May 29, 2008
Gentrification in Portland, Oregon: "... upper-middle-class progressivism ..."
The New York Times published a story on gentrification in Portand, Oregon:
- William Yardley, "Racial Shift in Progressive City Spurs Talks," NY Times, May 29, 2008.
- with an associated slide show.
May 27, 2008
Critical Perspectives on Our Times
Two recent (and brief) Hofstra Law Review articles take up some of the challenges of our times -- inequality chief among them -- from a critical perspective and they are both worth reading:
- Mari Matsuda, The Flood: Political Economy and Disaster, 36 Hofstra L. Rev. 1 (2007)(though Katrina is used as a launching point, the article's aim is much broader).
- Richard Delgado, You Are Living In A Gold Rush, 35 Hofstra L. Rev. 417 (2006) (likening our new gilded age to earlier gold rush experiences and offering some hope that current excesses have an end point).
BLOG NOTE: I am in Turkey for three weeks, see http://wclturkeyezra.blogspot.com/ (with my photos), so my postings may be even less regular than their already irregular schedule. If anyone is interested in being a contributing blog editor or just submitting the random post, please let me know.
May 20, 2008
Harvard Law Review Note: Never Again Should A People Starve in A World of Plenty
A new Harvard Law Review Note of interest: Never Again Should A People Starve in A World of Plenty, 121 Harv. L. Rev. 1886 (2008).
Article: The Internationalization of Public Interest Law
An article of interest that places great weight on immigration to explain a change in public interest law... Scott L. Cummings, The Internationalization of Public Interest Law, 57 Duke L.J. 891 (2008). Abstract below:
This Article is an account of profound changes in the organization and practice of public interest law that have emerged over the past 25 years against the backdrop of globalization. Its central claim is that as the United States has become more globally interdependent, the institutional context of public interest law has been transformed, elevating transnational mobility as a basic feature of legal practice. The Article specifically examines three vectors of global change that have reshaped the terrain of US public interest law: the increasing magnitude and scope of undocumented immigration; the growth of free trade and its governing institutions; and the heightened political influence of human rights. It suggests that each of these trends has contributed to important institutional revisions within the US public interest system: the rise of immigrant rights as a distinctive category of public interest practice; the emergence of transnational advocacy as a response to the impact of US economic policy abroad; and the movement to promote domestic human rights, both as a way to resist the deregulatory thrust of market integration at home and to defend civil rights and civil liberties in the face of domestic conservatism and the War on Terror. After mapping the institutional scope and density of these changes, the Article appraises their influence on the goals public interest lawyers pursue, the tactics they deploy, and the professional roles they assume in the modern era.
May 18, 2008
Article of Interest: Child Support Harming Children
A paper that got mailed to me may be of general interest: Daniel L. Hatcher, Child Support Harming Children: Subordinating the Best Interests of Children to the Fiscal Interests of the State, 42 Wake Forest L. Rev. 1029 (2007) [it is not yet up on Wake Forest's page, but it is on SSRN]. A related article is: Erik Eckholm, "Mothers Scrimp as States Take Child Support," NY Times, Dec. 1, 2007. The abstract is below:
This Article examines the government policy of seeking reimbursement of welfare costs through child support enforcement. Under our welfare program, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), custodial parents applying for benefits are required to establish child support obligations against the absent parents and to assign the resulting child support payments to the government. As a result, half of the $105 billion in national child support debt is owed to the government rather than to children. The government's fiscal interests are in direct conflict with the best interests of the children - the controlling legal standard in child support matters. The conflict results in legal confusion, and the welfare cost recovery efforts harm children, families and society. Children in welfare families struggling to become self-sufficient lose out as their support payments are redirected to the government. Fragile relationships between mothers, fathers and children are often broken. The fiscal benefit to the government is minimal, at best. And the social fabric is torn, as significant numbers of welfare fathers retreat from the workforce and their families. This Article thoroughly examines the conflict and resulting legal and policy questions. The Article explores the history of the competing interests and purposes of child support in America, describes the framework and impact of the current government welfare cost recovery system, addresses the long ignored and unresolved legal questions that result from the conflicting missions, and concludes with suggestions for reform including the Article's primary conclusion that welfare cost recovery is a failed effort - and should therefore end.
May 15, 2008
Great Colbert Report interview of Grover Norquist
Last night, Monday, May 14, 2008, Stephen Colbert interviewed Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform on his show. For those addicted to the show, the interview stands out for its particularly harsh questions; check it out here (I found it biting and funny).
May 13, 2008
Labor and Employment Law & Law and Society Conferences
Two Call for Papers from the Legal Scholarship Blog:
- 3rd Annual Colloquium on Current Scholarship in Labor & Employment Law, San Diego Oct 23-25, 2008, Call for papers deadline July 31, 2008.
- Midwest Law and Society Retreat, Univ. of Wisconsin, Sep. 19-20, 2008, Call for papers deadline June 1, 2008.
Paper of interest: Levy & Temin on Inequality and Institutions in 20th Century America
This is dated, but I just came across it:
Frank Levy & Peter Temin, "Inequality and Institutions in 20th Century America," MIT Dept. of Econ. Working Paper No. 07-17 (June 27, 2007). The New America Foundation has an audio file from a panel that featured the paper. Abstract Below:
We provide a comprehensive view of widening income inequality in the United States contrasting conditions since 1980 with those in earlier postwar years. We argue that the income distribution in each period was strongly shaped by a set of economic institutions. The early postwar years were dominated by unions, a negotiating framework set in the Treaty of Detroit, progressive taxes, and a high minimum wage - all parts of a general government effort to broadly distribute the gains from growth. More recent years have been characterized by reversals in all these dimensions in an institutional pattern known as the Washington Consensus. Other explanations for income disparities including skill-biased technical change and international trade are seen as factors operating within this broader institutional story.
May 12, 2008
State Welfare Efforts
An article of interest in the New York Times today: Rachel L. Swarns, "State Programs Add Safety Net for the Poorest," NYTimes, May 12, 2008. The article also has a graphic presenting assistance after welfare programs across the U.S.
May 9, 2008
End of the Semester Blues - a quick link
Academic Aside: If you are in the midst of either taking exams, or grading exams, it is worth checking out this old post from Daniel J. Solove on Concurring Opinions.
May 7, 2008
New Paper: Welfare Reform in a Global Economy
The federal government's welfare reform efforts have two defining characteristics: first, welfare reform requires welfare recipients to work for their checks (and to move toward permanent, self-sustainable employment); and second welfare reform devolves administrative responsibility to the states, punishing states if they fail to meet federal employment targets for their welfare populations.
But these two characteristics are in deep tension with the realities of a global economy. Thus welfare reform shifts the burden of welfare-to-work requirements to the states, even as the states have decreasing control over the size and shape of their local job markets in a global economy, and even as the global economy seems to be handing states exactly the wrong kinds of jobs to lift recipients out of welfare.
This article explores some of the tensions between the goals of welfare reform and the realities of a global economy. First, it explores how the federal government, not the states, increasingly controls the domestic labor market and available jobs in a global economy. Next, it argues that the federal government and the global economy have handed the states exactly the wrong kinds of jobs to lift recipients out of welfare.
The article argues that welfare reform must adapt in order to reconcile its goals with the realities of a global economy. Particularly: welfare reform must either refocus on training and education so that recipients can qualify for sustainable jobs in the global economy; or welfare reform must become a meaningful trade adjustment assistance program.
May 6, 2008
Global Food Crisis
The "globe's worst food crisis in a generation" is occurring right now and the Washington Post today published a good introduction to the crisis. Anthony Faiola, "The New Economics of Hunger," Washington Post, April 27, 2008. A photo gallery is associated with the story, as are two very good graphics, one on which countries have grain, and one presenting reasons for the rise in grain prices.
Judge Posner and Gary Becker have both commented about the rising prices on their blog (click by name). A New York times Op-Ed by Tyler Cowen, "Freer Trade Could Fill the World's Rice Bowl" April 27, 2008, makes its premise clear in its title. The World Bank's website includes a statement by President Zoellick as well as a video overview of the crisis and a policy statement of the crisis/World Bank response. Maros Ivanic & Will Martin also have a working paper on topic "Implications of Higher Global Food Prices for Poverty in Low-Income Countries" (World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4594, April 2008).
UPDATE: A number of other blog postings have covered this crisis in much greater detail (thanks to Patrick S. O'Donnell's comment, which I though was worth bringing out of the comment part of the page):
- Patrick S. O'Donnell at Ratio Juris Blog
- Deven Desai at Concurring Opinions
- Rebecca Bratspies at IntLawGrrls
The Balance Sheet of Low-Income Households
How poor or not poor are low-income households. Two divergent perspectives on what the poor own and what it means can be found in:
- Adam Carasso & Signe-Mary McKernan, "The Balance Sheet of Low-Income Households: What We Know About Their Assets and Liabilities," Urban Institute, Nov. 2007.
- Robert Rector, "How Poor are America's Poor? Examining the "Plague" of Poverty in America," The Backgrounder from The Heritage Foundation, No. 2064, Aug. 27, 2007.
The charts found in both of these reports are worth checking out and can inspire class debate...
May 2, 2008
Children's Budget 2008
First Focus: Making Children and Families the Priority, a research/lobbying organization, has finished a report that looks at the amount the U.S. spends on children. "Children's Budget 2008" does a couple of helpful things: it breaks down the different programs that focus on children and also highlights the direction (up or down) of spending on such programs. The report is arranged in a way that its findings are easily understood and I think could make a good background assignment for a class. There is also an associated powerpoint presentation.
The key findings of the report include:
- For the past five years, only one penny of every new, non-defense dollar spent by the federal government has gone to children and children’s programs.
- Children’s spending now makes up only ten percent of the entire non-defense budget.
- The overall share of federal, non-defense spending going to children’s programs has dropped by 10 percent over the past five years.
- Real discretionary
spending on children has declined by more than 6 percent since 2004, while at
the same time all other non-defense discretionary spending has increased by more
than 8 percent.
-Thanks to Christopher Spina for forwarding the info to me. E.R. firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank I. Michelman on Socioeconomic Rights in Constitutional Law
Though this blog has not spent time highlighting socioeconomic rights papers, Frank I. Michelman recently presented a draft of a theoretical, yet approachable, piece: "Socioeconomic Rights in constitutional law: explaining America away." The abstract is below:
The apparent omission of a socioeconomic commitment from United States
constitutional law gives rise to continuing debate. The case is unclear that
this omission has any likely bearing on the actual performance of American
governments in the social welfare field. Might there be other reasons for
treating the omission as problematic? If so, might the omission
nevertheless be explained in terms consistent with belief that some kind of
socioeconomic commitment ideally belongs in the constitutional law of a
country like the U.S.? After briefly reviewing the uneasy instrumental case
for a constitutionalized socioeconomic commitment, this article suggests a
different possible ground for favoring inclusion as a matter of political-moral
principle. It then canvasses possible responses to the American case.
These include both a possible denial that socioeconomic guarantees are in
fact lacking from U.S. constitutional law, and a possible claim that omitting
them is the correct choice for the U.S. as a matter of “non-ideal” political
Conference Announcement: Labor History
The Pacific Northwest Labour History Association and the Labor & Working Class History Association are sponsoring a conference entitled Indigenous, Immigrant, Migrant Labour & Globalization, June 6-8, 2008 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The call for papers deadline has passed.