Notes from Diane Coyle’s “GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History” by Natalie Bennett, at Philobiblon 4:24 pm / 10 March 2014
A short and worthwhile one-sitting read – she can’t help in the end being an economist of her time and place, but she’s at least a critical one…
p. 13-14 Simon Kuznets in the US during the Depression was trying to calculate national income – his figures in January 1934 showed it had halved 1929 to 1932. But he saw his task as trying to measure welfare rather than just output. Quoting him “It would be of great value to have national income estimates that would remove from the total elements which, from the standpoint of a more enlightened social philosophy than that of an acquisitive society represent dis-service rather than service. Such estimates would subtract from the present national income totals all expenses on armaments, most of the outlays on advertising, a great many of the expenses involved in financial and speculative activities, and what is perhaps more important, the outlays that have been made necessary in order to overcome difficulties that are, properly speaking, costs implicit in our economic civilization. All the gigantic outlays in our urban civilisation, subways, expensive housing etc,… do not really represent net services to the individual comprising the nation but are, from their viewpoint, an evil necessary in order to be able to make a living.”
But of course there was a war coming …
“It is startling to look back over the decades and realise how recent consumerism is. … it wasn’t until 1950 that 75% of US households had a washing machine, and the same benchmark wasn’t reached in Europe until 1970. Cars did not reach three-quarters of the US population until the 1970s but the European countries didn’t catch up until the late 1990s.”
Many of the critics of PPP [purchasing power parity] conversions also argue there is an ideological bias, although usually entirely unconscious, in the process. taking the PPP-based GDP comparisons on this basis at face value makes the trends in world poverty levels and income distribution look more encouraging than they really are. And if poverty has been declining rapidly and inequality between countries not getting wider but rather possibly diminishing, as the comparisons suggest, then there is no reason to worry about the process of globalization of international trade and investment that characterised the 1990s and 2000s. This is obviously a pretty fundamental question … To some extent the answer is obvious from the way everyday life in Chinese cities has visibly changed: there has certainly been a big increase in living standards for a large proportion of China’s urban population, and that’s enough to affect the global picture. Beyond that, though, the answer does depend on how the GDP of different countries is converted on the same basis.”
“By 1968 there had been a quarter century of absolutely extraordinary growth. … Western living standards had approximately trebled since 1950… There was a job for everyone who wanted one… A man could act as a breadwinner for the whole family, reasonably secure in his job and well paid with a secure pension.’
“Until relatively recently, there was very little evidence on which economists could base their views about how economics grow. The number of countries for which GDP data were available increased slowly, and only reach 60 as late as 1985. For many of these, the data were of poor quality. … Even those who had been gathering some kind of national income statistics for a long period did not have data series that were consistent over time … the empirical work … was augmented by historical studies using data on GDP for a range of countries going back to the year 1000. Angus Maddison … extraordinary International Comparison Project undertook the immense task of finding from a wide range of historical sources all the raw statistics needed to construct GDP, on its modern definition, backwards through history .. now an essential resource…(but) economists now use Maddison’s statistics blithely, without the due caution required… involved a lot of assumptions and clever guesswork.
p. 82 “Wal-Mart is the leading example of how a business can transform its productivity using their technologies. McKinsey estimated that Wal-Mart on its own accounted for a substantial proportion of the pickup of American productivity in the late 1990s. To achieve this, the company developed a model of sourcing goods from China and other low-cost countries, through an extremely sophisticated logistics operation, and retailing the goods in massive out-of-town stores.” [To which of course I'd add, massive external costs not accounted for, from the health care of their workers, met by the government, to the emissions from transport and pollution from production of those goods.... and more...]
p. 85 public sector productivity “If there is no private-sector comparator, or the market is not truly competitive, the only alternative is to measure the values of these services in terms of the wages paid to the public-sector employees providing them. … particular services by constructions can never show any improvement in the amount of output per government employee. Many governments worry about poor productivity performance in public services, but in some cases they may be overlooking this statistical factor… AND the main input in a service business is time spent by the employees on their job. What is the output of a teacher, though? Number of children processed through the school? The average grade they attain on leaving? … Or even the quality of life the children subsequently enjoy, having been equipped at school for meaningful work and a fulfilling family life, along with an enjoyment of music or sport?… is the hairdresser’s productivity just the number of haircuts, or the premium he can charge because of the quality of the cuts or ambience of his salon?… The concept doesn’t really fit. Yet services account for more than two-thirds of GDP of OECD economies.”
p. 91 “GDP is not, and was never intended to be, a measure of welfare. I measures production… If the aim instead is to develop a measure of national economic welfare, we shouldn’t be starting with GDP.”
p. 95 “It is widely known now, as it was not before 2008, that the financial markets were characterized not just by irrational exuberance but also by widespread fraud, deception (including self-deception), and market manipulation. Not to mention in the financial and corporate worlds alike a loss of ethical moorings, resulting in distasteful manifestations of greed. Even now, most members of the financial and business elite do not seem to have appreciated the extent to which they entered a separate moral universe; many seem to feel aggrieved, perceiving themselves as unfairly scapegoat when it comes to assigning blame for the financial and economic crisis. This too, is part of the arrogance, this belief that there were a few bad apples but nothing systemic had gone wrong in the way the financial industry and big business were being run.”
p. 98 “the financial crisis has raised some profound questions about what finance is for and specifically how it is counted in GDP. Lifting the veil on its activities, ranging from the foolhardy to the fraudulent, has made it hard to understand how the financial sector has made a positive contribution to the economy at all. .. The estimated cost of the crisis, including economic output forgone because of the resulting recession, is between one and five times the whole world’s annual GDP…. Do is finance being properly accounted for in the economic statistics? No. In the UK national accounts, the financial sector appears to have grown twice as fast as the economy as a whole since 1850. Most of its growth has been concentrated in two periods, the episodes of globalisation between the late 19th century and World War I and between the 1970s and 2007. Real GDP doubled between 1980 and 2008, but the measured real value added of the financial sector trebled. Similar trends are evident in the United States … This was, in Andrew Haldane’s phrase, more mirage than miracle…. The reason is the way financial output is measured. Most services charge customers a fee, and the fee revenues give statisticians the handle they need to measure output. Relatively few financial services involve direct fees or commissions … A large proportion of their profits comes instead from the gap between the interest rates at which they can borrow (or pay depositors) and lend, or from trading activity. As the OECD GDP statistic manual puts it: “Measurement using the general formula [for constructing GDP] would result in their value added being very small, if not negative …” Unable to imagine when this was written that banking could be subtracting value from the economy, statisticians sought to find a way of measuring these earnings from financial intermediation … the 1993 update of the UN system of National Accounts introduced the concept of “financial intermediation services indirectly measured” or FISM. The current measure compared banks’ borrowing and lending rates on their loans and deposit portfolios to a risk-free ‘reference rate’ such as a the central banks policy rate, and multiplies the difference by the stock of outstanding balances in each case. The practical difficulties are enormous … but in principle it makes sense as a way of measuring the service provided by banks in taking on risk. One consequence, however, is that increased risk-taking is recorded as increased real growth in financial services…. Taking risks is not a valuable service to the rest of the economy, although managing risk is. Haldane goes on to note that banks’ reported profits have been flattered in the same way by ignoring the statistical effect of the banks simply taking greater risks by leveraging their equity. The profits are ‘illusory’, although of course the bonuses were not. The statistical mirage affects all countries’ GDP.” One US study says official methods overestimates contribution by 21%, Eurozone would cut output by 25-40%. In UK suggests financial sector 6-7.5% of economy in 2008, not the claimed 9%.
p. 102 “During the financial crisis, the industry’s lobbying has had a substantial impact on political decisions about regulatory reform, not just because investment banks make donations to political parties, but also because politicians genuinely believe the industry to be fundamentally important to jobs and economic growth. ‘Our economy needs the industry’ wrote Alastair Darling, the UK chancellor of the exchequer, in his memoir of the crisis, despite having experienced the height of the crisis when the industry had, on the contrary, nearly torpedoed the economy.”
p. 105 Richard Stone, one of the founding fathers of national accounts, was perfectly up=front about the arbitrariness of what was included and how: “This treatment, whereby commercial products are valued at market price, government services are valued at cost and unpaid household activities are simply ignored, is not a matter of principle but of practical convenience. It can be defended, therefore, on practical grounds.”
p. 109 “What economists call ‘own-production’ or ‘household production’ This means all the work done within a family for its own use … All of this can be bought, outsourced outside the household, but most of it isn’t … Even in good times, the scale of this informal, unpaid work, is significant. It accounts for more than half of all the time people spend working. If this is valued at money wages paid for similar work, it is equivalent to 1.85 times the size of the conventional national product figure for the United Kingdom in 2001. Although the figure will vary among countries, the importance of this activity, conventionally but arbitrarily excluded from official GDP statistics, is universal.”
“One alternative approach to measuring the economy’s progress has had some influence, and that is the idea of a ‘dashboard’ of indicators. France’s former president Nicholas Sarkozy asked … Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen to join the French economist Jean-Paul Fitoussi in a thorough assessment of economic statics. … They concluded that .. rather than trying to combine different kinds of figures together in one indicator, would be to collect and public statistics on a range of indicators we can be confident contribute to social welfare… The most sophisticated at present is the OECD’s Better Life Index, which is a visualisation fo countries’ relative rankings depending on 11 components, ranging from income to work-life balance, housing to the environment… This is an important step in enabling a public debate about economic policy that is not wholly geared towards short-term growth … unfortunately, though, there is no evidence yet of dashboards displacing the prime status of GDP growth in political debate.”
p. 131. “Official statisticians need o start thinking about how to measure better the production and consumption of ‘information’ or digital products that clearly deliver value to consumers … the new ‘free’ business models are not being well measured and neither are the new types of activity costing no money but of great value to consumers. There have always been free but valuable activities, from public libraries or walks in the countryside; the difference now is that non-monetary activities are extensively intertwined with business, making the concept o the production boundary within which GDP is defined inherently blurred.”
p. 132 “the term sustainability refers to the extent to which GDP growth from yer to year depletes natural resources or harms the environment in other ways. The most important amendment needed to the existing national account statistics is to take account of the balance between investment in new assets and the depletion or depreciation of existing assets… In 2012, the UN Statistical Commission adopted a new international statistical standard with equal status to the System of National Accounts, the System of Environmental Economic Accounting. Some countries have been publishing what are known as ‘satellite accounts’ on the environment for a number of years, although it is hard to identify any direct influence they have had on economic policy debates. As long as political contests focus on economic growth, as I think they always will, a set of statistics labeled ‘satellite’ is unlikely to be influential.” [Now that's what you call a counsel of despair...]
But I won’t finish there – have to love an author who finishes with an acknowledgement of her dog, named Cabbage, “who contributes not at all to GDP but greatly to welfare” (with a picture…!)
Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet by Maya, at Feministing 1:59 pm / 10 March 2014
Rust Cohle takes down Matthew McConaughey, created by our own Katie.
8 black female inventors you might not know.
The goaltender for the Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team signed with a US men’s professional team.
A history of women whose tongues have been ripped out.
Melissa Harris-Perry discusses the politics of motherhood in the US.
How many women are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act? A lot.
Khodorkovsky’s Support by Clarissa, at Clarissa's Blog 1:51 pm / 10 March 2014
I’m in Montreal, and I’m running around trying to meet everybody I know and miss here, so my access to the Internet is spotty.
I just caught a glimpse of a website that showed the bandit Khodorkovsky speaking in the Maidan in Kiev in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty. The website I glimpsed seems to have mentioned that Khodorkovsky was practically in tears. The last thing we need is support from bloodthirsty criminals for our cause. Can this animal just go die already? Jeez. Practically the only good thing Putin ever did was placing this cannibal behind bars.
This is not a good development. A cause supported by people of this caliber loses all legitimacy.
Somebody please tell me I imagined this. Pretty please?
Filed under: Uncategorized
Saving Ukraine by Clarissa, at Clarissa's Blog 1:40 pm / 10 March 2014
At first, Putin’s propagandists were going to invade Ukraine to save it from Ukrainian neo-Nazis. When no neo-Nazis were found in quantities that would make them sound at least vaguely threatening, a search began for a more convincing threat. Now, Putinoids are planning to save Ukraine from the evil Americans and scary Germans who supposedly organized and financed the Ukrainian protests.
Let’s see what fresh threat they will invent tomorrow. I’m hearing that the Uzbeks are plenty threatening. Or the Québécois. I mean, have you seen the Québécois? They are scary as hell. Or they can be once Putinoids do their work.
Filed under: Uncategorized
Is the separation of eroticism and feminism a problem? by Guest Blogger, at Feministe 1:19 pm / 10 March 2014
Guest Blogger bio: Sabia McCoy-Torres is a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at Cornell University. Her research focuses on race, the African-diaspora, and popular culture. She is an avid dancer and proud native Bronx, New Yorker.
Some of the backlash, commentary, and critiques Beyoncé has received for using Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi’s words from “Why We Should All Be Feminists” in her song “Flawless” has inspired me to react. Not in support of Beyoncé, but instead against a notion that I do not support implied in these critiques: that somehow her “hyper” sexuality is a contradiction to her being a feminist. I put “hyper” in quotations because what exactly denotes “hyper” sexuality differs from person to person and referring to Beyoncé’s persona as hypersexual is a matter of opinion. “Hyper” also always seems to imply deviance. Maybe there is nothing deviant about her sexual persona, but rather how acceptable representations of sexuality for self-loving women with a firm sense of agency are typically framed. Still, the message is being sent loud and clear: if a woman embraces and illustrates her erotic self through her dance or dress then she is somehow not a feminist. But is this true? Is the drawing apart of eroticism and feminism worth breaking down a bit?
Birth of The Big Question
A situation I regularly find myself in doing anthropology field research on reggae culture also inspires my line questioning. I am constantly faced with women dancing in sensual and at times sexually suggestive ways. When I read theories about women who dance as they do, all point to the notion that these women are victims of a patriarchal society that causes them to sexually objectify themselves, they are responding to a history of dehumanization of the black female body, they are dancing for the male gaze. In other words, they are framed as agentless victims, living out their inferiority to men, and, in their supposed sexual objectification, clearly not empowered women.
But there is a problem. In conversation with these women, these ideas about them are rarely validated by what they say about themselves and how they see their own dancing. They mention loving their bodies, feeling confidence in themselves, how good it feels to experience the music through their chosen movements. And here comes the best part, I have arrived to clubs early enough when there are almost exclusively women present and seen dozens of women dancing by themselves, facing mirrors, watching their own reflection, dancing for no other gaze but their own. I’m sure most of them do just the same, by themselves in their bedroom mirror, like I can frequently be caught doing. Where is the male centered story here? Where are the victims of their own sexual objectification? These women are empowered movers and shakers, authors of their own movement and image, showing their agency, and, as they dance alone, their independence from men. They demonstrate senses of their female and human selves that feminism upholds.
If a woman embraces and illustrates her erotic self through her dance or dress is she then somehow not a feminist?
The historical script
There is historical background to the placing of feminism and overt displays of sexuality as opposites of each other, especially as it they relate to black women. I am indebted to Carol Batker and Treva Lindsey for my knowledge on the subject. To put it as short as possible, the Enlightened-Feminists-Us’s were placed as opposites of the In-Need-Of-Saving-Way-Too-Sexual-Them’s unintentionally. In the early 1900s, black middle class intellectuals and elites wanted to debunk racist propaganda that African-American women were hyper-sexual, and all of its savage and animalistic connotations, to underscore the humanity of African-Americans and campaign against lynching. To show their humanity, these women demonstrated that women of all races were hypersexual, especially lower class women, and that good middle class women like themselves were proof of the respectability of African-American women. I am hugely indebted to and grateful for their efforts, and it brings me great sadness that our country’s racist history necessitated their work. However, there were some unintended effects of the way they framed their activism and respectable African-American female identities. “Hyper”-sexuality became “low class behavior” and activism was linked to demureness, a-sexuality, and respectability, placing representations of female erotic and sexual selves as opposites. They created a stereotype of what a feminist, middle class, respectable black women is, leaving little room for a diversity in representation, and no room for the expression of sexual identities.
This history, while specific to African-Americans, is translatable to the historic forming of feminist personas as they apply to white women as well. The fight for women’s equality and safety has been closely concerned with tearing down the objectification of women in its many oppressive forms. What has followed in result is a sensitivity to women’s behaviors that can be thought of as coming from our historic objectification and victimization. Sex, eroticism, sexuality, all benefits to men and so frequently at the center of women’s objectification, then are demonized as deriving from a male agenda or seen as a response to the male agenda. The desire to express eroticism and sexuality are inherently a part of women as well and also to our benefit, but history seems to have pitted open expression as taboo and against the feminist agenda.
In addition to creating ideas of what a true feminist looks and acts like, both of these tales have resulted in a policing of women’s bodies, and how women represent themselves. This policing might be well intended. The use of sex, nudity, and women’s bodies for money, marketing, and advertising makes the lines between sexual self-expression and exploitation quite blurred. Still, when we resort too easily to policing, we reproduce a form of social inequality that says that men are allowed to be fully sexual beings but women aren’t.
That’s my momma’s feminism
I want to put out there that perhaps what Beyoncé was getting at when she included Adichi’s quote in “Flawless” is the idea that feminism should allow room for full displays of sexuality, eroticism, and desire, just as men are allowed, challenging one dimensional views of what a feminist looks and acts like. Citing the relevant parts of the quote as included in “Flawless,” Adichi says: “We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” It seems Beyoncé was speaking directly to what people seem to think she missed as a contradiction. It seems she is actually saying, by including this quote, that her decision to embody her full sexuality and represent it as she pleases is her right just as it is a man’s and does not exclude her from being a feminist.
Beyoncé further speaks to this point at the end of her newly released (to those who didn’t buy the album) steamy video for “Partition.” The video concludes with a rough interpretation of a quote from The Big Lebowski spoken in French. The voice says (translation): “Men think that feminists hate sex, but it’s a very stimulating and natural activity that women love.” Her position on the separation of feminism and eroticism is clear.
A real life example from a real life girl putting out real life images brings to light some of these points and questions even more. It’s the documentary video Kimari Carter submitted to apply for rapper Juicy J’s “twerk” scholarship, college funds to be awarded to the best twerking applicant. She is twerking, then, to show how well she does what many consider a complex dance, as opposed to for shock value, which is hardly concerned with skill. In the video, Carter captures herself twerking in her dorm room with a scholarly text in hand, twerking in a dark club with glow in the dark designs painted on her body, and herself having fallen asleep studying in her bed with books written by prominent black and feminist scholars surrounding her. She represents herself as a studious, hard-working woman, reader of black women’s scholarship, and avid twerker, mixing these identities together into one. Her words are interesting. She is a self-proclaimed activist, teacher, leader, and twerker. She explains twerking as being an essential part of her womanhood and also her black identity. She also reminds her viewers that this “is the new age” and old ideas of respectability need to go.
There are many ways to see her bio documentary as a huge problem, especially given the history I mentioned earlier; but this video is also useful to understanding what she, in the “new age,” sees as not being contradictions: intelligence, feminism, and sexuality, even erotically expressed through twerking. Is it possible that she is not a victim of a misogynistic society living out her own subjugation, but instead loving her own body and celebrating it through twerking as she does her mind through scholarship? Arguments about appropriate sexual representation cannot always start and stop at internalized historical legacies, or turn to patriarchy for answers.
What happens if they come too close?
Bringing sexuality and feminism intimately close can create a slippery slope and brings into question what are “acceptable” unions between feminism and the erotic. Is Miley Cyrus seemingly for no apparent creative or artistic reason licking a hammer in slow motion in “Wrecking Ball” the same as a near nude pole dancer posing acrobatically upside down in a split in Rihanna’s music video “Pour It Up”? Is one, a clear reference to oral sex without any context, better than the other, a demonstration of a certain skill though a controversial one? Is dancing as erotically or suggestively as one will for her own financial gain less harmful to young girls’ gender identity than watching women hired to dance in a male rapper’s video? I have posed many questions here that I do not give answers for, but present anyway to open dialogue rather than simply making eroticism and feminism contradictory terms. What I will say definitively is that we should distance ourselves from the idea that sexuality (in all of its representations from demure to erotic) is incongruent with feminism, and accept the possibility that all of these representations, when women self-consciously author them, represent the diversity of how women see, experience, and feel themselves.
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Give thanks for abortion providers today by Maya, at Feministing 9:27 am / 10 March 2014
Today is the annual National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers.
March 10th marks the anniversary of the day in 1993 when Dr. David Gunn was murdered by an anti-choice extremist. Since then, seven more providers have been killed and the day has become a time to honor all those people who take huge personal risks to make our reproductive rights a reality. In an age when being an abortion provider is harder than ever, due to always increasing anti-choice regulations, ongoing harassment and intimidation campaigns, and the stigma around the procedure–in the medical community and in the culture at large–thanking them is the least we can do.
So send an appreciation postcard through the 1 in 3 Campaign. And head over to ThinkProgress to hear from eight abortion providers about the challenges they face and what motivates their work. As one of them explains, “We’re just trying to take care of our patients.”
Maya Dusenbery is feeling very grateful to the doctor who performed her abortion.
“No duh” study: Free birth control doesn’t lead to “promiscuity” by Maya, at Feministing 8:45 am / 10 March 2014
In case you were concerned that the surge in no copay birth control under Obamacare is turning us into a nation of sluts because “the only thing standing between women and promiscuity is a fear of pregnancy,” a new study from the Contraceptive Choice Project should ease your worries.
Women and teen girls participating in a study that provided free birth control did not take up riskier sexual practices as a result, contrary to fears among some social conservatives, a new report says.
The participants were less likely to have sex with more than one man after the program began. And though they did have sex a bit more often, they were no more likely to be diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases, according to results published online Thursday in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
The researchers looked at number of partners and frequency of sex because those factors tend to be correlated with higher unintended pregnancy and STD rates and are thus “riskier,” though I’ll just add that, as long as it’s protected and consensual, there’s really no reason we should care how much sex people are having. And senior author Jeffrey Peipert was clear there was no increase in risk: “Increasing access to no-cost contraceptives doesn’t translate into riskier sexual behavior. It’s not the contraception that drives their sexual behavior.” So what is the effect of no-cost birth control on sexual health outcomes? As a previous study from the Contraceptive Choice Project found, it reduces abortion and unintended pregnancy rates. Again, mind blowing stuff, I know.
Frankly, I’m getting more than a little tired of writing about painfully unsurprising studies about birth control that are really only necessary to dispel right-wing myths. Yes, birth control costs money so obviously some people have trouble affording it. Of course, people use it because being able to control your reproduction is pretty key to making a good life for yourself and your family. No shit, it prevents unintended pregnancies. That is the whole point. And yet, conservatives continue to claim, against all evidence, that it has the exact opposite effect. Indeed, a representative from the Family Research Council, whose views were specifically called out in the study, says they are unconvinced and maintain that contraception puts women at greater risk.
The problem is we’re not all on the same page about the very basis of this debate. For public health researchers, whether birth control reduces unintended pregnancies or if outlawing abortion actually decreases abortion rates or if public family planning programs are a good economic investment or if abstinence-only sex ed is effective–these are empirical questions (which have basically been answered). But for the opposition, the facts are irrelevant. All the studies in the world are never going to convince the Bill O’Reillys of the world to change their views–because for them it’s more about the chance to call the Sandra Flukes of the world “sluts” than anything else.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.
Short-Term Unemployment Is At Normal Levels, But Long-Term Unemployment Is Killing Us by Ampersand, at Alas, a Blog 8:39 am / 10 March 2014
This graph from today’s 2014 Economic Report of the President is worth considering.
The current elevation of the unemployment rate is entirely due to long-term unemployment. In December 2013, the unemployment rate for workers unemployed 26 weeks or less fell to lower than its average in the 2001-07 period, while the unemployment rate for workers unemployed 27 weeks or more remained higher than at any time prior to the Great Recession. But the long-term unemployment rate has declined by 1.1 percentage points in the last two years, a steeper decline than the 0.5 percentage point drop in the short-term unemployment rate over that period (Figure 2-24).
People who lose jobs, even if they eventually find new ones, suffer lasting damage to their earnings potential, their health and the prospects of their children. And the longer it takes to find a new job, the deeper the damage appears to be. [...] A 2010 Pew survey on the experience of long-term unemployment was aptly entitled, “Lost Income, Lost Friends – and Loss of Self-Respect.”
Appallingly, the GOP has chosen to make “cut unemployment! Cut food stamps!” its major policy response to the unemployment crisis, and Democrats seem unable to overcome Republican intransigence.
Hat tip: Wonkblog.
Long-term unemployment: Doom.
Even as U.S. economy revives, long-term unemployed face uphill battle – CBS News
10 Reasons That Long-Term Unemployment Is a National Catastrophe | Mother Jones
The American Way of Hiring Is Making Long-Term Unemployment Worse – Gretchen Gavett – Harvard Business Review
Caught in a Revolving Door of Unemployment – NYTimes.com
Study: Longterm Unemployment Has Disastrous Effects On Health And Longevity
Are We Inadvertently Conceding Moral Ground? The Importance of Language Choices in the Reproductive Justice Movement by Guest Blogger, at Feministe 7:52 am / 10 March 2014
This is a guest post by Marcella Kocolatos. Marcella is a second-year student at NYU School of Law and a member of the law school’s inaugural Reproductive Justice Clinic. A version of this post originally appeared on NYU Review of Law & Social Change.
“No one is pro-abortion.”
This is a common refrain in the reproductive justice movement. It is uttered in response to opponents of reproductive choice who suggest that those who advocate for universal access to safe and legal abortion are somehow intent on maximizing the number of pregnancies terminated. It is uttered in response to the accusation that abortion is a profit-driven industry akin to the “$8 billion Abortionplex” satirically imagined by The Onion. And it is clear why people use this response: when not only laypersons but elected lawmakers perpetuate outlandish myths about the goals of the reproductive justice movement, choice proponents naturally seek to dispel such offensive misrepresentations of their beliefs.
I do not consider myself “pro-abortion” because such an ideological position seems flatly inconsistent with the notion of choice. I understand the term “pro-abortion” to signify a general preference for abortion over childbirth, without regard to how any individual woman wishes to proceed with her pregnancy. For me the term evokes support for forced abortions, such as the one Chinese family planning officials forced 23-year-old Feng Jianmei to undergo in 2012, seven months into her pregnancy. To say that I am “not pro-abortion” means that I would not value an individual’s choice to terminate her pregnancy any more than I would value her choice to give birth.
For others who support legalized abortion, the statement “I am not pro-abortion” might carry an implicit value judgment, a suggestion that abortion is an ethically undesirable—even if sometimes justified—procedure. These individuals might morally disapprove of abortion but recognize that their personal disapproval should not dictate whether others may legally access abortion. This sentiment is reflected in statements made by politicians such as Hillary Clinton, who has emphasized her belief that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”
The acknowledgment that one’s own moral compass should not impose upon the decisions of others undoubtedly comports with the reproductive justice movement, which seeks to secure reproductive autonomy for all individuals. However, the simultaneous suggestion that abortion is a morally objectionable procedure—even if this suggestion is unintentional—arguably conflicts with the movement’s goals.
It should be of concern to those of us working in the area of reproductive justice that the declaration “no one is pro-abortion” might easily be misinterpreted by our opponents—willfully or not—as a concession of moral high ground, as an admission that abortion is in fact a “bad” thing and that all women who choose it must necessarily view it as such, rather than as a morally neutral medical procedure.
Even more worrisome is the stigma that rhetoric of this sort might confer on women who obtain abortions. Evidence suggests that stigma around abortion—unlike abortion itself—can negatively impact the mental health of women who have had abortions. A 2008 report issued by the American Psychological Association found that “interpersonal concerns, including feelings of stigma, perceived need for secrecy . . . and low perceived or anticipated social support for the abortion decision, negatively affected women’s . . . psychological experiences” following an abortion.
At the same time, we cannot avoid all rhetoric that may be read to implicitly condemn abortion. If we did so, we would risk alienating important reproductive justice allies by appearing flippant about the procedure. This is liable to hurt our cause. We do not want to lose opportunities for potential collaboration with those who do not feel comfortable aligning themselves fully with the reproductive justice movement.
There are inevitably going to be certain trade-offs involved in the language choices we make as activists, and there is no single “right” way to talk about reproductive justice. Yet it is essential that we remain conscientious of the words we use when we do. Those of us who advocate for universal access to safe and legal abortion do so because we believe that complete reproductive freedom is necessary to a moral and just society. We must be wary of using language that might inadvertently convey to our adversaries, as well as the women and men we advocate for, that we believe otherwise.
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