Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                                               
Economic hard times
      We received an e-mail yesterday from Susan Fox and Hanah Jon Taylor of the Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts (MCCCA). Due to a sudden decision by their landlord -- they lost their lease -- MCCCA will be closing down its office, gallery and performance space at 316 W. Dayton Street effective September 10. This is a terrible blow to the community, especially for small, non-commercial artistic endeavors. Whether it was Indian dance, jazz improv or capoeira, there was always a home for such endeavors at MCCCA.
      I know that Hanah and Susan worked hard to keep this fledgling dream alive. One would think that in a city that has created such impressive performance venues such as the Overture Center, Monona Terrace and the Kohl Center during the past 15 years would be able to create an economically viable, modest center for the smaller, less commercial arts endeavors. It is centers such as MCCCA that are the crucible out of which new arts trends and styles develop. In a very  humble way, the demise of centers like MCCCA bode ill for the arts in  general as sources for new inspiration and energy dry up due to our current economic malaise.
***
      On Labor Day, I woke up and decided to look on the Internet at my usual corporate-owned national news source to see if there were any articles pertaining to the American worker and unions. The only article I saw was that the productivity of the American worker is up and that Americans work more hours than the workers of any other country in the world. I also found out that America's worker turnover rate is 1.5 times higher than Europe's. I guess American workers are working more and enjoying it less.
      But there wasn't any mention of unions or the state of the American worker. I've been feeling my own personal      economic pinch these days, which hasn't been the best for my demeanor. And so, I was wondering if this was just my own personal funk or were there millions of other Americans who were experiencing my personal economic malaise. Well, I am not alone.
      Since 2001, when George W. Bush took office, there has only been a three percent rise in income for middle-income workers. During the same period, inflation has been clipping along at a rate of approximately 3.3 percent. Therefore, it is no surprise that median household income is down $1,000 since 1999. In other words, there are a lot of us with less money to spend while the prices we pay are steadily rising.
      But while our income may not have been rising, our spending sure has been increasing. Our debt service ratio -- the money we pay on debts compared to our income -- has risen from 13.01 percent in 2001 to 14.33 percent in 2007. Many of us are shopping in the malls till we drop and buying all the latest cell phone gadgets and technological gizmos to distract us from the grim reality that our economic fortunes are declining. But in many ways, that's like throwing gasoline on a fire. The "pain reliever" only serves to worsen the economic condition of many households.
      And this increased indebtedness and rising interest rates on adjustable mortgage interest rates means that a lot of people are now starting to lose their homes. Housing foreclosures -- meaning the bank or someone else is turning people out of their houses because they couldn't make the monthly payment -- increased 93 percent on a national basis last July from July 2006. In other words, the number of housing foreclosures nearly doubled in one year. That's a whole lot of folks losing their homes. While I'm sure that many of these households turn to renting, I wonder what impact this has on the number of families who are now homeless. I would be very surprised if the family homeless rate wasn't rising as well.
      And there were some of us  who had it much worse. In July, there were seven million people who were officially classified as unemployed. More than likely, this number is larger -- especially in communities of color -- because there is  a sizable number of people who are discouraged and aren't "officially" in the labor market. And if we were to look at all    of the underemployed folks out there -- making less than the livable wage and working without health insurance -- then the economic fortunes of many millions of Americans are in the toilet.
      While many of us are individually feeling the economic pinch and going into debt, we're also doing it together as a nation. The U.S. trade deficit hovers at around $700 billion per year. That means American consumers are well consuming a lot more than they are producing. As we head to the malls and the marketplace of America, we are fueling the global economy and creating jobs for everyone else. We are going into debt to make everyone else's life better. I don't have a problem with making people's lives better around the globe. It's just that it's being done at the expense of the long-term economic freedom of the American people.
      And our federal government is there spending, spending, spending right along with us. Our current federal deficit is    projected to be $270 billion for the 2007 fiscal year. Our government's total debt is almost $9 trillion with almost $1 trillion held by the Chinese government. I don't think I could count that high in my lifetime. Our federal government is beholden to financial interests and not to American citizens.
      So, this Labor Day, I just have a bad feeling that Americans are becoming less economically secure and are losing their economic freedom. We work hard and spend hard to distract us from the difficulties we face. We work harder and longer to get out of our economic problems only to find ourselves deeper and deeper in economic debt.
      In some ways, it has felt good to write about this so that it isn't stewing inside me. And I guess misery enjoys company. I just wish there weren't so many of us to commiserate with.
***
      In the article that I wrote about Charles Taylor, the dean of Edgewood's business school, I made two errors. Chuck was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and not Milwaukee. And Chuck was the vice president and not the dean of student services at Herzing College. I regret my error.
September 5, 2007
Stories & Columns


*
The Literary Divide: It's as steady as she sinks for the Republicans and the Bush administration,
by Dr. Paul Barrows

*
Joyce Boggess: A commitment to children,
by Jonathan Gramling

*
WI Union's World Music Festival presents Roberto Rodriguez,
by Jonathan Gramling

* S
imple Things: Goodbye, Cousin Warren,
by Lang Kenneth Haynes

*
UW Chancellor John Wiley meets with the Hmong community (2),
by Jonathan Gramling

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Viva Mexico, Viva la independencia,
by Jonathan Gramling

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Asian Wisconzine: East meets West/ Jacqueline Nguyen & Chris Lawson wed,
by Heidi M. Pascual

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Politicas de hoy: Historia de un inmigrante,
por Alfonso Zepeda Capistran

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Voices: Love song for the less courageous,
by Dr. Jean Daniels

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Dane County's Wesley Sparkman: A look at doing business with minority business,
by Laura Salinger

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Centerspread: Africa Fest & Weekend of the Omegas,
by Jonathan Gramling

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China Dispatch: Back to Hefei ,
by Andrew Gramling

*
100 Black Men Back to School Picnic,
by Jonathan Gramling

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Angela Adams: A return to excellence,
by Jonathan Gramling

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Photo Caption:

* Asset Planning


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Teaching for Tomorrow
Principal Ed Holmes of West High School
VOL. II No. 18                       September 5, 2007