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- 07/12/13--15:43: Shields and Brooks on Palin and Puig
- 07/13/13--11:59: Former Bush Economist Defends the 1 Percent
- 07/13/13--19:37: Florida Jury Finds George Zimmerman Not Guilty of Murder
- 07/14/13--10:10: Zimmerman Verdict Sparks Protests in Cities Across the Nation
- 07/15/13--03:55: The Great Gatsby Curve: Inequality and the End of Upward Mobility
- 07/15/13--06:35: Senate Showdown Over Rules Reaches Boiling Point Between Leaders
- 07/15/13--11:41: Austin Musicians Don't Let Their Babies Grow Up Without Health Care
- 07/15/13--12:53: Weekly Poem: 'Using a Hula Hoop Can Get You Abducted By Aliens'
- 07/15/13--14:44: Israel Sends 14 Eritreans Back to Their Homeland
- 07/15/13--15:07: News Wrap: U.S. Urges Egypt to Be Inclusive in Political Transition
- 07/15/13--15:11: Was Justice Served in Murder Acquittal of George Zimmerman?
- 07/15/13--15:23: Retailers Launch Partnership to Improve Factory Safety in Bangladesh
- 07/15/13--15:26: Will Retailers Invest in Safer Work Conditions in Bangladesh?
- 07/15/13--15:34: Austin Musicians Find Unique Solution for Affordable Health Care
- 07/15/13--15:40: Former World Champion Sprinter Tyson Gay Tests Positive for Doping
JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Welcome back, gentlemen.
MARK SHIELDS: Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So let's start by talking about immigration.
The Senate passed its bill, what, two weeks ago, Mark. I think 14 Republicans voted for it. But now that it's in the House, the Republicans are balking? What is going on?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, it's a different institution, Judy.
I mean, the senators, Republicans who backed it recognized that not only is it the right thing to do, in their judgment, as public policy to take 11 million people out of the shadows, and by some process, 13 years, paying fines, background checks, to eventually become citizens, but also, Judy, that it's in the interest of the Republican Party if they're going to be competitive in this changing of electorate.
And, quite bluntly, House Republicans don't have that same perspective. I mean, they -- many of them are purists and absolutists against anything that in any way suggests what they call amnesty. But they don't have the same breadth of perspective on their party having lost five of the last six presidential elections' popular vote that they're not going to be competitive in a changing electorate with only white votes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is it? Is that the explanation for why the House view is so different?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, they come from white districts. There are very few with a significant Latino population in their district, significant minority population.
They also have a different attitude about big legislation. I think it's crazy, personally. What's going happen in the House is, they are going to break up the bill into parts they like, which is the border fence. And they're probably ignore the parts they don't like, which is the path to citizenship.
But they're heading in a direction that is non-passable. They're heading towards the status quo, because they're going to propose something that Senate will not accept and certainly the White House will not accept.
And the Democrats have already said that. And so they're looking for something purist. But what we are going to end up with is a bill that -- or that -- probably with nothing.
And that will mean lower economic growth, because this bill improves economic growth. It will mean a lot more illegal immigration. This bill, the Senate bill, would cut illegal immigration by 33 to 50 percent.
And then it looks like we are going to gets zero percent reduction. And political ruin. And they have got a theory of politics. Their theory is that Republicans don't actually need to win Latino votes. They need to get out the white working-class votes they haven't gotten. And if they pass immigration, that will hurt them with the people they need.
I think that theory is completely wrong. In the 21st century, we're heading toward a multiethnic America, and if both parties don't embrace that, they will just be in the ash heap of history.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think -- is that the direction it's headed in, that ...
JUDY WOODRUFF: ... changing minds?
MARK SHIELDS: No, it is, Judy.
And I think that it comes down to how you view a political party. A political party, if you and I agree on much more than we disagree on, and we share certain objectives, then we form a coalition where we say, OK, we're going to be a party.
Or is a political party, instead of being a coalition, does it become a social group? You have to believe these 15 things, and if you don't believe all 15 of them, you're not going to be part of it?
And, quite frankly, that's the way the House Republicans -- if you wanted to pass the bill, if you wanted to pass it right now, what you would do if you are John Boehner...
JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean the bill that came out of the Senate?
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, or comparable -- comparable legislation that -- that really is a large bill, because a large bill accommodates other people. That is what it does. That's why it becomes a large bill.
I mean, it isn't -- it isn't some conspiracy somewhere. To get David's support or your support, we put in certain positions, we emphasize certain things that we can all agree upon.
What I would do is, I would change the filing date for the 2014 election to the 1st of August of 2013, because they're all -- David's right -- the average Republican district is 75 percent white. The average Democratic district is 51 percent white.
So, if I'm sitting in a Republican district, I'm scared of a primary. I'm scared of somebody coming at me who is going to be more absolutist than I am and beating me.
Once you get by the primary, they are going to win their seat anyway. So, why -- if you could get that behind them somehow, that is what I would do.
DAVID BROOKS: Right.
And I would say, in support of that, a lot of them in private talk a very pro-immigration game.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: But then they invent reasons to oppose the bill. And some of them are sincere. I don't mean to say that.
But they are all -- they are nominally pro-immigration. We have got to have more immigration, we have got to have more high school -- high-skilled immigration. But then they look for reasons. And some of the reasons seem to me completely unpersuasive. So one of the points they make about the Senate bill is it has exemptions and waivers.
And they say, well, President Obama opted not to enforce the employer mandate part of Obamacare. He just takes legislation he doesn't like and reverses it. So if we hand him a bill, he will just reverse it in ways we can't foresee.
And that strikes me as not a good reason, because any piece of legislation could be inverted by the White House.
MARK SHIELDS: One other thing, Judy, and that is some of the intellectual leaders of the Republican Party, or conservative movement, have come out against it, Charles Krauthammer, and Bill Kristol, David's only colleague at The Weekly Standard, now, somebody who was kind of a colleague of mine on the NewsHour and who I like.
But, I mean, there's no amnesty, and amnesty has become the buzzword. And, at some point you wonder, this is the one legislative -- significant major legislative achievement that Barack Obama can win in the second term domestically, it appears, right now. And it's almost a point of denying him that kind of a victory.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I don't know if there is any connection, but one thing the House Republicans did do yesterday, David, is they voted to pass a farm subsidy bill. But they stripped out of it hundreds of millions of dollars in food stamp funding. So where is that headed? I mean, not a single Democrat voted for that.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. The House Republicans are making it difficult for me to be a big cheerleader this week.
This started with a decent impulse, that we have this sort of weird system, where we have a political alliance. We put the food stamp program with the agricultural subsidies, and so you get people on both sides voting for it, and that would guarantee passage year after year.
All these people come to Washington and say, we're going to change things. We are going to cut the ag subsidies. We're wondering why food stamps is exploding as a program. Maybe we need to cut that back. And so they say, let's change things. And that is sort of a decent impulse.
But at the end of the day, what do we have? They're not really cutting ag subsidies. They're just catering to their old interests, just as before, but they're tripping stripping out the food stamp program. So they're giving money to corporate farmers. They're taking, at least delaying money to poor people who need food.
So it's a political disaster. And it's also a substantive disaster, because they haven't really changed the ag subsidies.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And they also argue, the Republicans argue, Mark, that some of the money for food stamps is wasted.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, unlike the subsidies.
Judy, this bill failed less than three weeks ago; 62 Republicans voted against it, all right? Only 12 Republicans voted against it when it passed on Thursday. What was the difference? The difference was -- the only difference, they eliminated food stamps.
Now, if you are looking for a mean-spirited party, if you want to face the charge that you really don't care about people, half of the people on food stamps are children, are people under the age of 18.
You are talking about people with disabilities? You're really talking about feeding people. This is a Judeo-Christian country. We hear that speech after speech.
If feeding the hungry is not an element in that, then the Republican part has just turned its back. And who do they help? I mean, David's right. It's the agricultural subsidies; 75 percent of the bargain -- of the supports go to 10 percent of the farmers, the biggest 10 percent.
They don't turn their back on the fact that they are getting federal water or federal power, that we're spending money for irrigation. And, you know, somehow, that is -- but the people who are getting the food are ...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Are there Republicans who are defending food stamps?
DAVID BROOKS: There are some, but not so many.
And I was going to do a column, because the Republican critics are correct that the number of people on food stamps has exploded. And so I was going to do a column, this is wasteful, it's probably going up the income streams to people who don't really need the food stamps. And so, this was going to be a great column, would get my readers really mad at me, I would love it, it would be fun.
But then I did some research and found out who was actually getting the food stamps. And the people who deserve to get it are getting. That was the basic conclusion I came to. So I think it has expanded. That's true. But that's because the structure of poverty has expanded in the country.
MARK SHIELDS: That's exactly right.
DAVID BROOKS: And so to me it seems like a legitimate use of money.
And if you want to replace it with an EITC, or Earned Income Tax Credit, or another thing, that would be legitimate. But it's -- right now, it seems like a reasonably good program.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, while we're talking about wonderful things happening in Congress, let's move over to the Senate, where the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Mark, said that he wants to change the rules so that Republicans no longer have an easy time blocking the president's nominees.
And I just want to quickly show our audience a little bit of what Reid and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, had to say about this yesterday.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL,R-Ky.: Well, This is really a sad, sad day for the United States Senate. And if we don't pull back from the brink here, my friend the majority leader is going to be remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever, the leader of the Senate who fundamentally changed the body.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: All we want is for the president of the United States, whoever that might be, Democrat or Republican, to be able to have the team he wanted as contemplated in that document called the Constitution of the United States. That's not asking too much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is, Mark, Harry Reid potentially the worst Senate leader ever for trying to change the rules?
MARK SHIELDS: No, he isn't.
But, eight years, ago positions were reversed. The Republicans had a re-elected Republican president and they were making the case. And Democrats, including the current incumbent president of the United States, Barack Obama, was making the counterargument.
But the -- this has become just the default position now of the minority party, that we're threatening a filibuster on everything. I mean, the filibuster...
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you're saying both sides do it equally.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, they did. They did. You can take the words that were used by McConnell eight years ago and those are the words used by Harry Reid.
But Harry Reid has raised the question. We're not talking about judges, because that was the big fight with George W. Bush, was judges. Judges have lifetime appointments.
They sit far beyond any president. We're talking about executive appointments, people who serve with the president.
And what they have used -- they have used it, quite frankly, for is to just disable an agency or a law. I mean, for example, the Federal Election Commission is now -- is neutered because they won't confirm people. The National Labor Relations Board, whether workers can organize, that has been disabled as well.
So I think it's a -- there is enough hypocrisy to go around. But I think it is a legitimate fight.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean because the people aren't there to run the agency, to carry out the law.
MARK SHIELDS: They aren't there. That's right. In other words -- and especially the Consumer Protection Agency, where Dick -- Richard Cordray is still waiting for confirmation.
DAVID BROOKS: This is like an old political philosophy principle that if there is not internal self-control, then there's going to be external self-control.
And what they used to have in the Senate was the power of the filibuster, one person really to block a lot. But the members had a code of etiquette. They weren't going to abuse it.
MARK SHIELDS: That's right.
DAVID BROOKS: And now the code has gone away, so they just use it all the time. And so then the people in the majority say, oh, we're just going get rid of the filibuster because they can't control themselves.
So, I understand the impulse to get rid of the filibuster. Nonetheless, the Senate is not the House, because it's not a purely majoritarian institution.
It's about projecting minority rights. That is why there is more bipartisanship in the Senate than there is in the House. That is why being in the minority matters in the Senate, where it doesn't matter in the House.
And I'm so for protecting the privileges and traditions of the Senate. I think what Harry Reid is doing is wrong for that reason.
MARK SHIELDS: What would you do to change, to improve it, though?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think you have to go back to the etiquette and say it's in both of our interests, when we're in power, when we have got a president in power, to only use the filibuster when -- in extraordinary circumstances, not every damn day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Very fast.
In New York City, two politicians who had a fall from grace, Anthony Weiner, former congressman, former Governor Eliot Spitzer, trying to make a comeback, Weiner for mayor, Spitzer to be comptroller.
Very quickly, what are we to think of this? Do they -- do they have a right to do this, David?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, but my rule is start at the bottom.
So, I am little more pro-Spitzer. If you are going to have a fall from grace, start at the bottom and work your way back up. Show you care about the service, rather than just rebuilding your reputation.
MARK SHIELDS: Don't confuse the two.
Both of them are -- were ambitious, young, nervy, loved cameras, loved attention. Anthony Weiner was a show horse. Anthony Weiner was a talk show creation. Eliot Spitzer was the only political figure in the United States who dared to take on Wall Street.
And very rarely do you see a politician take on the deepest pocket, most powerful moneyed interests. And he did it, from Goldman Sachs on. And what he did to his family was terrible and disgraceful. What he did to the office was.
But he is a different public servant. And he really deserved to be the sheriff of Wall Street.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you two are the sheriff of the NewsHour -- sheriffs, co-sheriffs.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.
In this episode of the Doubleheader -- where syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks tackle the sport of politics and the politics of sport -- we talk about a kerfuffle in Alaska between former Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Mark Begich, plus the hitting phenom tearing through baseball, Yasiel Puig.
Have a great weekend.
By Simone Pathe
Income inequality doesn't necessitate government redistribution of wealth, argues Greg Mankiw. Photo courtesy of Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images.
Does unequal opportunity explain the persistence of income inequality in this country, and should the government intervene to close that gap?
Greg Mankiw, the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard, served as George W. Bush's chair of the Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005. In a forthcoming article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, which is excerpted below, he argues against government redistribution of wealth away from the top 1 percent.
This is the second in a series of three posts exploring economic inequality in America, and presents a starkly different view from that of President Obama's outgoing chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger, who argued Friday on this page that rising income inequality leads to greater economic immobility.
Mankiw begins by setting up what he calls a "thought experiment" to demonstrate how a few high earners can skew income equality. The question he goes on to address, however, is whether those top earners merit all of their compensation as reward for their productivity or whether some of it should be redistributed among the rest of society:
Imagine a society with perfect economic equality. Perhaps out of sheer coincidence, the supply and demand for different types of labor happen to produce an equilibrium in which everyone earns exactly the same income. As a result, no one worries about the gap between the rich and poor, and no one debates to what extent public policy should make income redistribution a priority. Because people earn the value of their marginal product, everyone is fully incentivized to provide the efficient amount of effort. The government is still needed to provide public goods, such as national defense, but those are financed with a lump-sum tax. There is no need for taxes that would distort incentives, such as an income tax, because they would be strictly worse for everyone. The society enjoys not only perfect equality but also perfect efficiency.
Then, one day, this egalitarian utopia is disturbed by an entrepreneur with an idea for a new product. Think of the entrepreneur as Steve Jobs as he develops the iPod, J.K. Rowling as she writes her Harry Potter books, or Steven Spielberg as he directs his blockbuster movies. When the entrepreneur's product is introduced, everyone in society wants to buy it. They each part with, say, $100. The transaction is a voluntary exchange, so it must make both the buyer and the seller better off. But because there are many buyers and only one seller, the distribution of economic well-being is now vastly unequal. The new product makes the entrepreneur much richer than everyone else.
The society now faces a new set of questions: How should the entrepreneurial disturbance in this formerly egalitarian outcome alter public policy? Should public policy remain the same, because the situation was initially acceptable and the entrepreneur improved it for everyone? Or should government policymakers deplore the resulting inequality and use their powers to tax and transfer to spread the gains more equally?
In my view, this thought experiment captures, in an extreme and stylized way, what has happened to U.S. society over the past several decades. Since the 1970s, average incomes have grown, but the growth has not been uniform across the income distribution. The incomes at the top, especially in the top 1 percent, have grown much faster than average. These high earners have made significant economic contributions, but they have also reaped large gains. The question for public policy is what, if anything, to do about it.
As Mankiw sees it, unequal opportunity among households does not explain why one generation tends to pass on their income level to their offspring -- what he calls the "intergenerational transmission of income." Inherited characteristics, like IQ and talent, he argues, also play a role: "Smart parents are more likely to have smart children, and their greater intelligence will be reflected, on average, in higher incomes." As he says, the prospects for higher income are not all about the opportunities your parents' income provided you:
...the educational and career opportunities available to children of the top 1 percent are, I believe, not very different from those available to the middle class. My view here is shaped by personal experience. I was raised in a middle-class family; neither of my parents were college graduates. My own children are being raised by parents with both more money and more education. Yet I do not see my children as having significantly better opportunities than I had at their age.
Listening to the Left
Mankiw quotes from Mr. Obama's 2012 campaign speech in which he says, "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help." But, Mankiw counters, the top 1 percent pays "more than a quarter of income in federal taxes, and about a third of state and local taxes are included." Besides, he argues, government spending increasingly finances transfer payments "to take from Peter to pay Paul" rather than goods and services:
In the end, the left's arguments for increased redistribution are valid in principle but dubious in practice. If the current tax system were regressive, or if the incomes of the top 1 percent were much greater than their economic contributions, or if the rich enjoyed government services in excess of what they pay in taxes, then the case for increasing the top tax rate would indeed be strong. But there is no compelling reason to believe that any of these premises holds true.
An Alternative Framework
As Mankiw explains, government redistribution of wealth is often viewed as a sort of "social insurance contract" in which, hypothetically speaking, we accept the practice since we don't know whether we will be "lucky or unlucky, talented or less talented, rich or poor." Mankiw advocates a different understanding of this kind of government intervention:
Consider kidneys, for example. Most people walk around with two healthy kidneys, one of which they do not need. A few people get kidney disease that leaves them without a functioning kidney, a condition that often cuts life short. A person in the original position would surely sign an insurance contract that guarantees him at least one working kidney. That is, he would be willing to risk being a kidney donor if he is lucky, in exchange for the assurance of being a transplant recipient if he is unlucky. Thus, the same logic of social insurance that justifies income redistribution similarly justifies government-mandated kidney donation.
Few people, Mankiw explains, would realistically accept this arrangement; people have rights to their organs, so don't they also have rights to "the fruits of (their) own labor?" In his alternative to the social contract understanding -- what he calls his "just deserts" perspective -- the kind of government redistribution seen in places like France, where president Francois Hollande has proposed a 75 percent tax rate on top earners, is "unjust."
To read Mankiw's full argument in PDF form, click here.
The Associated Press reported tonight at George Zimmerman has been found not guilty of second degree murder.
Within minutes of a jury delivering a not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, protesters took to the internet and in some cities, the streets. There were largely peaceful demonstrations and rallies in several cities in California and Florida--as well as in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
By Miles Corak
Was Jay Gatsby a crook, or was he the victim of a crooked system? Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Simone Pathe: Is the American economic system fundamentally unequal, perpetuating income inequality and stymieing upward economic mobility? Or do families -- by virtue of their differing genes and values -- reproduce income inequality?
In our third in a series of three posts examining economic inequality in America, Miles Corak, professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, uses "The Great Gastsby" metaphor to respond to our two previous posters on this topic: Alan Krueger, President Obama's outgoing chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, who introduced readers to the Great Gatsby Curve on this page on Friday, and Greg Mankiw, who held the same position under George W. Bush, and argued against government redistribution of wealth to create more equality of opportunity on this page on Saturday.
Corak's post for the Making Sen$e page, which appears in full below, is informed by an article that is forthcoming in the summer issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. You can read a draft of the forthcoming article in PDF form here or on his website.
Corak uses F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby to explain the competing interpretations of income inequality that we've explored over the past few days on this page. So, as you read, keep this Fitzgerald quote in mind: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to keep two opposed thoughts in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
Miles Corak: Was Jay Gatsby, the ambitious hero in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, a crook who would stop at nothing to get ahead, or the victim of a crooked game, a system in which the rules are rigged against those with anything other than blue blood, regardless of their ambition? "The Great Gatsby" is certainly open to multiple interpretations, but that is precisely what makes a novel great: characters and plot that not only challenge our deeply held beliefs, but also invite a different perspective depending upon the times we live in.
Fitzgerald's novel has long captured the American imagination because it speaks so directly to the belief that anyone with talent, energy and ambition can succeed regardless of their starting point in life. It has all the more resonance now because inequality has soared in the last three decades.
We re-read "The Great Gatsby," and we re-make the movie, because we wonder if Americans can still make it in a more polarized society where the top 1 percent take home such a large slice of the economic pie, a slice that is matched only by what was happening during the roaring '20s.
While "The American Dream" is probably best left to novelists, this has not stopped economists from trying to put numbers to metaphor.
Is inequality a good thing, reflecting the fruits of skill and ambition and offering a promise of possibility for the next generation? Or does it skew opportunity, crudely mirroring the power of privilege and place and reflecting unfair barriers to success regardless of talent?
It is a fact that countries with greater inequality of incomes also tend to be countries in which a greater fraction of economic advantage and disadvantage is passed on between parents and their children.
It is now common to represent this relationship with what Alan Krueger, the Princeton University economist and out-going Chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisers, has referred to as "The Great Gatsby Curve." Krueger used this term for the first time in a speech given in January 2012, and The White House recently posted an explanatory info-graphic on its website.
The United States has high income inequality across households and low economic mobility between generations.
The curve ranks countries along two dimensions. Moving horizontally from left to right shows income inequality, as measured about a generation ago, becoming higher and higher across countries. During the early to mid 1980s, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark were the most equal, the United Kingdom and the United States the least.
Moving vertically from bottom to top shows the average degree of stickiness between child adult earnings and the earnings of the family in which children were raised. In countries like Finland, Norway and Denmark, the tie between parental economic status and the adult earnings of children is weakest: less than one-fifth of any economic advantage or disadvantage that a father may have had in his time is passed on to a son in adulthood. In Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, roughly 50 percent of any advantage or disadvantage is passed on.
Does this mean that if you want to live the American Dream, you should move to Denmark? Or could it also mean that taxing the rich and giving to the poor will not only reduce inequality in the here-and-now, but also the degree to which it is passed on to the next generation?
Well, the curve is open to alternative interpretations in part because it is not a causal relationship.
But to dismiss it by simply saying, "correlation does not imply causation," is too glib and risks missing an important message about the underlying causes.
Economic theory predicts such a relationship, and therefore suggests that it is reasonable to juxtapose measures of inequality and mobility as a starting point for understanding the underlying causes and their implications.
Theory also suggests that there is no single driver of this relationship: the interaction between families, labor markets and public policies all structure a child's opportunities and determine the extent to which adult earnings are related to family background -- but they do so in different ways across national contexts.
The "Gatsby was a crook" point of view stresses the fundamental role of individual choice, rooted to some important degree in differences in parenting and family values. From this perspective, America's position on the curve, and particularly the relatively low rates of upward economic mobility of children raised by the lowest income households, is caused by family dysfunction.
Single parent families are the underlying driver pushing up the poverty rate, raising the risk of vulnerability for children and undoing any public policies trying to level the playing field. At the same time, top earners are not taking broader social responsibility by championing the values and parenting strategies underlying their own success.
From this perspective, families reproduce inequality, labor market earnings reflect just deserts, and pubic policy is ineffective in changing things. America's position on the Gatsby Curve ultimately reflects more diverse family values -- perhaps rooted even in a more diverse genetic make-up -- than in other countries.
The "Gatsby was a victim of a crooked system" point of view suggests that a more polarized labor market is the main driver, eventually being shadowed in the capacities of parents to invest in their children's future, and even in family structure and values.
Parents with more education invest more in their children, and in an era of rising labor market inequality, not only do they have more resources, they have a much stronger incentive to see that their children in turn develop the skills that will lead to success.
Globalization and technical change have not only raised the returns to a good education, they have also implied that wages have been stagnant, and even falling, among less skilled parents, putting extra strains on their families. Having to run harder just to stand still, these families not only have less money for their children's future, but also less time. The chances that marriages last, and indeed the economic incentives to even get married, are more troublesome when good jobs and good wages don't offer the same bedrock they once did.
On top of all this, public policy is designed to favor the relatively well-to-do. Access to high quality early childhood education and primary schools is limited to those with wealth. Their children are put on the direct path to the best colleges, offering a gateway to labor market success.
From this perspective, America's position on the curve is the result of rising returns to schooling and declining access to good jobs, a trend that has been much stronger in the United States than elsewhere. With more inequality, public policy choices are also skewed, particularly in institutions fostering human capital development like education and health care, to tilt rather than to level the playing field.
Social science doesn't always give us hard-and-fast truths, but it does give us more than metaphor. And while even agreed upon facts can be legitimately viewed as having different meanings, we should be clear that the message underlying the Gatsby Curve is that inequality may lower mobility because it has the potential to shape opportunity.
The curve is telling us that inequality heightens the income consequences of innate and other family-based differences between individuals; that inequality also changes opportunities, incentives and institutions that form, develop and transmit characteristics and skills valued in the labor market; and that inequality shifts the balance of power so that some groups are in a position to structure policies or otherwise support their children's achievement independent of talent.
America's position on the Gatsby Curve calls, as a result, for a careful second reading of the configuration of these forces to fully appreciate both the benefits and the costs of higher inequality.
This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight.
"Ask Larry," our weekly question-and-answer column with social security expert Larry Kotlikoff, will appear later Monday.
Sen. Harry Reid appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C. Sunday. Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images
All 100 senators have been invited to meet Monday evening in the Old Senate Chamber to explore whether a compromise can be reached that would allow votes on President Barack Obama's nominees and avoid a potential showdown over rules changes that could further inflame tensions in the body.
The session, scheduled for 6 p.m. ET, comes as the chamber's top Democrat and Republican clashed again Sunday over amending the filibuster rules.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid charged Republicans were denying the president the right to complete his second term team.
"The changes we're making are very, very minimal," the Nevada Democrat said during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." "What we're doing is saying, 'Look, American people. Shouldn't President Obama have somebody working for him that he wants?'"
Reid said that the current fight did not compare to 2005 when Republicans threatened to adopt changes to filibuster rules to advance President George W. Bush's judicial nominees. Instead, he noted the rules change would only apply to executive branch nominees. "We're not touching judges. That is what they were talking about. This is not judges. This is not legislation. This is allowing the people of America to have a president who can have his team, to have his team in place. This is nothing like went on before," Reid said.
In a separate "Meet the Press" interview following Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also pointed to the 2005 experience and said it should show Reid that forging ahead with the changes would be detrimental to the chamber.
"I'm glad we didn't do it," McConnell said. "We went to the brink and we pulled back because cooler heads prevailed, and we knew it would be a mistake for the long-term future of the Senate and the country."
McConnell said that same thinking should apply now. "I hope we'll come to our senses and not change the core of the Senate," he said. "We have never changed the rules of the Senate by breaking the rules of Senate in order to diminish the voices of individual senators. We've never done that, and we sure shouldn't start it now."
But the Kentucky Republican did soften his tone a bit from last week, when he said Reid would be remembered as the "worst leader of the Senate ever" if he went forward with the rules changes.
"He's a reasonable man, he's a good majority leader," McConnell said of Reid. "And we're going to have a chance to air all of this out in a joint conference with all of our members Monday, and I'm hoping we won't make this big mistake."
Politico's Manu Raju and Josh Bresnahan look at how the relationship between Reid and McConnell has soured in recent years. They also outline how the most recent disagreement came about:
From McConnell's perspective, both he and Reid have long been on the same page when it comes to protecting the Senate's traditions, which have grown more important with the death of fierce institutional defenders like Robert Byrd. During the past two years, Reid had headed off a push by more junior Democrats to dramatically weaken the filibuster, opting instead to cut bipartisan deals with McConnell without invoking the nuclear option. But now, McConnell believes, Reid has gone back on his word.
Indeed, when news leaked that Reid was considering changing the filibuster rules, McConnell confronted Reid about his plans. In a private exchange, McConnell asked Reid directly if he would use the nuclear option, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Reid wouldn't tell McConnell what he would do, sources say, marking a bit of a role reversal. In private conversations, Reid has long had the habit of fully laying out his line of thinking to McConnell, while the GOP leader often keeps his cards close to his vest, according to insiders privy to those talks.
But this time, Reid wouldn't say what he planned, angering McConnell.
The Washington Post's Paul Kane, meanwhile, spoke with current and former members of the Senate who "paint a mostly dismal picture" of life in the chamber:
There is a growing sense of despair among the rank-and-file senators, who privately grouse that the two leaders, despite many similarities in style and background, have become so distrustful of one another they barely speak to each other, except for small talk about their shared love of the Washington Nationals.
One GOP senator last week pleaded with McConnell to reach out to Reid to establish some regular channel of communication, maybe a biweekly breakfast, to try to solve their problems. McConnell declined, saying he simply could not trust Reid, according to the Senate Republican, who asked for anonymity to speak about the relationship.
Last month all 100 members of the Senate sat in their seats to vote on an immigration bill that passed with strong bipartisan support. The comity of that day seems like a distant memory given the partisan rancor of last week. The outcome of Monday's meeting will signal which direction the Senate is headed in for the remainder of the year.
George Zimmerman was acquitted Saturday for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Since then, the government's response has been cautious as pressure mounts from civil rights groups and protestors.
President Obama asked for communities to be thoughtful on ending gun violence. The White House released this statement Sunday night:
The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that's a job for all of us. That's the way to honor Trayvon Martin.
The NAACP is urging a stronger reaction from the government, in the form of a civil rights probe. On Sunday talk shows, NAACP President Ben Jealous called for the Department of Justice to investigate Zimmerman's actions. His words added momentum to protests in major cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., Sunday and to onlinepetitions on the White House site from people unhappy with Zimmerman's acquittal. Those petitions still need tens of thousands of signatures to elicit a formal response from the government.
The Justice Department is looking into bringing hate crime charges against Zimmerman but could face a high bar for proving his motivations, the New York Times reports.
"Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction," the department's statement said.
The Hill newspaper writes the department's decision could be especially difficult for Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's first African-American to hold that position. Holder's leadership has become a flashpoint for conservatives and others after the department guarded information on a failed gun-tracking operation and, in a separate situation, subpoenaed journalists' phone records.
The matter could become more politicized as Democratic officials, including two representatives from Tennessee and New York, voiced support for DOJ charges against Zimmerman, the Hill also noted.
The NewsHour has a roundup of protests, including those that took place in D.C., following the verdict in this liveblog. Here's a second NewsHour liveblog from when the trial's news broke Saturday night.
The Department of State isn't disclosing how much it spent on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's travels one year after Bloomberg News filed a Freedom of Information request.
Phone companies charge the U.S. government hundreds of dollars every time it wants to wiretap phone calls, the Associated Press reports.
The New Hampshire Union Leader's John DiStaso reports Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will headline a New Hampshire GOP fundraiser next month.
Could Cruz become U.S. president even though he was born in Canada? The Houston Chronicle tracks the legal precedent on birtherism and the presidency.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced he will run for governor.
The Great Falls Tribune of Montana investigates former Gov. Brian Schweitzer's ties to dark money groups.
And Schweitzer, a popular Democrat in a red state, said he won't run for the seat to be vacated by Sen. Max Baucus in 2014.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is keeping quiet the names of candidates for a seat on the state's Court of Appeals.
Retiring Boston mayor Tom Menino will publish a book on his 20-year mayoral career.
The Los Angeles Times reported about Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's new gig as head of the University of California system.
Democrats are charging that the IRS also unfairly targeted liberals.
Rob Christensen of the Charlotte Observer looks at how North Carolina's conservative General Assembly has shifted the approach of Gov. Pat McCrory.
The Washington Post's Paul Farhi explains the Koch brothers' online public relations strategy.
Bloomberg reports on the financial pinch abortion clinics now face in Texas since the state passed a controversial law restricting them.
NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshowMark Shields and David Brooks spoke with Judy Woodruff on Friday about the prospects for immigration reform, the debate over the farm bill, and the push to change the rules of the Senate.
Watch here or below:Watch Video Mark and David also discussed Sarah Palin's potential Senate bid in Alaska and Los Angeles Dodgers rookie phenom Yasiel Puig with Hari Sreenivasan in the Doubleheader.
Watch here or below:Watch Video
How could Jay Gatsby make millions in "The Great Gatsby"? An economist explores the upward mobility in society that allows for the plot in this classic book in this Making Sense post on income inequality.
Also in the Making Sense income inequality series, a former George W. Bush administration economic adviser explains why the country has a 1 percent.
We ask, how do you wash your hair in space?
Political Editor Christina Bellantoni asked the hugging saint for a mantra.
This week's cover: Weiner?! Spitzer?! pic.twitter.com/UsjK9atYqE— New York Magazine (@NYMag) July 15, 2013
Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.
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By Larry Kotlikoff
Americans don't understand what their retirement incomes will look like. We could learn from the pension system in New Zealand, pictured above, where people have a better idea of what future benefits to expect, argues Larry Kotlikoff. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Beccaplusmolly.
Larry Kotlikoff's Social Security original 34 "secrets", his additional secrets, his Social Security "mistakes" and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we now feature "Ask Larry" every Monday. We are determined to continue it until the queries stop or we run through the particular problems of all 78 million Baby Boomers, whichever comes first. Kotlikoff's state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its "basic" version.
Julian -- Denver, Colo.: My ex-spouse passed away four years ago at age 58. I'm now 62 and not working. Will taking survivor benefits affect my own benefit?
Larry Kotlikoff: If you take benefits now, they will be permanently reduced by 19 percent compared to if you waited to take them at your survivor full retirement age. Why did I put this in italics? Because one's full retirement age for collecting survivor benefits can, depending on when you are born, be different than your full retirement age for collecting retirement benefits. (Compare the first column in these two charts to see this difference: Retirement Planner: Benefits by Year of Birth and Social Security Benefit Amounts for the Surviving Spouse by Year of Birth. In your case, your two full retirement ages are both 66.)
If you worked in the past and your full retirement survivor benefit exceeds your age-70 retirement benefit, you'll most likely want to take your permanently reduced retirement benefit now and wait until full retirement age to take your survivor benefit. Or if your retirement benefit at 70 exceeds your survivor benefit at full retirement, you'll most likely want to take your permanently reduced survivor benefit now (not at full retirement age), and wait until 70 to take your retirement benefit.
In the first case, when you reach 66, you'll stop collecting your retirement benefit and start collecting your survivor benefit, so the fact that the retirement benefit is permanently reduced is not a big deal since you aren't permanently getting it anyway. Note: Social Security language caveat coming below.MORE FROM LARRY KOTLIKOFF: What Happens to My Spouse's Social Security Benefit If I Die?
In the second case, you'll stop collecting your survivor benefit at 70 and start collecting your retirement benefit, so the fact that the survivor benefit is permanently reduced is not a big deal either. In other words, it will be reduced for plenty of years when you aren't receiving it anyway.
Now, once you are collecting your retirement benefit and your survivor benefit at the same time, Social Security will, as intimated, give you the larger of the two. But, if your survivor benefit exceeds your retirement benefit, Social Security will officially report to you that you are receiving your retirement benefit plus your survivor benefit. In fact, however, your survivor benefit will be redefined to be the excess survivor benefit, which will, in turn, be defined to be the survivor benefit less your retirement benefit.
In other words, the Social Security Administration will make you think you are receiving your retirement benefit when you really aren't because they want to create the illusion people are getting back something on their own account in exchange for their years of contributing Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes. This practice drives me nuts because I find it highly deceptive and terribly unfair.
Paul, however, thinks this system is the price we pay for a pluralistic democracy, which is inevitably messy. Therefore, he thinks, we are destined to have a basic retirement system that no one can understand and that misleads us about our incentive to work.
But, there's a very good counterexample to prove I'm right and Paul's, well -- educable is a word that comes to mine. It's New Zealand, which features a very stable democracy with a social security system that has only one rule (ours has thousands). Their rule is this: When you reach 65, you receive the same amount in benefits as everyone else 65 and older who enjoys the same marital status and living arrangement.
You can go to this website to look up your benefit. So why is the New Zealand pension system (they call it superannuation) so simple, while ours is so devilishly complicated?
My hunch is that our system reflects, in part, the inability of our two parties to publicly agree that they agree. They love to pretend that they have huge policy differences, and one way to maintain this pretext, while actually agreeing about what should be done, is to have institutions that are so complex that no one can figure out what's happening. Each side can claim that provisions that seem to go against their political positions were imposed by the other side or forced on them as part of an unsavory political compromise required to obtain a greater good.
A different explanation is that the bureaucrats have, over the years, just captured our fiscal institutions, making them as complex as possible to ensure their continued employment as "experts."
And yet a third explanation is that social engineers, on both the right and the left, have made the system so complex in order to achieve their ends without anyone being able to see what they were doing. Whatever really underlies the 2,728 rules in Social Security's handbook and the tens of thousands of rules in its Program Operating Manual System (POMS) that "clarify" the 2,728 rules, our Social Security system as currently designed is a travesty that leaves most of us largely in the dark about our retirement incomes.
Steve Moore -- Richmond, Va.: The Social Security Administration says that I am now receiving the maximum benefits that I would get at age 66 and that there will be no other increase when I reach 66. So it seems the four or five years prior to gradual increase does not offer what they say?
Larry Kotlikoff: If you are disabled, the disability benefit you receive before full retirement age will become your full retirement benefit when you reach your full retirement age. So if you are disabled, Social Security spoke with "unforked tongue." (I just saw "The Lone Ranger," so you'll have to forgive the metaphor. I mean that they told you the truth.) However, what they probably didn't tell you is that at full retirement age, you can withdraw your retirement benefit and then take it at 70, when it will be 32 percent larger, adjusted for inflation, than its current value. I discussed how Social Security treats the disabled here.
If you aren't disabled, I'd need more information to make sense of what the Social Security staff told you. But my general rule is never go strictly by what anyone from Social Security told you unless she or he is a "technical expert," which is a special title for the experts in Social Security who really know their stuff. It is our great fortune to have Jerry Lutz, a former technical expert with the Social Security Administration, checking all of my answers to readers' questions. Jerry has taught me buckets and kept me from a number of goofs -- each to my considerable chagrin since I was sure I knew it all before he began correcting me.
Michael Riggan -- Oak Hill, Va.: My sister's husband died 10 years ago at age 54. My sister is a retired Texas teacher and collects retirement benefits. She has only been able to collect about $300 per month from his Social Security benefits due to a law that restricts payments if collecting teacher retirement. Is there anything she can do to collect more?
Larry Kotlikoff: The Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision is reducing your sister's survivor benefit. This provision can reduce or even wipe out spousal and survivor benefits available to current, divorced or surviving spouses who worked in non-covered employment. It reduces spousal and survivor benefits by two thirds of the pension the current, ex or surviving spouse receives from non-covered employment.
If your sister's pension is not indexed to inflation, her Social Security benefit should rise each year over and above its inflation (cost of living) adjustment since the GPO offset of two-thirds of her non-covered pension won't keep pace with inflation.
CJ -- Prineville, Ore.: I was married to my ex-husband for 14 years. When he dies, can I receive survivor benefits, even if he has remarried?
Larry Kotlikoff: Yes, provided you don't remarry before age 60. And you can receive spousal benefits based on his earnings record, provided you aren't remarried when you seek to collect them. Your ex has to be 62 before you can collect your spousal benefits on his work record. And he either has to be collecting his own retirement benefit or you have to have been divorced for at least two years before you can file for a spousal benefit. The other condition for your filing for a spousal benefit is that you must be at least age 62.
Tammy K. -- Lansing, Mich.: Shortly after we married, my husband suffered a traumatic brain injury and is now disabled and collecting Social Security. Two years after the injury, we had our first daughter. When our second daughter arrived dramatically, she was diagnosed with a neurometabolic disorder, and she is autistic as well. Can I apply for Social Security for my children due to my husband's disability? Or may I apply just for our second daughter because of her disabilities? I'm a teacher, so we don't qualify for most forms of support, but we are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Thanks for the advice.
Larry Kotlikoff: Paul and I both feel for you. You should be able to receive a spousal benefit starting immediately because you have a child of the worker in your care. Your disabled child should be able to receive a child benefit, and your non-disabled child should be able to receive a child benefit as well if he or she is 17 or younger or 19 and younger and still in school.
Austin's music industry brings in about $2 billion a year to the local economy, but a lot of musicians themselves do not earn enough to cover their basic health care needs.
Get close enough to downtown Austin, Texas, and it's not hard to hear why it's called the "Live Music Capital of the World."
Get a little closer, and the musicians themselves tell a quieter story.
Take John Pointer. He's a beat-boxing, boot-stomping singer-songwriter who also happens to have Type 1 diabetes. Like most musicians in Austin, he makes less than $16,000 per year, and he can't afford health insurance.
"So many people said, 'Well, then just get a job,'" Pointer said. "But I think the 10 Austin Music Awards, and the national television commercials, and the stages on which I've performed, and the audiences that come to see me would disagree that I should just quit and get a job that gives me health care."
Having diabetes made it difficult for Pointer to find an affordable primary care doctor in Austin. He was paying several hundred dollars a month for coverage in the state's high-risk insurance pool -- an amount that consumed much of his take-home cash.
Listen to John Pointer's "The Flame":
Then one day, Pointer decided to check into an unusual program designed for people like him. It's called the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, or HAAM.
Similar in some ways to an insurance company, the group connects with area health providers, works out reimbursement rates and helps keep out-of-pocket costs for members manageable.
HAAM executive director Carolyn Schwarz says it's the least this city can do.
"The music industry brings in about $2 billion to our economy," she said. "The musicians themselves are very low-income, and our businesses rely on music."
Schwarz helped launch HAAM in 2005 and continues to run the group today. She's quick to point out that despite the similarities, HAAM isn't health insurance.
Musicians making less than 250 percent of the poverty level are linked directly with health care providers offering reduced rates for everything from primary care to vision and hearing. HAAM pays for most of the extra costs through grants and fundraising.
"What we've done is we've leveraged resources that were already in the community, serving working poor and we've carved out some spaces to serve the musicians," Schwarz said. "So it does only help the musicians while they're here in Austin but our musicians had nothing before HAAM."
Listen to Ginger Leigh's "Better Than Well":
The noteworthy result, according to musician Ginger Leigh, is knowing that an unexpected health disaster won't lead to financial ruin. Before HAAM, she spent many years uninsured and hoping for the best.
"I was mostly terrified," she said. "And I wouldn't go to doctors as much as I probably should have because when you can't afford it, you're afraid they're going to find something that's a really big problem and all of a sudden your entire life is going to change because you're going to be strapped with hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills if it is something."
That very easily could have been Leigh's story. But she discovered HAAM a couple of years before she found a lump in her right breast.
Many procedures followed, including a lumpectomy, a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. But to Leigh's relief, most of that was paid for through small copays, the charity care donated by a local health group and HAAM.
"I would have financially been completely devastated to have had to walk away with $130-$150,000 in medical expenses," she said. "And I certainly couldn't keep doing music to pay for that."
Leigh is now cancer-free.
So could this kind of setup be replicated in other parts of the country? Soul singer Akina Adderley doesn't see why not. She's one of 3,000 musicians who have accessed HAAM's benefits so far. More join every day.
Listen to Akina Adderley & The Vintage Playboys' "Say Yes":
Even though some young adults say they don't need health coverage, most of those enrolled in HAAM are 40 or younger, healthy and hoping to stay that way.
"Because being able to get up and get out and perform in shows and record on albums, that's our livelihood," Adderley said. "Without access to medication or treatment or therapy or things of that nature, when it comes right down to it, when you get sick, you are just out and not getting any income in or taking proactive steps to make yourself better."
It's not clear what the impact will be on organizations like HAAM when the rest of the health care reform law goes live. In Texas, the future is especially murky because officials say they won't expand Medicaid to cover more low-income Americans.
But whatever happens, for the musicians of tomorrow, there's a health care option out there they can afford -- if only within Austin's famous city limits.
Videography by Lizzie Chen, Chase Martinez, Jason Kane and Matt Franklin.
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By Matthea Harvey
We've never taken anyone buttoned up and trotting from point A to point B--subway to office, office to lunch, fretting over the credit crunch. Not the ones carefully maneuvering their watchamacalits alongside broken white lines, not the Leash-holders who take their Furries to the park three point five times per day. If you're an integer in that kind of equation, you belong with your Far-bits on the ground. We're seven Staryears past calculus, so it's the dreamy ones who want to go somewhere they don't know how to get to that interest us, the ones who will stare all day at a blank piece of paper or square of canvas, then peer searchingly into their herbal tea. It's true that hula hoops resemble the rings around Firsthome, and that when you spin, we chime softly, remembering Oursummer, Ourspring and our twelve Otherseasons. but that's not the only reason (Do we like rhyme? Yes we do. Also your snow, your moss, your tofu-- our sticky hands make it hard for us to put things down). Don't fret, dreamy spinning ones with water falling from your faces. It's us you're waiting for and we're coming.
Matthea Harvey is the author of "Modern Life" (Graywolf, 2007), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times Notable Book. Her previous books include "Sad Little Breathing Machine" (Graywolf, 2004) and a children's book, "The Little General and the Giant Snowflake" (Tin House Books, 2009). She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and is a contributing editor to jubilat, Meatpaper and BOMB.
Disgraced former New York politicians Eliot Spitzer, left, and Anthony Weiner are looking to make their comebacks. Spitzer, the former governor, is now running for the office of New York City comptroller while the former U.S. congressman is running for mayor of New York. These men are only recent examples in a long history of New York politicians who have had to redefine their careers after scandal. Anthony Weiner photo by Mario Tama/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
Before Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal, before Anthony Weiner's ill-fated selfies, New York's notorious politicians included "Boss" Tweed, whose image is most notable remembered wearing 19th century prison pinstripes and David Matthews, a Tory mayor of New York who was arrested for plotting to kidnap then-Gen. George Washington in 1776.
Historically, New York politics is a cavalcade of scandals.
As disgraced former officeholders Weiner and Spitzer campaign for their return to political office, the NewsHour sifted through New York's distant past for some state officeholders who got a "second chance" (with varying degrees of success).
Illustration published in 1859 Harper's Weekly that depicted the homicide of Philip Barton Key II by congressman Daniel Sickles. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.
The congressman who murdered the son of an American hero
The political career of Daniel Edgar Sickles was equal parts achievement and scandal. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat from New York in the years leading up to the Civil War. Before that, he was a New York state assemblyman and senator. In 1859, he shot dead Philip Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key, who penned "The Star-Spangled Banner."
In broad daylight, across from the White House, and in front of several witnesses, Sickles drew his pistol on Key, who was reportedly his wife's lover, and said, "You have dishonored my bed and family, you scoundrel -- prepare to die!" But the congressman was acquitted of murder charges in what was the first successful use of the temporary insanity defense.
It wasn't the murder that stalled Sickles' career in Washington. At the end of the 20-day trial, the congressman was greeted with congratulations outside the court. The backlash came when the congressman publicly forgave his wife months later for the affair. When Sickles returned for the fall session of Congress, diarist Mary Chesnut observed, "He was left to himself as if he had smallpox."
But Sickles resuscitated his reputation when he received the Medal of Honor in 1987 as the "Hero of Gettysburg," who lost his leg in the battle. Eventually, the decorated general would regain enough momentum to become a state representative again from 1893 to 1895, not before going through another set of scandals, among them, an affair with Queen Isabella II of Spain.
Photo of the short-lived New York governor, William Sulzer. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress
The only New York governor to be impeached
After less than 10 months into his two-year term as governor, William Sulzer was impeached in 1913, found guilty on three of eight counts. The charges included failure to report thousands in campaign contributions. A day after he was removed from office, Sulzer said in a speech that his ouster was due to his defiance of Tammany Hall. "Had I obeyed the boss, instead of my oath to office, I would still be the governor," he said.
Sulzer's defiance stemmed mainly from his refusal to work with Charles F. Murphy, the boss of Tammany Hall, on state appointments. And Sulzer's anti-Tammany rhetoric was consistent during his short-lived tenure as governor. Months earlier, Sulzer interviewed with a New York Times reporter, warning of Tammany machinations. The resulting headline was not subtle: "Plot to Murder Me, Says Sulzer." Sulzer said he was accosted in public and sent threatening letters by his political enemies.
According to the Times, Sulzer's popularity didn't immediately diminish after his impeachment. Prior to taking office, Sulzer had served in the New York State Assembly. And like a homecoming fit for a "great war hero," Sulzer was greeted by more than 15,000 people at the start of his campaign for re-election to the assembly. Just weeks after his impeachment, Sulzer reclaimed his assembly seat.
He ran again for the New York gubernatorial election in 1914, but lost. He also attempted to grab a third party nomination for president in 1916, but lost that as well. From there, Sulzer's political career dropped off.
The mayor who sought refuge in Mexico
William O'Dwyer made headlines for cracking down on the underworld, namely mobsters from the crime syndicate, Murder, Inc. But it was also an association with organized crime that was his undoing later in his career.
Photo of New York's 100th mayor, William O'Dwyer. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress
The Irish immigrant was a Brooklyn policeman, lawyer and -- after an unsuccessful New York mayoral bid in 1941 -- a brigadier general before he became a milestone as the city's 100th mayor in 1946. By the end of his first term in 1948, he was on the cover of Time magazine.
Shortly after, President Harry Truman named O'Dwyer as ambassador to Mexico "amid a cloud of accusations that were never fully answered." Despite this, O'Dwyer was given a farewell parade in Manhattan. O'Dwyer remained in Mexico -- even after he resigned as ambassador two years later -- until 1960.
There are tens of thousands of Eritrean migrants living in Israel. They are rarely granted work permits and now, due to a year-old immigration law, every migrant who crosses the border is imprisoned for a minimum of three years. Some may be held indefinitely. Photo By Eyal Benyaish
The Israeli government released 14 Eritreans from a detention facility in southern Israel and flew them back to Eritrea, via Turkey, according to rights groups in Israel.
The 14 Eritreans left the country voluntarily, after receiving $1,500 and signing consent forms, said Sigal Rozen of Israel's Hotline for Migrant Workers, an NGO that supports the African migrants staying in Israel.
"These people have been detained for more than a year," said Rozen. "Every day during that time, immigration officers come to them and say that the only way out of prison is for them to go back to their own country."
Since 2006, some 60,000 refugees, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have come to Israel. About 2,000 are currently being held in Saharonim detention facility. Last month, PBS NewsHour published an in-depth report about how and why these migrants came to Israel, as well as some of the troubling conditions they found upon arrival.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office directed queries about the Eritreans to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment. On Sunday, Netanyahu released a statement on the matter, saying that his administration had "blocked the phenomenon of illegal migration" and is now "focusing on the issue of repatriating the illegal migrants who are already (here). We are doing so while respecting all legal and international norms; we are acting very responsibly and very determinedly."
Earlier this year, the Israeli government completed a 144-mile fence along the country's southern border, where many African migrants previously gained entry into Israel.
The U.N. has criticized the return policy. William Tall, the representative in Israel for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees told the news website Haaretz that prisoners his office interviewed in Saharonim said that the Israeli government had given them a choice: three more years in the detention facility or a one-way ticket home.
"Agreement to return to Eritrea under an ultimatum of jail ... can't be considered voluntary by any criterion. It is explicitly not voluntary return," Tall told the daily.
GWEN IFILL: The acquittal of George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin echoed across the country today. The nation's chief law enforcement officer weighed in, amid protests against the verdict and demands for federal action.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: We are also mindful of the pain felt by our nation surrounding the tragic, unnecessary shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
GWEN IFILL: Attorney General Eric Holder used a Washington speech to address the outcome of the Zimmerman trial and to issue an appeal.
ERIC HOLDER: I believe this tragedy allows another opportunity for this nation to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally charged issues that this case has raised.
We must not as we have too often in the past let this opportunity pass.
GWEN IFILL: The Justice Department is reviewing possible civil rights charges against Zimmerman, but Holder gave no indication of what the decision would be.
ERIC HOLDER: I want to assure you that the department will continue to act in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law.
GWEN IFILL: Zimmerman insisted all along that he acted in self-defense in his confrontation with the 17-year-old Martin, who was unarmed. Late Saturday, a six-woman jury acquitted the neighborhood watch volunteer of both second-degree murder and manslaughter.
WOMAN: We, the jury, find George Zimmerman not guilty.
GWEN IFILL: In the hours that followed, protesters gathered in cities across the country demonstrating against what they viewed as a miscarriage of justice, from Florida.
PROTESTER: I'm a black youth, and just to see one black youth die, that's crazy. It's like, when is it going to stop? It's been going on for too long.
GWEN IFILL: To Ohio.
BRIA MCNAIR, protester: I was hurt by it just because I didn't feel that justice was served. Even though it may have been in self-defense, I think he should have had to accept some responsibility for what he did.
GWEN IFILL: To Arizona.
TAJ LOO, protester: It's so important that we be able to trust that the laws that our nation has apply to all of us equally for us to all be able to buy into the system.
GWEN IFILL: Others interviewed around the country said the jury got it right.
WOMAN: I don't think the prosecution did enough and I think that the defense did.
JAMES TAFELSKI, supporter of the Zimmerman verdict: You see little bits and pieces and you have to speculate and think of the whole trial, just from those little pieces, whereas the jury, they look at the whole trial. They see all the evidence and they have everything to consider.
GWEN IFILL: For the most part, the crowds who came out to protest the verdict were peaceful, but there were scattered incidents. Late Saturday, in Oakland, California, demonstrators vandalized buildings and smashed car windows.
And last night groups of protesters in Los Angeles threw rocks and bottles at police. Six people were arrested for failing to disperse.
President Obama acknowledged the emotionally charged verdict in a weekend statement.
It read in part:
"This case has elicited strong passions, but we are a nation of laws and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son."
Today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, the president will play no role in whether to pursue federal charges against George Zimmerman.
But civil rights organizations and others are pressing action, with plans to hold 100 vigils and rallies at federal buildings across the country this Saturday.
Trayvon Martin's family also had the option of filing a civil suit against Zimmerman.
KWAME HOLMAN:A top U.S. diplomat urged Egypt's interim leaders today to include all parties in a transition to democracy.Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is the first senior American official to visit Cairo since the army ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
Burns met today with the interim president and the head of the military.Afterward, he said the U.S. wants all sides to work together, so Egypt can succeed.
Burns' arrival in Cairo came as thousands of Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi demonstrated again.They waved flags and pictures demanding his return to power.
U.S. officials insisted today President Obama remains committed to arming rebels in Syria.They played down a New York Times report that the effort is much more limited than first discussed.The report said the CIA will provide only small arms on a limited basis, and that it could take months for the program to affect the battlefield.
The full U.S. Senate went behind closed doors this evening in a bid to avoid all-out fracture over filibusters and Senate rules.Democratic Leader Harry Reid said Republicans must allow confirmation of seven presidential nominees they have blocked so far.If not, Reid says majority Democrats will change Senate rules, instituting an up-or-down simple majority vote for such appointments.
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin made the Democrats' case.
SEN. TOM HARKIN, D-Iowa:If we're doing our constitutional duty, we would confirm all of these nominees today -- nominees tomorrow and move on to our legislative work, so why aren't we doing that?
Well, because my friends on the Republican side are hijacking these nominations and this nomination process to try to make changes to laws they know they could not change through regular order.
KWAME HOLMAN: The move wouldn't affect current rules that require a supermajority of 60 votes to break filibusters against other Senate action.But Republicans, including Jeff Flake of Arizona, argued even the limited change would do long-term damage to the Senate.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R-Ariz.:The rule change that is being considered this week is more far-reaching and more significant than has been advertised.This rule change was described this afternoon by the majority leader as a -- quote -- "minor change, no big deal."
It is a big deal.It has the potential to change this institution in ways that are both hazardous and unforeseen.
KWAME HOLMAN: Senators still could reach an agreement on the president's pending nominees and avoid the rules change.
The U.S. Air Force is putting a number of its combat planes back in the air after grounding them in April.Budget cuts forced a third of active-duty combat planes to be parked, from fighters to bombers to airborne radar planes.The return to flying comes after Congress allowed the Pentagon to shift money from lower priority accounts to training.
On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 20 points to close at 15,484.The Nasdaq rose seven points to close at 3,607.
Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we come back to the Zimmerman verdict and some of the questions resonating in the wake of the decision.
We get four views.
Christina Swarns is director of the criminal justice practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Jelani Cobb is a contributor to TheNewYorker.com and director of the Institute of African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut. He has been writing on the trial.
Jonathan Turley is professor of law at George Washington University Law School.
And Carol Swain is a professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt Law School.
We thank you, all four.
And I want to ask each one of you the same question, starting with you, Christina Swarns.
Was justice done here?
CHRISTINA SWARNS, NAACP Legal Defense Fund: No. I think that's quite clear. Justice wasn't done.
I don't think you can say when a child is walking down the street, doing nothing wrong and buying candy and ice tea, and gets shot and killed in the street largely because he is African-American and there no one accountable for that death is justice. I think it's quite clear that, no, justice wasn't done in this case.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Carol Swain, how do you see it? Was justice done?
CAROL SWAIN, Vanderbilt University: I think our legal system worked the way it was supposed to work and that there are many facts about the case that's not being discussed in the media because it doesn't fit with the race agenda.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we can get to some of those factors that you think are not being discussed in just a minute.
But, let me ask you, Jelani Cobb, do you believe justice done?
JELANI COBB, contributor to TheNewYorker.com: Absolutely not. I don't think justice was done.
We do have this right, the right to -- Fourth Amendment right, freedom from unconstitutional search and seizure, which we generally think applies to the police, but what we have in Florida is a state of affairs where people have effectively been deputized in light of this verdict to stop African-American youth anywhere under any circumstances and demand to know what they're up to and what they're doing and possibly at the penalty of death.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Jonathan Turley, hearing what the other three have said, how do you answer the question?
JONATHAN TURLEY, George Washington University: I think the problem is that this case has become a vehicle for issues that go far beyond what happened in the courtroom.
I think when we talk about justice, we are talking about often overriding questions of race in America and these issues that have been unresolved for decades.
But if you look at justice as to whether due process occurred, whether a fair trial occurred, the answer I think is clearly yes.
This isn't Scottsboro 1931 Alabama. This was a determined prosecution. Many people felt were -- actually overplayed the case to try to get a conviction. I think it was a fair trial. And the result I think was predictable.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Christina Swarns, pick up on that and size up for us the -- whether you think the prosecution did the job that it should have done in handling the case.
CHRISTINA SWARNS: Well, I would want to first pick up on the point that was just made.
You know, it's quite clear that Mark O'Mara did a good job representing his client. He obviously out-lawyered the prosecution in this case. So, in that regard, the outcome is predictable.
And with respect to what the prosecution did in this case, I think there were several serious errors made, the first being that it allowed -- it was -- the issue of race was taken out of the courtroom and then ultimately, in closing, said that it wasn't a question of race in this case.
And I think that was a significant error and a significant false fact, really. The second thing I would point out is, you know, the jury selection in this case, I don't understand how the prosecution believed that a jury of six white women was going to be favorable to its case against Mr. Zimmerman.
So I think that was another error. Several of the witnesses that they presented clearly appeared to be unprepared or underprepared to present a strong case against Mr. Zimmerman.
So I think there are a lot of issues and errors in terms of how the prosecution handled this case.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Carol Swain, how do you see that, what the prosecution did and whether mistakes were made?
CAROL SWAIN: I think that everything was set up to be favorable for the prosecution, and that the six women were selected because it was assumed that they would be favorable, and at times it seemed as if the judge leaned towards the prosecution.
So, I think that there was a fair trial. It probably wouldn't have been brought to court at all if -- certainly, race was always a part of it. So there's no way to pretend that it wasn't about race. It was always about race.
If it had been the same case involving two black men or two white men, it wouldn't be national news. And so it was racialized from the very beginning.
If we had focused on the fact that this was a confrontation between two ethnic minorities that tragically ended in a death, we wouldn't be here discussing it right now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, to you, Jelani Cobb, on that point about whether race was clearly a part of this trial. We know the judge said at the outset that the attorneys were not to use the term racial profiling.
JELANI COBB: Right.
If I can just respond to Carol Swain's previous point about this being racialized, as opposed to race actually being an integral element of it from the beginning, one, there is the case of Marissa Alexander, which some people may be familiar with, who was in a situation where -- a domestic violence situation, she fired a warning shot and has been sentenced to 20 years, despite the fact that she deployed a stand your ground defense.
And so -- also, had this been two white men or two black men, it's doubtful that it would have required 44 days before someone was actually investigated or there were charges brought. And, so, no we can't escape -- and finally the fact of the matter is, Mr. Zimmerman had called the police 46 times in previous six years, only for African-Americans, only for African-American men.
And so if we just look at who he thought was suspicious, and if this was a kind of arbitrary element of calling, since 20 percent of that population of that subdivision is African-American, what his problem seemed to be was with the presence of African-Americans there, not with the presence of crime, or the incapacity to differentiate between African-Americans and crime.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Carol Swain, you want to pick up on that point?
CAROL SWAIN: Unfortunately, unfortunately, if you look at the crime rate of African-Americans, it works against blacks.
And it bothers me a lot that we're not talking about the black-on-black crimes that are taking place in urban cities. We should be concerned about the young men that are dying across America. And the civil rights community ought to be out there marching in those communities, demanding that something different be done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that point, Christina Swarns?
CHRISTINA SWARNS: You know, with -- I obviously agree. Young black men shouldn't be getting killed across this country.
But what happened in Florida to Trayvon Martin was that Mr. Zimmerman looked at him walking down the street with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea and determined that based on factors that he could see this young man was a criminal.
He warranted a call to the police, he warranted being followed, he warranted being followed -- Mr. Zimmerman getting out of his car and following him down the street on foot, notwithstanding the fact that the police department told him not to get out of the car, and notwithstanding the fact that everyone agrees that this young man was doing absolutely nothing wrong.
There was nothing criminal about what he was doing. There was nothing apparently criminal about what he was doing. The only thing ...
CHRISTINA SWARNS: ... about him was that he was black.
CAROL SWAIN: We know from other evidence that the school had apprehended him and found jewelry.
CHRISTINA SWARNS: Mr. Zimmerman knew none of that. Mr. Zimmerman didn't know a single thing about that. All he knew at that moment was that Mr. -- he didn't know anything about this child. This was a teenager walking down the street.
CAROL SWAIN: Well, it certainly doesn't justify the murder.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we're not going to be able to rehear the case here.
So, we hear that both of you have a different perspective.
Jonathan Turley, do you want to comment on what they have just been going back and forth on?
JONATHAN TURLEY: Well, think it's indicative of how much has been piled on this case.
What was striking on this case is how people looked at the same events and came away with surprisingly different views in terms of how effective witnesses were. I think this case was fatally undermined by Angela Corey when she overcharged the case and made it a second-degree murder case.
If she had gone with manslaughter, it could have come out differently.
I think that was a major legal flaw, a bad decision, because the evidence just didn't support it. And it got worse and worse for the prosecutors. They led with a very weak witness who was conflicted and gave testimony that worked heavily towards Zimmerman's favor.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me try to broaden this out.
Jelani Cobb, does this verdict speak in any way to the ability of minorities in this country to get a fair trial?
JELANI COBB: Well, I think this verdict doesn't tell us anything about race and the justice system that we didn't already know.
And what's disturbing about this is, you know, regarding Professor Swain's previous comment, is we have said that the amount of crime in African-American communities somehow or another works against someone, that's endorsing the very logic of racism.
Like, no amount of white crime would allow us to simply make a blanket prima facie assumption that a white person is a criminal.
And so each individual is supposed to be regarded on their own merits. I thought that is what was key to the Constitution and its guarantee of individual rights.
And so in endorsing this kind of profiling, this kind of blanket profiling, the only thing that we will be guaranteed of is more incidents like Trayvon Martin's tragic death in the future.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jonathan Turley, you're shaking your head here.
JONATHAN TURLEY: No. Where I disagree is, is that once again, we seem to be detached from what the evidence was.
This jury at the end of this process knew nothing more of what happened at that fateful night than at the beginning of the trial. There were no witnesses to tip the balance. Essentially, the situation was in equipoise. You had two narratives that had support from different witnesses.
The jury is not there to make a guess and it's certainly not there to make social judgment calls. They didn't have enough to convict. And I know people are frustrated by that. But the system worked. This was a fair trial.
JELANI COBB: May I please respond?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, go ahead.
JELANI COBB: Well, so this wasn't a situation of equipoise, because the fact of the matter is, whatever the conflict was, it was precipitated by Mr. Zimmerman.
The police -- the dispatcher told him not to get out of his vehicle. He proceeded to get out of his vehicle. This is a person who followed someone by car and on foot. And if there was a conflict, if there had been a physical conflict that evolved out of that, it would have been because Mr. Martin felt threatened, which is a justifiable, reasonable presumption.
If anyone is walking down a dark street at night in the rain and someone has followed them in a car and on foot, you might presume that you are actually at risk.
And so if Trayvon Martin struck him first, if Trayvon Martin struck him numerous times, this would be the action of somebody who reasonably feared for his life.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We're going to let Jonathan Turley respond. And then I have a final question for all of you.
JONATHAN TURLEY: Sure. Mr. Cobb, where I disagree with you -- and we can't say that the jury believed Zimmerman or even liked Zimmerman in this decision. They simply didn't have enough to convict Zimmerman.
But the actions you described were legal. He's allowed to get out of his car. He's allowed to follow someone. He's even allowed to be armed.
And I think that people are investing so much in the case that they don't recognize that these were lawful acts, and you have to presume things in this case that a jury's not supposed to presume when there's a presumption of innocence.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to come back to all of you with this final question, starting with you, Christina Swarns.
Should the are civil grand jury pursue a case now against George Zimmerman?
CHRISTINA SWARNS: I believe that they should. I think there's a lot of focus on -- we can pick and pick apart this trial.
And we can say this happened and this didn't happen and this went well and this didn't go well and the justice system worked. But you know what? The truth of the matter here is that a young -- innocent young man was shot dead in the street and no one has been held accountable.
And whether or not there was a fair trial in the terms of the structure of the law, that is not justice. It may have been a fair trial, but that is not justice. And so I think there needs to be a further review.
And we need to think about whether the system is working if this is a fair outcome in the four corners of our justice system.
And so I certainly believe that the federal government should look at it and see what its laws provide, whether, for example, the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crime Act provides an opportunity for further federal prosecution in this case, because whether or not that trial was fair under the law, justice wasn't done in that case.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Carol Swain, should the attorney general pursue a civil case in this matter?
CAROL SWAIN: Absolutely not.
The state has tried the case. We have the rule of law in this country. And the attorney general shouldn't pick and choose, and when there's an outcome that doesn't fit the political narrative of the day, where people have been racialized, they shouldn't jump into that and stir the pot. They should be educating people about the criminal justice system. They should be educating people, not stirring the pot.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We are going to leave it there.
But we want to thank all four of you for joining us, Carol Swain, Christina Swarns, Jelani Cobb, and Jonathan Turley.
GWEN IFILL: Now to the latest efforts to improve factory conditions in Bangladesh, and questions about just how effective they will be.
Jeffrey Brown has the story.
JEFFREY BROWN: It was less than three months ago that the eight-story Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing more than 1,100 workers. The accident near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, was the deadliest ever in the global garment industry.
This month, NewsHour correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro visited the site, where families who loved ones are still grieving.
BILQUIS, family member of victims (through translator): We got the bodies of my older son and daughter-in-law, but they haven't found my younger son.
JEFFREY BROWN: The building collapse came just six months after fire destroyed another building outside Dhaka, killing 112 people. Together, the two disasters put new focus on often dismal conditions at apparel factories in Bangladesh, many of which produce clothing for U.S. and European retailers.
Last week in Washington, representatives of some of those retailers, including Walmart, The Gap, and Target, announced a new partnership to improve working conditions.
JAY JORGENSEN, Walmart: We stand here today because we believe that companies and government have a responsibility to ensure that the tragedies that occurred in Bangladesh are not repeated. And we believe that if we work together we can prevent and fix unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh.
JEFFREY BROWN: The new group known as the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety represents 17 U.S. and Canadian retailers. Together, they are responsible for the vast majority of North American apparel imports from Bangladesh.
They say they have raised $42 million for a five-year effort, including creating common safety standards within three months and requiring safety inspections at all Alliance factories within a year.
Target vice president Daniel Duty:
DANIEL DUTY, Target: Alliance members recognize the importance of the garment industry to the Bangladesh economy, its workers and their families.
We also recognize the influential role we can play in unifying to help this industry significantly improve worker safety, which we are determined to do through this alliance.
JEFFREY BROWN: That announcement followed the creation of a separate global effort spearheaded by European retailers the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. It also lays out new safety and other guidelines; 72 companies have already signed on, but most major American companies declined to join.
They say it exposes them to unlimited liability, provides too little accountability for how money is spent, and gives unions too much power.
JEFFREY BROWN: And we fill in and debate the picture now with Avedis Seferian, president and CEO of Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production, or WRAP, an organization created by the American Apparel and Footwear Association, along with buyers and brands around the world, and Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights monitoring organization. His group was involved in hammering out the agreement made by European and global retailers.
For the record, we invited a group specifically representing American retailers to participate, but our invitation was declined.
And, welcome, gentlemen.
Avedis Seferian, first, how important is this new effort by U.S. companies? In what ways may it make a difference?
AVEDIS SEFERIAN, Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production: Well, I think it is very important indeed.
The tragedy at Rana Plaza was such an immense one, and as you noted in lead-in section, the grieving still continues and there's clearly so much work that needs to be done. Any effort that aims at improving factory conditions and making workers' lives safer and working conditions better is one that ought to be welcomed.
JEFFREY BROWN: And yet, Scott Nova, when the announcement came out last week, your group called the effort a sham. Why?
SCOTT NOVA, Workers Rights Consortium: Indeed, because this is a supposed agreement in which none of the participating companies have any obligation to pay a single penny to renovate and repair these death trap factories to make them safe.
This is what has to happen in Bangladesh. You have thousands of factories in this country that are grossly structurally unsafe. The building need to be retrofitted, renovated and repaired to be brought up to the building code in order to prevent future building collapses and fires. This costs money.
The only way this is going to happen is if the major brands and retailers underwrite the costs. That is what the global agreement, the global binding agreement does, requires the brands and retailers to underwrite the costs of the renovations necessary to make the factories safe.
The U.S. brands and retailers have refused to make that commitment.
JEFFREY BROWN: Do you see that in that agreement?
AVEDIS SEFERIAN: No, actually, I don't.
I think that agreement puts in a significant amount of money, as the lead-in section pointed out, over $42 million already, and that's just based on the 17 members currently part of the Alliance. It will increase as more members join.
And that is a significant amount of money being contributed towards a specific plan to identify the factories with problems and make sure that the sourcing practices at those factories are terminated, thus sending a very strong signal to the industry that you only get to work with these major retailers if you have safe working conditions.
JEFFREY BROWN: And -- well, I'm sorry.
AVEDIS SEFERIAN: Plus, on top of that, the Alliance has put aside $100 million as a funding mechanism for financing to make available to the factories to improve those conditions, on top of which, 10 percent of that $42 million has been earmarked to set aside as a workers fund to help workers who may be displaced while these reconstructions and refurbishments are being conducted in the factories.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, is it the money or is it the binding authority to cause the money to be used?
SCOTT NOVA: Sure.
The $42 million is purely the administrative costs of the program. The only reference in the entire initiative that Gap and Walmart and others put forward to money to actually make the factories safe is a supposed $100 million loan program.
But if you read the documents that Gap and Walmart and the other companies put forward, it says very explicitly, this is voluntary. There is no binding obligation on the part of any of these brands and retailers to make loans or otherwise contribute to make the factories safe. Look ...
JEFFREY BROWN: But why not a public spotlight? Why not give them the benefit of the doubt that the spotlight has been shown, that they have ...
SCOTT NOVA: Sure, because we have been hearing the same promises from Walmart, Gap and other U.S. brands and retailers for more than a decade in Bangladesh.
For a decade, they have been promising to inspect their factories and protect worker safety. And they have failed grossly.
If you trust the CEOs of large corporations to do the right thing for workers purely out of the goodness of their hearts, then the Walmart/Gap scheme is a great plan.
If you recognize that we live in the real world, where if you want large corporations to do the right things by workers, you need to require them to do it, then you recognize that this Gap/Walmart scheme is not going to help workers in any way.
JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you to respond to that, because the incentives here of course are to keep costs down. That's the reason why the companies are in Bangladesh to create the lower-cost apparel.
AVEDIS SEFERIAN: Sure.
I think in fact it is precisely that if you are in the real world that you will recognize the value of the Alliance, as opposed to other efforts, because that is exactly built around the kinds of incentives that you are referencing.
This is a market economy and there is always going to be pressure on reducing costs. It shouldn't follow from that that this should lead to unsafe working conditions in factories.
So you need to create the right kinds of incentives in form of a program aimed at identifying factories with problems and making sure those factories do not get sourced from and therefore again sending a very strong signal to everybody else in the industry you cannot get business if you are not keeping your workers safe.
JEFFREY BROWN: No -- yes?
AVEDIS SEFERIAN: On top of which, to a point raised earlier, the $42 million is not entirely administrative. As I mentioned, 10 percent of that, $4.2 million, has been earmarked precisely to go to workers to help them tide over that time when they might be without jobs while the factories in question are being refurbished.
JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you, no matter how you feel about these specific agreements, the two that are on the table, the global and the U.S., how difficult will it be to make a difference, given the number of factories, the enormous sort of structural issues in the way, the corruption, where the money goes, et cetera?
SCOTT NOVA: It can be done. It's a question of money and binding commitments.
Look, we have known how to make an apparel factory safe for more than 100 years. How to do it is a very straightforward problem. There's no huge technical obstacle.
The problem is that for years, the U.S. brands and retailers, European brands and retailers have demanded such low production costs in their factories in Bangladesh that the only way the factories could possibly meet those prices is to ignore worker safety.
That's what created this current disaster. The only way to fix it is to put money in the system from the brands and retailers to pay to renovate and repair the factories and make them safe. This won't happen, given the dynamics of the apparel industry, the cutthroat nature of the industry, the competitive pressures, unless the brands and retailers are contractually obligated to do it.
We can no longer trust promises from brands and retailers to protect worker safety in Bangladesh. They have been promising to do it for more than a decade, and they have failed.
JEFFREY BROWN: Do you think that the path to get there, whatever you think of these specific agreements, is as clear as he is suggesting?
AVEDIS SEFERIAN: No, I don't think it's quite so cut and dried.
I certainly reiterate the point I made earlier, that any plan being put forward to improve conditions in Bangladesh ought to be welcomed. So even though I have been presenting some of the details of the Alliance, that is not to suggest that I disagree with the accord's vision. Both plans are ultimately trying to achieve the same thing, create a safe working environment for factory workers in Bangladesh.
The way to go about it is not quite as cut and dried, as I said. It is going to take money. And so both plans are putting forward serious money. It is going to take money applied in the right way, which is where I think some of the incentives and some of the way of distributing that money is going to become so important.
If you create business incentives, however much we can talk about, you know, mandating stuff, we all know that in the end voluntary efforts on someone's parts are likely to be much more sustainable than being forced to do something.
You create the right business incentives, you create an environment in Bangladesh that makes clear to factory owners that you cannot work with these brands and retailers if you don't have safe factories, you are more likely to achieve the end goal.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we are going to have to leave it there.
Scott Nova, Avedis Seferian, thank you both very much.
SCOTT NOVA: Thank you.
AVEDIS SEFERIAN: Thank you very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, a look at a unique alliance that provides musicians with health care coverage. It's in a state with the nation's highest uninsured rate.
Ray Suarez has our story.
RAY SUAREZ: Get close enough to downtown Austin, Texas, and it's not hard to hear why it's called the live music capital of the world. Get a little closer, and the musicians themselves tell a quieter story.
That's John Pointer on stage now at Antone's Nightclub. He's a beat-boxing, boot-stomping singer-songwriter who also has type 1 diabetes. Like the average Austin musician, he makes less than $16,000 a year, and he can't afford health insurance.
JOHN POINTER, musician: So many people said, well, then just get a job. But I think the 10 Austin Music Awards and the national television commercials and the stages upon which I have performed and the audiences that come to see me would disagree that I should just quit and get a job that gives me health care.
RAY SUAREZ: Having diabetes made it difficult for Pointer to find an affordable primary care doctor in Austin. He was paying several hundred dollars a month for coverage in the state's high-risk insurance pool, an amount that consumed much of his take-home cash.
Then, one day, Pointer decided to check into an unusual program designed for people like him. It's called the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, or HAAM. Similar in some ways to an insurance company, the group connects with area health providers, works out reimbursement rates, and helps keep out-of-pocket costs for members manageable.
HAAM executive director Carolyn Schwarz says it's the least this city can do.
CAROLYN SCHWARZ, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians: The music industry is a $2 billion industry here in Austin. Any night of the week, you can go to one of over 250 venues to go see live music. It's at our grocery stores, it's in clubs, I mean, everywhere you go in Austin. We're just used to having live music. And so I think of any community that would support something like this, Austin is the ideal place.
RAY SUAREZ: Schwarz helped launch HAAM in 2005, and continues to run the group today.
She's quick to point out that, despite the similarities, HAAM isn't health insurance. Musicians making less than 250 percent of the poverty level are linked directly with health care providers offering reduced rates for everything from primary care to vision and hearing. HAAM pays for most of the extra costs through grants and fund-raising.
CAROLYN SCHWARZ: It does only help the musicians while they're here in Austin, but our musicians had nothing before HAAM, and so the method that they used was called the walk-it-off method. With this program, they have access to a 24-hour nurse call center. They're getting urgent care appointments in a primary care setting. It's very cost-effective for our community.
RAY SUAREZ: The noteworthy result, according to musician Ginger Leigh, is knowing that an unexpected health disaster won't lead to financial ruin. Before HAAM, she spent many years uninsured, and hoping for the best.
GINGER LEIGH, musician: And I wouldn't go to doctors as much as I probably should have, because when you can't afford it, you're afraid that they're going to find something that's a really big problem, and all of a sudden your entire life is going to change because you're going to be strapped with hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills if it is something.
RAY SUAREZ: That very easily could have been her story. But Leigh discovered HAAM a couple of years before she found a lump in her right breast.
Many procedures followed, including a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery. But, to Leigh's relief, most of that was paid for through small co-pays, the charity care donated by a local health group and HAAM.
GINGER LEIGH: I would have financially been completely devastated to have had to walk away with $130,000 to $150,000 in medical expenses. And I certainly couldn't keep doing music to pay for that.
RAY SUAREZ: She's now cancer-free.
So could this kind of set-up be replicated in other parts of the country? Soul singer Akina Adderley doesn't see why not. She's one of about 3,000 Austin musicians who have accessed HAAM's benefits so far. More join every day.
And even though some young adults feel they don't need health coverage, most of those enrolled in HAAM are 40 or younger, healthy, and hoping to stay that way.
AKINA ADDERLEY, musician: Being able to get up and get out and perform in shows and record on albums, that's our livelihood. So, without access to medication or treatment or therapy or things of that nature, when it comes right down to it, if you get sick, then if you don't have help, you are just out and just not getting any income in, nor taking proactive steps to make yourself better.
RAY SUAREZ: It's not clear what the impact will be on organizations like HAAM when the rest of the health care reform law goes live.
In Texas, the future is especially murky, because officials say they won't expand Medicaid to cover more low-income Americans. But whatever happens, for the musicians of tomorrow, there's a health care option out there they can afford, if only within Austin's famous city limits.
GWEN IFILL: Now: new revelations on doping in sports and the fallout for one of America's best track and field runners.
The 30-year-old American sprinter Tyson Gay was off to a great start this season after being plagued by injuries in recent years. But on Friday, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, USADA, notified Gay that he had tested positive for an unnamed banned substance in May.
Gay broke the news himself.
In an Associated Press telephone interview, he said:
"I don't have any sabotage story. I don't have any lies. I basically put my trust in someone and I was let down."
It was quite an admission from the former world champion who previously subjected him to enhanced drug testing as part of USADA's My Victory program.
Gay talked about competing clean during a My Victory promotional video in 2008.
TYSON GAY, sprinter: I really believe in fairness, and, besides that, my mom would kill me.
GWEN IFILL: Gay's is the biggest U.S. track name linked to doping since Marion Jones tearfully admitted in 2007 to using performance-enhancing drugs.
MARION JONES, athlete: And so it is with a great amount of shame that I stand before you and tell you that I have betrayed your trust.
GWEN IFILL: It was also reported this weekend that five Jamaican athletes had failed drug tests, including Asafa Powell, a former world record holder in the 100-meter dash, and Sherone Simpson, an Olympic relay gold medalist.
Last month, another Jamaican gold medalist, Veronica Campbell Brown, tested positive as well. All three have denied cheating.
As for Tyson Gay, he has withdrawn from next month's world championships in Moscow and today he lost his Adidas endorsement deal.
For more about Tyson Gay and the issues this raises, we are joined by Christine Brennan, a sports journalist and columnist for USA Today and ABC.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: Thanks, Gwen.
GWEN IFILL: So, how big a blow is this to track and field?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Oh, I think it's huge.
Tyson Gay was known as Mr. Clean. This is a man who went on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Web site, Gwen, and said, I am clean. If I'm not, my mother will kill me.
Well, mom is not happy today, obviously. He went and professed that he is one of the athletes to trust and believe in. He is 30 years old. His whole career has been about this.
And now he has tested positive. It is a devastating blow for the sport, a sport that's already been reeling over the years from Ben Johnson in '88, Marion Jones 10 years ago, and now this. And you really wonder if it is kind of taking and pushing the sport into oblivion.
GWEN IFILL: How about the U.S. track and field in particular? I want to separate that out from what we also heard is happening with Jamaican runners.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Right.
Well, USA track and field has really never been the same after some of the scandals, even though Ben Johnson was Canadian. But you can remember the days -- sports fans certainly can -- when track and field athletes would be on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" three, four, five times a year many.
The names Marty Liquori and Jim Ryun, milers. The Penn Relays were a big deal. This is lore and legend of another generation. But it was a big-time sport. And it has fallen so far. And I think it's really, other than cycling, a sport that has been hit the hardest in the United States and around the world, but U.S., because of the steroid scandals.
If you can't -- if you're looking at a footrace and if you can't trust eight men or eight women running in a footrace, what can you trust? And then why should you watch?
GWEN IFILL: Well, you mentioned cycling. How does this compare to what we saw unfold slowly, painfully over years with Lance Armstrong?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Great question, obviously different issues, because here you have got the one huge name, Lance Armstrong, who lied for years, who also transcended his sport because of his work in the cancer community.
GWEN IFILL: Right.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: So, he was an icon, a cultural icon, not just a sports icon. Tyson Gay that is not that, is not Lance Armstrong.
But I think there's a similarity there. People looking at cycling and saying, why am I watching this? How can I trust this? When you have got all those years of -- and when Lance is kicked out and no one can take the top spot because they all cheated too. And you almost wonder if track and field is there.
GWEN IFILL: What is the punishment for Tyson Gay?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: If he is found to be guilty, a two-year ban, and then it would be lifetime after that, so first offense, two years and second -- now, there can be mitigating circumstances. And we don't yet know if there was a supplement that was tainted.
But the bottom line is he's responsible for what's in his body.
GWEN IFILL: And has said as much. He has said he is not going to lie about this.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: And that is admirable.
In the midst of this terrible turn of events for him and for his sport, he has been honest and said -- at least we believe he's honest -- saying, hey, I'm not going to point fingers. I'm not going to say I was sabotaged. I did this myself. I trusted someone.
Bottom line on Tyson Gay or any athlete, Gwen, is they have to know what they put in their body. It is inexcusable to take a substance and not know the contents. You can call the 24/7 800-number from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and ask about any chemical at any point.
GWEN IFILL: You cover a lot of this, Chris, and you must know after all the years of watching these, people rise and the disappointments, that a lot of sports fans look at this and think, who do I trust? What do I trust anymore? What is the answer to that question?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: It is a great question, because the testing in the Olympic world is the toughest going.
So while we talk about baseball and the problems there, and looming scandal and looming suspensions with the Biogenesis saga there, we talk about other sports that don't even have as stringent testing as the Olympics or baseball, you say at least Olympics have tough testing, and then you see this.
And the reality is Marion Jones never failed a drug test and she is sadly one of the worst cheaters of all times, and Lance Armstrong never failed a drug test. It's hard to look people in the eye and say, what can you trust anymore?
I would like to say swimming. I would like to say you could trust Missy Franklin, you could trust Michael Phelps. But we all know, as we live here, we were not born yesterday, that you start to wonder. I'm not saying Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin, but you start to wonder about anything just because of the nature and the level.
Bad chemists, Gwen, are way ahead of the good chemists in this case.
GWEN IFILL: Business as usual now for elite athletes to dope?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: It seems like, as I said, bad chemists way ahead of the good chemists, the sense that there's designer drugs that we haven't of, that the authorities haven't even begun to test for because they don't know they exist that these athletes might be taking.
It's a very sad -- this is a devastating blow when Mr. Clean, the guy who stood up there and said I am clean, now has tested positive, and the Jamaicans as well.
I would like to say there are some positive aspects or hope, but tougher drug testing has to be the answer and athletes who finally decide they can't cheat anymore.
GWEN IFILL: So disappointing.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: It is.
GWEN IFILL: Christine Brennan, USA Today and ABC, thank you so much.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Gwen, thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, to Mexico, and a personal look at the United States' neighbor to the south through the eyes of a journalist.
Margaret Warner has more.
MARGARET WARNER: Mexico is a country of riches and promise, now the second fastest-growing economy in Latin America, yet it is plagued by violence and corruption fueled by the drug trade that has killed some 80,000 people in the past decade.
A new book by Dallas Morning News correspondent Alfredo Corchado seeks to understand why. Corchado was brought to the United States as a small boy, yet in 1994, he felt drawn to return to Mexico as a journalist. His new book, "Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter's Journey Through a Country's Descent Into Darkness," draws on his nearly 20 years of reporting there, and on his personal relationship with his birth land.
Alfredo Corchado joins me now.
ALFREDO CORCHADO, author of "Midnight in Mexico": Thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: Last time we saw each other was Mexico City.
ALFREDO CORCHADO: Right before the election.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, the book opens with this harrowing tale of you getting a phone tip from a source that saying someone is about to kill an American journalist in the next 24 hours, and your source is convinced it's you. Everyone tells you to get out of Mexico, and you stay to investigate.
Why? What did you think you would learn by trying to follow the thread of who was after you?
ALFREDO CORCHADO: Well, you know, that was a real turning point. We left as -- I was only six years old when we left Mexico, and I always thought I would come back someday.
And my mother always felt that really our opportunity, our prosperity lied in the United States. And I thought, well, Mexico is a country that it's also -- has the potential to give back. So I wanted to go back to Mexico and prove my mother wrong. That evening, I kept thinking, is my mother right? Why do I feel so betrayed by Mexico?
MARGARET WARNER: So what is your conclusion after all these years of coverage about why Mexico descended into this darkness of corruption and a drug trade and violence and killings?
ALFREDO CORCHADO: Well, we had the big change in the year 2000. The opposition government for the first time took office. They kicked out the regime which had governed Mexico for 71 years.
So, essentially, you have the power going from a central power to more to a state level. And suddenly I think organized crime just took advantage of that power vacuum, and the monster came out, if you will.
MARGARET WARNER: You also -- a persistent theme in this book has to do with the Mexican character. And you have just flicked at that a little bit talking about your mother, but you describe a kind of fatalism. And it comes -- it reappears. What do you mean by that?
ALFREDO CORCHADO: As a kid growing up in the U.S., you hear so much about Mexico and the Mexican character. Are we -- is it a culture of corruption? Is it a part of our genes?
I live in Mexico City, but I spend a lot of time on the U.S.-Mexico border. El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States. Yet, Ciudad Juarez for many years was marked as one of the most violent cities. So I think I have always been skeptical about that.
Is it really a culture of fatalism, or is it really a lack of rule of law? Is it weak institutions?
And that's something that has always been a source of my curiosity as a journalist.
MARGARET WARNER: And so what have you concluded?
ALFREDO CORCHADO: I have concluded that, sometimes, amid the worst moments in Mexico, I have seen the best of Mexicans. And I have seen a resilient spirit.
I have seen a people fighting to really construct communities, oftentimes from the ruins of what we have seen in the last few years. A hundred thousand people were either killed or disappeared.
But people, I think -- in some ways, the violence has brought people together. And it's kind of made them try to hold government much more accountable than they have done in the past.
MARGARET WARNER: And now Mexico really does have this rising middle class. I think net migration is down to zero, at least between Mexico and the U.S. There are civil society groups.
Do you take any hope in these trends, that Mexico's -- that the sort of balance will shift, and you will have stronger institutions, and you will have citizens saying, no, we need better here?
ALFREDO CORCHADO: I often feel like, as a journalist, covering Mexico is like covering two countries. There's that troubled side of Mexico, the country where the violence is there.
But there's also, I think, a much more prosperous side of Mexico. I often think, as an American, that someday Americans will miss Mexicans, because the birth rate has gone from seven to two. You don't see Mexicans migrating. It's interesting.
I was just in a region in Central Mexico. People, I asked them, do you have the same desire to migrate like other generations? And they say, well, if I do, it's more of curiosity than out of necessity.
And I think someday there will be a time when Americans say, where are the Mexicans?
MARGARET WARNER: But,I mean, within Mexico, Mexico has a new president now, Enrique Pena Nieto.
Do you see any kind of new era dawning? Or do you think that the two worlds, the two Mexicos will continue to have to coexist, that is, the prosperous rising middle-class economy and this whole other hugely profitable, hugely corrosive underbelly?
ALFREDO CORCHADO: I think, if you ask most Mexicans, they want the others shining -- they want that central part of Mexico to become much more of a -- replicate other parts of the country.
But I think as long as you have the security challenges, the economic potential, the prosperity will be undermined by those challenges. I think, in the end, the question is, can Mexico have peace without justice?
And that's -- as a journalist, I think the next few years will be the most fascinating time to cover. Just how much have Mexicans really changed? I mean, can they hold the old regime accountable?
MARGARET WARNER: And so you're staying?
ALFREDO CORCHADO: I'm staying. I'm staying. I don't have -- it's not that I have a death wish. I'm staying because I really believe in the Mexicans themselves and I believe that the story has to be told.
And I hope that the book, I hope that my reporting continues to serve hopefully as a bridge of understanding between these two countries.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Alfredo Corchado, author of "Midnight in Mexico," thanks.
ALFREDO CORCHADO: Thank you, Margaret.