One should talk about the past and the other about the future.
For tonight's highly anticipated presidential debate, I decided to skip right to the end. Here are two closing statements for the candidates that basically reflect their best arguments. For Obama, that his first term was considerably more successful than people give him credit for; and for Romney, that the president has failed to offer a compelling new agenda for his second term.
OBAMA'S BEST CASE: SEE THAT RECOVERY? I BUILT THAT
The Boy Scouts of America have a simple rule. "Leave it better than you found it."
It's an easy promise to make. But recently, presidents have have a hard time keeping it. The previous guy in this job inherited a surplus and left us with the Great Recession.
When I entered office, the U.S. economy was in flames. My administration successfully put out the worst of the fire and we've been pouring as much water as we can for the last three years. I'd like to share credit with the Republicans, but you know what? They don't deserve any. The recovery you've felt in the last two years: We built that. The other party just stood around saying "no."
The stimulus I signed over Republican objections set a floor under the recession. The economy started growing just six months later. Unemployment insurance that I made a priority over Republican objections helped millions of families buy food and diapers. But not just that. It also stimulated the economy by putting government spending to efficient use in the hands of the neediest families who were most likely to spend. For the last year, Republicans in the House have fought to slash government spending in the face of a slow recovery. According to every macroeconomists I've consulted, these cuts would have slowed growth in the next quarters. I fought them. I prevented them. And because of that, the recovery is on track.
Today, there are more Americans employed in the private sector than on my first day in office. The S&P 500 is up nearly 70% since my first month. Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Some people ask: Are you better off than you were four years ago? Well, if "you" are part of this tremendous business recovery or if you are among the wealthiest Americans, there is no question. You are better off. And you are better off because we put out that fire.
But I'm a realist. I know the answer to that question -- are you better off? -- isn't as clear for everybody. It's not as clear cut for a single mom trying to send a kid to university when the cost of public college is rising faster than her paycheck, while state cuts push up tuition. It's not as clear for the millions of families where one parent can't find work or is fighting an illness without health care.
The Republicans have an answer to these problems. It's "cut and pray." Now, I'm a religious man, but we need a better answer than prayer, alone. That's why I'm fighting to preserve college assistance and affordable student loans. It's why I'm fighting to save unemployment insurance and programs for the low-income that would be decimated in Romney's budget. It's why I'm fighting to save a health care program that covers tens of millions of people by the end of the decade.
So, here's the deal I'm striking. Can I ask the folks who know they are better off than they were four years ago to help the folks who are still struggling? I know Americans. From the single-mother waitress to the million-dollar entrepreneur, they are not selfish. They're smart. They know a good deal when they see it. This is a good deal.
After four years, I've left the country better than when I found it. And I'm not ready to leave just yet! I've still got work to do. We all do. And, with your vote, with another four years, I promise to you that it will keep getting better.
ROMNEY'S BEST CASE: OBAMA HAS NO FUTURE
You can learn a lot about somebody by listening. And listening to the president tonight and for the last few months, I've learned something important. Have you noticed that he can't help but speak in the past tense? It's because, when it comes to the future, he's got nothing to say.
The president is fond of telling us how he put out the fire of the Great Recession, how he passed health care, how he fought Republicans. That's all fine. But we don't need a fire fighter in chief. We need a leader. And the president has failed the most important test of leadership: trust.
He said he would bring Washington together. He failed. He said he would keep unemployment under 8 percent. He failed. He said he would cut the deficit. He failed. Washington is more divided than ever, unemployment spent 43 months over 8 percent, and the deficit has topped $1 trillion each year of his administration. Now he's asking you for another four years ... even though he has practically no new ideas for a second term! My friends, the record is long enough. And it's no good.
My critics love to complain that I'm not specific enough. That I don't use enough numbers. Well, I've got a number for you today. It's 2030.
In the last two years, job creation has been so slow that we're not on pace to close the jobs gap until the year 2030. Folks, stop for a minute and think about that. It means that if you're 40 years old today, the pace of the so-called Obama Recovery won't get us back to normal until you are at least 60 years old. You know what you're getting with this president. It is the slow and steady creep of mediocrity, plain and simple. Economic growth and job growth in 2012 has been almost identical to 2011. That's the Obama economy. You've seen it. You know it. An if you're satisfied with it -- if you're alright with voting for 2030 -- then go ahead and vote for 2030.
But if you want to vote this year, if you want to vote for 2012, then I've got a plan. It will create jobs. It will simplify your taxes. It will grow the economy. You might disagree with it. You might think it goes too far here, and isn't ambitious enough there. That's okay. At least I've got a plan. And I'm committed to doing what this president isn't: Going to Washington and getting things done.
Why haven’t more challengers entered the race to defeat the Iraq War hawk, Patriot Act supporter, and close friend of big finance?
As Hillary Clinton loses ground to Bernie Sanders in Iowa, where her lead shrinks by the day, it’s worth noticing that she has never made particular sense as the Democratic Party’s nominee. She may be more electable than her social-democratic rival from Vermont, but plenty of Democrats are better positioned to represent the center-left coalition. Why have they let the former secretary of state keep them out of the race? If Clinton makes it to the general election, I understand why most Democrats will support her. She shares their views on issues as varied as preserving Obamacare, abortion rights, extending legal status to undocumented workers, strengthening labor unions, and imposing a carbon tax to slow climate change.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
Though it wasn’t pretty, Minaj was really teaching a lesson in civility.
Nicki Minaj didn’t, in the end, say much to Miley Cyrus at all. If you only read the comments that lit up the Internet at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards, you might think she was kidding, or got cut off, when she “called out” the former Disney star who was hosting: “And now, back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?”
To summarize: When Minaj’s “Anaconda” won the award for Best Hip-Hop Video, she took to the stage in a slow shuffle, shook her booty with presenter Rebel Wilson, and then gave an acceptance speech in which she switched vocal personas as amusingly as she does in her best raps—street-preacher-like when telling women “don’t you be out here depending on these little snotty-nosed boys”; sweetness and light when thanking her fans and pastor. Then a wave of nausea seemed to come over her, and she turned her gaze toward Cyrus. To me, the look on her face, not the words that she said, was the news of the night:
Many educators are introducing meditation into the classroom as a means of improving kids’ attention and emotional regulation.
A five-minute walk from the rickety, raised track that carries the 5 train through the Bronx, the English teacher Argos Gonzalez balanced a rounded metal bowl on an outstretched palm. His class—a mix of black and Hispanic students in their late teens, most of whom live in one of the poorest districts in New York City—by now were used to the sight of this unusual object: a Tibetan meditation bell.
“Today we’re going to talk about mindfulness of emotion,” Gonzalez said with a hint of a Venezuelan accent. “You guys remember what mindfulness is?” Met with quiet stares, Gonzalez gestured to one of the posters pasted at the back of the classroom, where the students a few weeks earlier had brainstormed terms describing the meaning of “mindfulness.” There were some tentative mumblings: “being focused,” “being aware of our surroundings.”
After calling his intellectual opponents treasonous, and allegedly exaggerating his credentials, a controversial law professor resigns from the United States Military Academy.
On Monday, West Point law professor William C. Bradford resigned after The Guardianreported that he had allegedly inflated his academic credentials. Bradford made headlines last week, when the editors of the National Security Law Journaldenounced a controversial article by him in their own summer issue:
As the incoming Editorial Board, we want to address concerns regarding Mr. Bradford’s contention that some scholars in legal academia could be considered as constituting a fifth column in the war against terror; his interpretation is that those scholars could be targeted as unlawful combatants. The substance of Mr. Bradford’s article cannot fairly be considered apart from the egregious breach of professional decorum that it exhibits. We cannot “unpublish” it, of course, but we can and do acknowledge that the article was not presentable for publication when we published it, and that we therefore repudiate it with sincere apologies to our readers.
If the Fourteenth Amendment means that the children of undocumented immigrants are not citizens, as Donald Trump suggests, then they are also not subject to American laws.
Imagine the moon rising majestically over the Tonto National Forest, highlighting the stark desert scenery along the Superstition Freeway just west of Morristown, Arizona. The sheriff of Maricopa County sips coffee from his thermos and checks that his radar gun is on the ready. A lot of lawmen wouldn’t have bothered to send officers out at night on such a lonely stretch of road, much less taken the night shift themselves. But America’s Toughest Sheriff sets a good example for his deputies. As long as he’s the sheriff, at least, the rule of law—and the original intent of the Constitution—will be enforced by the working end of a nightstick.
Suddenly a car rockets by, going 100 miles an hour by the gun. Siren ululating, the sheriff heads west after the speeder. The blue Corolla smoothly pulls over to the shoulder. The sheriff sees the driver’s side window roll down. Cautiously he approaches.
Meaningful work, argues psychologist Barry Schwartz, shouldn't be a luxury. It should be a feature of every job, from CEO to factory worker.
There’s a belief that what gets some workers to keep coming into work every day is their “psychic wages”—the fulfillment that comes with doing meaningful work. That thinking is usually applied to authors, or doctors, or social workers, but the assumption for why a different class of workers—janitors, factory workers, call-center employees—keeps showing up every day is often simpler: They aren’t there for anything but money.
But Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, believes that jobs are about more than money, for both blue- and white-collar workers alike. When he was trained as a psychologist, decades ago, the thinking of B. F. Skinner—of Skinner Box fame—dominated the field. Skinner’s view of human nature was that every action can be explained through the lens of rewards and punishment: If someone wasn’t doing something, he or she simply wasn’t getting a sufficient reward for it. “And that always struck me as wrong—at least, as a description of human beings, as incomplete,” Schwartz told me.
The NBC show isn’t casting its net wide enough when it comes to finding new players.
Since the departure of many of its biggest stars two years ago, Saturday Night Live has mostly avoided major cast changes. Yesterday, NBC announced the show would add only one new cast member for its 41st season—the near-unknown stand-up comic Jon Rudnitsky. SNL is, of course, a sketch-comedy show, but it keeps hiring mostly white stand-ups who have a markedly different skill set, with limited results. As critics and viewers keep calling out for greater diversity on the show, it’s hard to imagine the series’s reasoning in sticking to old habits.
As is unfortunately typical today, controversy has already arisen over some tasteless old jokes from Rudnitsky’s Twitter and Vine feeds, similar to the furore that greeted Trevor Noah’s hiring at The Daily Show this summer. But Rudnitsky was apparently hired on the back of his stand-up performances, not his Internet presence, similar to the other young stand-ups the show has hired in recent years: Pete Davidson, Brooks Wheelan (since fired), and Michael Che. It’s a peculiar route to the show, because SNL is 90 percent sketch acting, and unless you’re hosting Weekend Update (like Che), you’re not going to do a lot of stand-up material. So why hire Rudnitsky?
Who cares if he’s technically Gen X? Age is different from personality.
The technical definition of “Millennial” depends on who’s technically defining it, but rare are the generational experts who would say the 38-year-old Kanye West deserves the label that usually applies to people born sometime after 1980. Do you think he cares? Eleven minutes into West accepting the Video Vanguard Award at Sunday night’s VMAs, he placed himself into the same cohort as Justin Bieber: “We are Millennials, bro. This is a new—this is a new mentality.”
The “we” appears to be any and all artists who don’t censor themselves at awards shows; the “bro” is, despite appearances, a gender-neutral everylistener, the 2015 version of Charlotte Brontë’s “reader.” As for what he means, exactly, by Millennial, the opening line to Pew’s 2010 survey on the matter is instructional: “Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials … have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat, and open to change.”
When cobbling together a livable income, many of America’s poorest people rely on the stipends they receive for donating plasma.
There is no money to be made selling blood anymore. It can, however, pay off to sell plasma, a component in blood that is used in a number of treatments for serious illnesses. It is legal to “donate” plasma up to two times a week, for which a bank will pay around $30 each time. Selling plasma is so common among America’s extremely poor that it can be thought of as their lifeblood.
But no one could reasonably think of a twice-weekly plasma donation as a job. It’s a survival strategy, one of many operating well outside the low-wage job market.
In Johnson City, Tennessee, we met a 21-year-old who donates plasma as often as 10 times a month—as frequently as the law allows. (The terms of our research prevent us from revealing her identity.) She is able to donate only when her husband has time to keep an eye on their two young daughters. When we met him in February, he could do that pretty frequently because he’d been out of work since the beginning of December, when McDonald’s reduced his hours to zero in response to slow foot traffic. Six months ago, walking his wife to the plasma clinic and back, kids in tow, was the most important job he had.