Minnesotans have eradicated the flu by masking and distancing. So how did Covid-19 survive? If Minnesotans have been masking up and distancing to the extent that we have all but eradicated flu this season, then non-compliance with the mask mandate cannot be to blame for the recent surge in cases.
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Social scientist Robert Putnam has a well-deserved reputation for arriving at original conclusions by asking original questions. In The Upswing, he and coauthor Shaylyn Romney Garrett have given us another compelling argument about American social life. A statistical tour de force, The Upswing asks an important question: Do Americans today care and focus more on themselves as individuals—a collection of “I’s”—or do they see themselves and their fellow countrymen as a “We”? The answer, unequivocal and well-supported, is that we have become more individualistic, and that this trend overlaps with various social ills: rising inequality, low social trust, and declining marriage rates. Tracking these and other trends, Putnam and Garrett identify a statistical (and graphical) tendency: an upside-down, U-shaped “I-We-I” curve that identifies the Gilded Age of the 1890s as a low point in social solidarity that corresponds to another low point in the present. Between these nadirs, however, was a golden age, roughly 1930 to 1970, when the American “We” was at its zenith. This is the book’s key finding. The heroes of this era in Putnam and Garrett’s telling are the Progressives of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Their concern for the poor and their political vision laid the groundwork for the New Deal’s social safety net. The authors believe that we should emulate them today. The Upswing is not overly prescriptive, but it generally points to contemporary progressive politics as the remedy for our ills. The book finds cause for optimism, for example, in student gun control activism arising from the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida and in the Women’s March of 2017. Putnam and Garrett’s statistical analyses are convincing. Their view that the progressivism of the past deserves credit for the twentieth-century golden age of “We” is less so, as are their endorsements of current forms of political mobilization. The early twentieth-century Progressives merit acclaim for several reasons. I agree with the authors’ praise for the settlement-house movement, when largely selfless patricians helped integrate into American society members of what remains the largest wave of immigration in the nation’s history. The Progressives successfully advocated for a range of basic and desperately needed government efforts, such as the Pure Food and Drug Act. The Upswing, however, overlooks other important explanations, as well as many personal and policy prescriptions that might spark another golden age of “We.” Putnam and Garrett fail to note that the rate of immigration to America forms a curve, the shape of which contradicts their thesis about the apex of national fellow-feeling. Immigrant entry reached its height around 1910 and was legislatively restricted between 1924 and 1965, a period corresponding with Putnam and Garrett’s high point of social solidarity. One can make a good case that the long pause in immigration allowed a sense of “We” to emerge. Notably, that “We” was fostered by patrician Progressives who were proud of and confident in America, taught English, and promoted citizenship. The Upswing itself could be read to suggest revisiting this combination of slowed immigration and assertive, self-confident assimilation, but American elites today are too busy tearing down the country to adopt such an approach. Nor can one overlook the fact that the widely shared prosperity of the postwar period overlapped not only with the zenith of American labor unionism but also with a time of limited global trade. World war and Communism had decimated America’s major potential competitors. “Made in America” made economic sense, and John Kenneth Galbraith said with some justification that unchallenged corporate giants could dictate prices and thus pass on gains to unionized workers. To return to that model now, however, would lead toward economically destructive protectionism. Putnam and Garrett need not endorse such policies, any more than they should suggest that there might be more fraternal societies if there were no Social Security programs. (In the pre-New Deal era, it was common for such groups to pool resources.) But the logic of pausing immigration or urging English on current immigrants should at least be acknowledged, as should the fact that groups associated with the political Right, notably evangelicals, are working hard to create their own version of a big tent of “We.” One wishes that Putnam and Garrett would also acknowledge that the current incarnation of progressivism has done little to foster a sense of shared American identity. Indeed, it has dismissed large swaths of Americans as “deplorable” and cultivated divisions according to racial and gender identities, helping to polarize the country. The implications of the “I-We-I” analysis in The Upswing could just as easily lead to politically conservative conclusions. Putnam is no stranger to such ambivalence. In his 2006 lecture, “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century,” he reported that, as neighborhood diversity increased, social trust declined, because neighbors tended to “hunker down.” While he acknowledged the uncomfortable conclusion that one could remedy this problem by avoiding diversity—including racial diversity—he argued that we should instead seek new forms of “cross-cutting social solidarity,” pointing to the successful integration of American immigrants as proof of this prescription. One wishes that The Upswing would have at least acknowledged that its analysis implies a range of potential approaches to rebuilding social solidarity.
61 views · Dec 25th, 2020
You’d think the severe dining and commerce restrictions, and threats of looming shutdowns, would compel New York lawmakers to give small-business owners a break. But don’t underestimate their capacity to make a bad situation much worse. The same week that Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to shut down New York City for business, Albany increased the minimum wage across the rest of the state (New York City’s minimum wage is already $15 an hour), City Hall made it harder to fire fast-food workers, and the New York appellate division upheld a decision that Uber drivers could not be hired as contractors—they must get all the benefits of regular employees. This may all sound good—after all, it’s more money and benefits for workers who sorely need both. And at least Uber and McDonald’s are big businesses that can pay people more. The fast-food worker bill applies only to chains with more than 30 branches. Still, these moves are just another stake in the heart of New York’s struggling small-business community. Even in the best of times, owners of small businesses live on small margins. They’re hemorrhaging money and now must pay more for labor. And many of those McDonald’s are franchises whose owners earn small profits. The pandemic was already a blow; now, they effectively can’t fire anyone. Ride shares, or any gig work, is most often not a full-time job but a supplement for other work. The ability to pick up the odd driving shift was a lifeline to struggling workers and business owners. When California threatened a similar regulation, Uber claimed that it would cease operations. If Uber must hire workers as employees, then surely all gig platforms must, too—making deliveries for many restaurants much more expensive. The total impact of all these policies is to increase the cost of labor just when small-business owners can least afford it. We have come to expect economic illiteracy from city hall and Albany, but even by their standards, these latest moves are truly stunning.
58 views · Dec 25th, 2020
Mike Pence Punts? As we reported, yesterday, Mike Pence had a chance to reject all the unlawful Electoral College Certificates: “Sources in the Trump administration confirmed to National File that President Donald Trump’s most vocal advocates within the White House have determined that both U.S. Code and the Constitution contain language that requires Vice President Mike Pence to reject unlawful Electoral College certificates, but Pence must act by no later than Wednesday, December 23. The drafters of this White House memo believe that the federal check to the states’ elections resides with Vice President Mike Pence in his role as President of the Senate. Additionally, Pence has the sole power to determine whether to reject impermissible states of electors. However, Pence is legally required to do this on the fourth Wednesday in December, which this year falls on December 23.” The President himself even retweeted a post about this #PenceCard, leading many to believe that it was a real option that had been discussed and might happen. However, The National File went on to report that, in his speech in Georgia on December 23rd, Mike Pence devoted very little time to defend Donald Trump or to attack the massive election fraud allegations stemming from the election of 2020 Now, it appears as though the December 23rd deadline might have passed with not a word. It is difficult to know how to interpret this. Did Mike Pence punt and skip out on his heavy responsibility for some reason? Was this simple hype and not a real solution? We will keep you posted as we learn more.
57 views · Dec 25th, 2020

More from entryreqrd

Social scientist Robert Putnam has a well-deserved reputation for arriving at original conclusions by asking original questions. In The Upswing, he and coauthor Shaylyn Romney Garrett have given us another compelling argument about American social life. A statistical tour de force, The Upswing asks an important question: Do Americans today care and focus more on themselves as individuals—a collection of “I’s”—or do they see themselves and their fellow countrymen as a “We”? The answer, unequivocal and well-supported, is that we have become more individualistic, and that this trend overlaps with various social ills: rising inequality, low social trust, and declining marriage rates. Tracking these and other trends, Putnam and Garrett identify a statistical (and graphical) tendency: an upside-down, U-shaped “I-We-I” curve that identifies the Gilded Age of the 1890s as a low point in social solidarity that corresponds to another low point in the present. Between these nadirs, however, was a golden age, roughly 1930 to 1970, when the American “We” was at its zenith. This is the book’s key finding. The heroes of this era in Putnam and Garrett’s telling are the Progressives of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Their concern for the poor and their political vision laid the groundwork for the New Deal’s social safety net. The authors believe that we should emulate them today. The Upswing is not overly prescriptive, but it generally points to contemporary progressive politics as the remedy for our ills. The book finds cause for optimism, for example, in student gun control activism arising from the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida and in the Women’s March of 2017. Putnam and Garrett’s statistical analyses are convincing. Their view that the progressivism of the past deserves credit for the twentieth-century golden age of “We” is less so, as are their endorsements of current forms of political mobilization. The early twentieth-century Progressives merit acclaim for several reasons. I agree with the authors’ praise for the settlement-house movement, when largely selfless patricians helped integrate into American society members of what remains the largest wave of immigration in the nation’s history. The Progressives successfully advocated for a range of basic and desperately needed government efforts, such as the Pure Food and Drug Act. The Upswing, however, overlooks other important explanations, as well as many personal and policy prescriptions that might spark another golden age of “We.” Putnam and Garrett fail to note that the rate of immigration to America forms a curve, the shape of which contradicts their thesis about the apex of national fellow-feeling. Immigrant entry reached its height around 1910 and was legislatively restricted between 1924 and 1965, a period corresponding with Putnam and Garrett’s high point of social solidarity. One can make a good case that the long pause in immigration allowed a sense of “We” to emerge. Notably, that “We” was fostered by patrician Progressives who were proud of and confident in America, taught English, and promoted citizenship. The Upswing itself could be read to suggest revisiting this combination of slowed immigration and assertive, self-confident assimilation, but American elites today are too busy tearing down the country to adopt such an approach. Nor can one overlook the fact that the widely shared prosperity of the postwar period overlapped not only with the zenith of American labor unionism but also with a time of limited global trade. World war and Communism had decimated America’s major potential competitors. “Made in America” made economic sense, and John Kenneth Galbraith said with some justification that unchallenged corporate giants could dictate prices and thus pass on gains to unionized workers. To return to that model now, however, would lead toward economically destructive protectionism. Putnam and Garrett need not endorse such policies, any more than they should suggest that there might be more fraternal societies if there were no Social Security programs. (In the pre-New Deal era, it was common for such groups to pool resources.) But the logic of pausing immigration or urging English on current immigrants should at least be acknowledged, as should the fact that groups associated with the political Right, notably evangelicals, are working hard to create their own version of a big tent of “We.” One wishes that Putnam and Garrett would also acknowledge that the current incarnation of progressivism has done little to foster a sense of shared American identity. Indeed, it has dismissed large swaths of Americans as “deplorable” and cultivated divisions according to racial and gender identities, helping to polarize the country. The implications of the “I-We-I” analysis in The Upswing could just as easily lead to politically conservative conclusions. Putnam is no stranger to such ambivalence. In his 2006 lecture, “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century,” he reported that, as neighborhood diversity increased, social trust declined, because neighbors tended to “hunker down.” While he acknowledged the uncomfortable conclusion that one could remedy this problem by avoiding diversity—including racial diversity—he argued that we should instead seek new forms of “cross-cutting social solidarity,” pointing to the successful integration of American immigrants as proof of this prescription. One wishes that The Upswing would have at least acknowledged that its analysis implies a range of potential approaches to rebuilding social solidarity.
61 views · Dec 25th, 2020
You’d think the severe dining and commerce restrictions, and threats of looming shutdowns, would compel New York lawmakers to give small-business owners a break. But don’t underestimate their capacity to make a bad situation much worse. The same week that Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to shut down New York City for business, Albany increased the minimum wage across the rest of the state (New York City’s minimum wage is already $15 an hour), City Hall made it harder to fire fast-food workers, and the New York appellate division upheld a decision that Uber drivers could not be hired as contractors—they must get all the benefits of regular employees. This may all sound good—after all, it’s more money and benefits for workers who sorely need both. And at least Uber and McDonald’s are big businesses that can pay people more. The fast-food worker bill applies only to chains with more than 30 branches. Still, these moves are just another stake in the heart of New York’s struggling small-business community. Even in the best of times, owners of small businesses live on small margins. They’re hemorrhaging money and now must pay more for labor. And many of those McDonald’s are franchises whose owners earn small profits. The pandemic was already a blow; now, they effectively can’t fire anyone. Ride shares, or any gig work, is most often not a full-time job but a supplement for other work. The ability to pick up the odd driving shift was a lifeline to struggling workers and business owners. When California threatened a similar regulation, Uber claimed that it would cease operations. If Uber must hire workers as employees, then surely all gig platforms must, too—making deliveries for many restaurants much more expensive. The total impact of all these policies is to increase the cost of labor just when small-business owners can least afford it. We have come to expect economic illiteracy from city hall and Albany, but even by their standards, these latest moves are truly stunning.
58 views · Dec 25th, 2020
Mike Pence Punts? As we reported, yesterday, Mike Pence had a chance to reject all the unlawful Electoral College Certificates: “Sources in the Trump administration confirmed to National File that President Donald Trump’s most vocal advocates within the White House have determined that both U.S. Code and the Constitution contain language that requires Vice President Mike Pence to reject unlawful Electoral College certificates, but Pence must act by no later than Wednesday, December 23. The drafters of this White House memo believe that the federal check to the states’ elections resides with Vice President Mike Pence in his role as President of the Senate. Additionally, Pence has the sole power to determine whether to reject impermissible states of electors. However, Pence is legally required to do this on the fourth Wednesday in December, which this year falls on December 23.” The President himself even retweeted a post about this #PenceCard, leading many to believe that it was a real option that had been discussed and might happen. However, The National File went on to report that, in his speech in Georgia on December 23rd, Mike Pence devoted very little time to defend Donald Trump or to attack the massive election fraud allegations stemming from the election of 2020 Now, it appears as though the December 23rd deadline might have passed with not a word. It is difficult to know how to interpret this. Did Mike Pence punt and skip out on his heavy responsibility for some reason? Was this simple hype and not a real solution? We will keep you posted as we learn more.
57 views · Dec 25th, 2020