Part Time Work

Part-time work is a part of the economy.  A first job might be just a few hours after school, and parents often find themselves only able to work while the kids are in school.  Some people want only part-time work while they get their “real career” together, such as an artist who waits tables to pay the bills.  But in an economic downturn, people get stuck with fewer hours than they want and the ranks swell.

When we discussed the employment figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) here in Barataria, the “Part Time for Economic Reasons” really stuck in the craw of many readers, and for good reasons.  That number has to come down from 5.3% of all employed persons before we can be excited about the jobs reports.  The San Francisco Federal Reserve had the same feeling, and has released a new report with some fascinating details on part-time work in the US and what it is today.

Continue reading

March of History, Made and Unmade

Two score and Ten years ago today a crowd descended upon Washington.  They were assembled as a movement that traversed the South with Freedom Riders, sat-in at segregated lunch counters, and refused to move to the back of the bus.  It was a black crowd that filled the Mall that day, but it was also a white crowd as well.  It was an American crowd.  The movement crystalized into a moment when Dr. Martin Luther King spoke.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But the threads of history ran deeper than that moment, as Dr. King explained.

Continue reading

Women’s Equality Day

The long list of calls settled itself into the monotone of routine.  “Hi, my name is Erik, and I’m calling for Jim Scheibel, your DFL candidate for Mayor of Saint Paul.”  The 1989 election was going to be close, so Get Out The Vote (GOTV) calling to loyal Democrats was important.  But just as I let the script propel my calls with their own momentum the soft gravely tone on the other end split the evening open.

“Oh, dear, you don’t have to remind me to vote.  I’ve been voting ever since they let us.”

We’ve been “letting” women vote for 93 years today, ever since Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment on August 26th, 1920 by just one vote.  This anniversary, “Women’s Equality Day”, is a good time to reflect on how young and precarious this precious foundation of democracy is for half the population.

Continue reading

Government 101

What does it take for a developing nation to move ahead and join the ranks of the developed world?  For all the tremendous advances for at least some developing nations in the last decade or more, there is still a gap.  Brazil is not quite developed nation yet on the eve of their 2 year long coming out party due to start with the World Cup next year.  It’s not that the people aren’t trying, it’s not that the nation doesn’t want to be there.  It’s that it’s hard, dedicated work.  It’s that … the problem is almost too simple to understand.

The fundamentals of running a government always seem to slip between the cracks of the politics that define any nation.  The US is no different from any other in that regard – look no further than the calls to first push us over a “fiscal cliff” and now perhaps shut down the government for the lack of a budget (or continuing resolution).  But that’s what it’s all about, regardless.  And in developing nations we can see what the global leadership crisis really looks like – a lack of Government 101.

Continue reading

Cabinet Government

There are basically two types of Democratic-Republics in the world – Parliamentary, or a Prime Minister led government, and a strong President based system.  Hybrids of various kinds involving monarchs and other systems with varying degrees of power abound, but every democratically elected government in the world falls into one of these categories.  The person who shows up at the international conferences has one of these titles.

But is that the only way to go?  The situation in Egypt, among other places, has led me to wonder if there is some way a nation with a history and tradition of strong leadership might do better under a system of more than one nationally elected leader with defined roles and a real balance of power between them.  I call it an “Elected Cabinet”, and the inspiration comes from the laboratories of democracy, the US States.

Continue reading