right), economic prejudice (rich vs poor), intellectual prejudice (intellectual elites vs common man), sexual prejudice (men vs women) are all equally as bad for our national health. Until we, as a society, recognize that we all have value, none of us will really be worth a damn.

Local police forces are now paramilitary units who use counterinsurgency and urban-warfare doctrine to establish control of their areas of operation at any cost. Now, I realize that many people will read this and say, “Oh, you’re exaggerating. This is an isolated incident” but is it really? Take a look and you’ll see that these atrocities occur with staggering regularity in America. Some folks think that this squall will pass (and they may be right), but I guarantee you one thing, this storm isn’t over.

Looking the other way when someone’s rights are being violated doesn’t strengthen your rights. It weakens them. Sooner or later you or people like you are going to become very upset about something (perhaps a big gubmint takeover of *insert cause here*) and they are going to go to the streets because of it. When they do they are going to find out what many minorities in America already know: America does not care about you. America cares about its image and it won’t tolerate you making it look bad on the news. America is a sixteen-year-old girl taking a selfie. America is a self-absorbed douchebag talking into their Bluetooth in the checkout line at the grocery store. America will step over your bleeding (and maybe dead) carcass on its way into a Starbucks to get their caffeine fix. America only cares about America. You aren’t America. America isn’t you. You have become a cog in a machine and if you get worn out or break down, it won’t matter. The machine will continue grinding away. Today it’s Ferguson, Missouri, but soon it will be YourTown, USA. It won’t be fair. It will hurt.  You’ll whine about it and maybe your friends and relatives will be killed or maimed by the “authorities” but don’t expect anyone else to care, because you don’t care right now. In fact, expect people to giggle with glee at your misfortune. Expect to be made into a meme. Expect to be shot through the door when you ring the doorbell and cry for help. Expect to be exploited, first as political fodder and then as comedy, because that’s what America does.

I leave you with an old quote about America by Carl Schurz, “My country right or wrong.” Most people have heard it before but that’s not the whole quote. The whole statement reads, “My country right or wrong; if right to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” Until we are all prepared to set America right when it is wrong there won’t be any right to celebrate.

Ferguson, Pt. II

See also, “Ferguson, Pt. I.”

More links of interest and diversity concerning the shooting of Michael Brown, 11 days ago.

  • Reparations for Ferguson: Total police control over black bodies has echoes in American history. 
  • Amnesty International sends team within US for first time 
  • This Doesn’t Make Any Sense
  • Gov. Jay Nixon’s Executive Order
  • “…Those who are determined to hate every African-American murdered by police (or anyone, for that matter) have managed to form an opinion that a simple theft is worthy of a death sentence if one’s skin is not light enough.
  • 90 year old Holocaust Survivor Arrested for Protesting
  • Getty Photographer Arrested
  • How the rest of the world sees Ferguson
  • US cannot lecture others on human rights, Amnesty says, as Egypt appeals for ‘restraint’
  • In “Google” English: (from a moderate German paper) 
    “Farewell to the dream of a post-racist society
    The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson testified deep-seated racism in the United States. The position of African Americans has changed since Martin Luther King hardly improved. OF SEBASTIAN MOLL , NEW YORK
    15 August 2014 08:27 Uhr
    LZ Granderson felt painfully in the sixties set back when he saw the pictures from the small town of Ferguson in the State of Missouri at the beginning of the week. “Let go of police in full riot gear, the dogs on black demonstrators – which reminds all too much of Alabama in 1965”
    The African-American commentator for CNN was not the only one in the United States, had to think during the events of the last days of the hardest times of the struggle for civil rights for black Americans almost 50 years ago. After the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a police bullet last Sunday makes in American sentiment is growing wide, that has changed in the situation of blacks in the country since the days of Martin Luther King fundamentally nothing: “It is for us never give justice “, Mychal Denzel Smith wrote in his blog for the political weekly The Nation . “The death of Michael Brown shows us once again that we are simply not allowed in this country.”
    Officially, the cause of Brown’s death is not yet clear. The police officers involved claim that a gun had gone off accidentally during a scuffle with the officers Brown. Dorian Johnson, the friend and companion Browns that night, but has a dramatically different version of events. According to Johnson, the police had the two black young men who were on the way home, harassed for no reason. As an officer then tried to pull Brown in the police car, this broke free and began to run away. Then opened the policeman, whose identity is not yet revealed, the fire. As Brown was hit by the fatal shooting, he had already stretched according to Johnson’s arms in the air to surrender.
    Video: USA – Hundreds protest after the killing of a black youth
    Hundreds have protested in St. Louis, after the police had killed an unarmed black youth. Security forces fired tear gas and smoke bombs at the demonstrators. Video Comment
    The demonstrations in Ferguson and throughout the United States, where breaks in the streets of many cities of the anger over the incident train, obviously tend to believe Johnson’s version. And for good reason: Only the events of the past week show a deep-rooted institutional racism of American law enforcement.
    Series of racist attacks by the police
    So died on July 17 in the New York City borough of Staten Iceland, the 43-year-old Eric Garner, while police officers wrestled him down on the street. On the video recording of a witness is clear to see that Garner had not attacked the officers and that he also did not sit down to defense when he was attacked.
    A few days later was shot in Dayton, Ohio, the 22-year-old John Crawford of policemen. Crawford was just going to pick out a toy gun for his son in a Walmart. And last Tuesday, two days after the death of Michael Brown, the 25-year-old, mentally handicapped Ezell Ford was shot dead by police in Los Angeles. According to eyewitnesses, Ford was attacked without warning, thrown to the ground and shot in the back. A reasonable suspicion against him there was not, except that he lived in a “problem area”.
    Page 2/2: Significantly more African Americans in prison
    The series of incidents, however, is only the culmination of a known issue. Civil rights have long been then that the American legal, regulatory and penal system suffers from a deep-seated racism. “I’m tired of every time to be afraid of being shot or arrested if I walk by a police officer,” LZ Granderson wrote in his commentary.
    The fear is well founded. So the new New York Mayor Bill de Blasio joined to the beginning of the year with the promises that ignominious stop-and-frisk strategy to end the NYPD. Under “Stop and Frisk” were allowed officials hailed on the street at random and without reason to suspect persons, browse and take into custody. From the vexatious practice, however, 80 percent of Latinos and African Americans were affected. Black and Latino neighborhoods felt terrorized.
    Institutional racism as a “caste system”
    The Inhaftierungszahlen for black Americans speak for systematic racism of American institutions. So 60 percent of American prison inmates are black, even though they make up only 30 percent of the population. Therefore, the sociologist Michelle Alexander speaks of a “caste system”, by the particular black males are permanently excluded from participation in American society.
    At the level of law that the picture is just as bleak. Thus, two years before the acquittal of the security guard George Zimmerman, who shot and killed an unarmed youth Trayvon Martin, ensured considerable anger among African Americans and citizens of real learning. Therefore, many were surprised, was condemned as last week in Detroit Theodor wafer for murder. Wafer had the black youth Renisha McBride shot that was kicked after a car accident on his door and asked for help. “That was after all, a little balm to our soul”, Denzel Smith wrote in the nation .
    USA torn apart because of racial problems
    The anger over the ongoing, deep-seated racism in the United States, which makes currently in the protests across the country after the Michael Brown incident wide, yet is large. Louder and louder the voices who believe in the United States will never change anything for African Americans are. So writes the black essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates that “America rests on a foundation of white supremacy”. American society is written deeply and irrevocably racist loud intellectuals like Coates and Alexander. Because neither the civil rights legislation of the sixties nor the election of Obama had really changed anything. “You get the knife sticking 20 inches deep in our shoulder, one centimeter pulled out,” said Coates.
    In Ferguson and elsewhere in the country, meanwhile, is trying with difficulty to prevent that the protests degenerate into open street battles the police. These had to be used on Tuesday and Wednesday tear gas and armored vehicles, demonstrators were taken away by the dozens. The United States is once again deeply torn because of race problems, and after six years of a black president. The dream of a post-racial society to flare up briefly after the election of Obama, seems more caught up than ever.”

     “Yo, check the diagonal
    Three brothers gone
    Come on
    Doesn’t that make it three in a row?
    Anger is a gift…
    Brotha, did ya forget ya name?
    Did ya lose it on the wall
    Playin’ tic-tac-toe?
    Yo, check the diagonal
    Three million gone
    Come on
    Cause they’re counting backwards to zero.”

The Covert Action Virus

Twenty or so years ago, I had a conversation with a soil scientist of my acquaintance, who had recently returned from an extended trip through Central America. He had been teaching alternative farming techniques to peasant farmers being squeezed into less and less available land, as part of a private aid group. It sounded to me like an ideal gig for the Peace Corps, so I was surprised when he answered: “Uh-uh. No way. If you’re in Central America with the Peace Corps, everyone just assumes you’re CIA. Nobody will talk to you, and you can’t get anything done.”
I was taken aback, given that, as the Peace Corps itself says:

Persons who have been employed by an intelligence agency, or otherwise have been associated with intelligence activities, are ineligible to serve as volunteers. This exclusionary policy is one aspect of the broader, long-standing policy of maintaining an absolute separation between Peace Corps and intelligence activities conducted by the U.S. government. This absolute separation is necessary to protect volunteers’ safety and to maintain the trust and confidence of the people in the countries in which volunteers serve.

The inverse, however, is also true. Because of this exclusionary policy, the Peace Corps would in fact make an excellent cover for an agent. This goes to the very nature of the deception that is the core of what intelligence agents do: it does not matter what lie is believed, as long as a lie is believed. As long as the target believes something that is not true, he/she can be manipulated. Which means that everything is a potential cover story, a legend, and a potential target for infiltration and exploitation. Every bureau, every commercial outlet, every information source is a potential target. Every cell of the body politic is susceptible to this, either proactively or by being compromised; a virus of deceit, secrecy, and covert action.

The problems with this are obvious, and became apparent to me again this morning, when I opened Firedoglake and saw USAID Fake HIV Center in Cuba Undermines Global Health Efforts. I followed the links; the gist, as reported by the AP, is that “Over at least two years, the U.S. Agency for International Development — best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid — sent nearly a dozen neophytes from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru to gin up opposition in Cuba.” These untrained agents, supplied with encrypted flash drives, and codes for communications, “posed as tourists, visited college campuses, and used…[a]n HIV-prevention workshop one called “the perfect excuse” to recruit political activists.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the operation was set up by the same contractor that dreamed up the failed “Cuban Twitter” project.

This program is being defended by the Obama Administration: according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, the program “enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention.” Note the moment of honesty: the secondary benefit of the HIV awareness program was HIV awareness. The first was covert action.

This type of covert action is not rare, as Peter at FDL goes on to elaborate; nor is it just medical aid being used as cover. The fake NGO that was used to decapitate a FARC unit in Columbia is missing, but he includes the fake hepatitis vaccine program in Pakistan that helped identify Usama bin Laden-since then, the Pakistani Taliban has outlawed polio vaccination and killed 60 vaccination workers, allowing polio to make a robust comeback. Another one Peter could have pointed to was the role of the NED-the National Endowment for Democracy-in Ukraine, where it has spent tens of millions of dollars on a wide variety of programs. As  One of the founders of the NED-“whose purpose is to support foreign organizations sympathetic to US foreign policy goals” explained it in 1991“A lot of what we do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA.” And so it is: whether it be Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Albania, Iran, Cuba, Mongolia, or Venezuela, the NED is there. No wonder Putin was pissed about US operations in Ukraine. Every dollar spent there was intended to lessen Russian influence. Every single aspect of the “civil society” NED is supporting there can be considered a covert operation targeted on Russian interests.

And that’s the real issue-the meta-issue. The effect of using everything as a cover for covert operations is the certain destruction of the ability of people to have faith in institutions that, in a democracy, require faith to operate (rampant conspiracy theory-the guaranteed response to pervasive secrecy-has the same effect). You can have democracy-or you can have deceit and covert action. You can have citizen participation-or you can have counterintelligence programs designed to “expose disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize…” You can have journalism-or you can have Operation MOCKINGBIRD, in which the CIA compromised dozens of journalists and fed them CIA propaganda. You can have community policing-or you can have Phoenix Program-style counterinsurgency as law enforcement, in which pervasive surveillance, secret and unconstitutional police methods, and Special Operations teams combine to “neutralize threats.” Radley Balko reports an average of fifty thousand SWAT raids annually in the US…we have come a hell of a long way from “to serve and protect.”

And that’s the point-when everything is a covert action bureau, or cover, that is all it is. It cannot be an institution that operates by deceit and covert violence, AND be a democratically-controlled institution responsive to citizens’ needs. You can have democracy, and freedom, and all the messy processes that democratic institutions require to operate; or you can have the expediency, secrecy, deception, and violence of government-by-secret-police-agency. When your service providers collect and sell your information; when your cell phone is tracked by retailers in the mall; when your movements are tracked via car tracking, facial recognition programs, and ubiquitous cameras; and when your police subvert oversight by deceiving responsible authority, your institutions have become spy agencies, whose tools are secrecy and deception: anathema to self-government in a free society. A paradigm of covert action, or a representative democracy. You cannot have both.

You cannot have both, and there will be no progress until this question is answered, definitively. Subverting change in defense of the status quo, after all, is what intelligence agencies do. Our government is infected with a virus, that has seemingly moved into every cell; healing America will require, first, a robust immune response from a citizenry that will not be able to suspend the necessary weight of disbelief much longer, and second, an intense vaccination course to keep the patient from  relapsing.

 

911: What’s your emergency?

This is 911.  What’s your emergency?

I need help.  My community, my state, my nation is being overrun.

Overrun?  By whom, Ma’am?

Men and women carrying BIG guns like soldiers.  They’re driving armored cars and sometimes tanks.  Yes, I said tanks.  And they are wearing all black riot gear and..and….badges.

copld

If I say “police”, what is the first thing that comes to mind?  (Cue Jeopardy music)

Once upon a time, I would have thought of public service.  Of bravery.  Of courage.   As a child (and, no, how long ago that was does not matter), I remember having fun interactions with police officers.  They were the “good guys” who passed out lollipops when they saw you at the playground.  They visited our schools with plastic badges and mini flashlights.  They encouraged us to “be good and stay out of trouble” with smiles on their faces.  We were allowed to sit in the police car, lights flashing and sirens blasting.  They made me feel …safe.

Here we are a few years later (yes, a few years) and that feeling of safety is nearly non-existent.  Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly aware of the fact that the world had changed in the few years it took me to grow up.  We’re not in Mayberry anymore, Andy.  The danger that they face is not imagined.  And, sure, I know that not all police officers are bad apples.

But, come on….

swat

Storm Troopers?  And tanks?  Really?

Beating and kicking a man after you’ve hit him with the stun gun?

Two officers stand over the motionless man and begin kicking him. A third officer drives up and attacks him.

That sounds more like brutality than bravery.

Excessive use of force in New Mexico..courage..or crisis?

Five officers gave chase, and when Lopez reached a fence and began to turn around, one of the officers fired three times, hitting Lopez once. The nonlethal shot put Lopez on his back, the report said, and the officer approached him and fired a fourth shot into his chest, killing him.

 I know it’s hot as Hades out there, but seriously?  Are they losing their minds??

All over the nation, our children are scarred for life.  Rendered sterile.  Because hoodies.

But don’t get too comfortable in your justifications.  Eight year old girls are deadly!

Our blackberry bushes and sunflowers must not be allowed to disturb the peace.

And whatever you do.. Don’t. Clinch. Your. Buttocks!

Is this what we are?  Who does this militarization help?

…a sheriff in Illinois was accused of lending the assault rifles, which he got through the 1033 program, to his friends.

…a firearms manager in North Carolina pled guilty to selling his on eBay.

…a county in Arizona acquired $7m worth of weapons and Humvees before giving them to unauthorized persons and attempting to sell them to boost their budget.

…in Mississippi, it took six years before federal authorities discovered that a state office, which was ineligible for the program, had received $8m worth of equipment, despite the fact that the Defense Department is supposed to review the program every two years.
 

As an American, I know we don’t want cops who resemble this…

funny cop

…but the statistics on police brutality and misconduct are appalling.  (Check out Radley Balko.)

Know your rights!  Also know that knowing your rights won’t always protect you.

So, yeah, dispatcher..that is my emergency.  That is everyone’s emergency.  Can you help us?

Or…Maybe Flava Flav had the right of it…911 is a joke in your town.  And mine.

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