AT&T has a sneaky plan.
It wants to exploit a loophole in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s rules to kill what remains of the public telecommunications network — and all of the consumer protections that go with it. It’s the final step in AT&T’s decade-long effort to end all telecommunications regulation, and the simplicity of the plan highlights a dysfunction unique to the American regulatory system.
AT&T and other big telecom carriers want to replace the portions of their networks that still use circuit-switching technology with equipment that uses Internet Protocol (IP) to route voice and data traffic. But because the FCC previously decided that it has no direct authority over communications networks that use IP, this otherwise routine technological upgrade could lead to a state of total deregulation.
The immediate consumer impact of AT&T’s proposal would be swift and severe:
Higher prices. Remember what happened after California partially deregulated AT&T in 2006? The price of some basic voice services tripled. AT&T wants to make this happen everywhere. Also, the ability of many smaller wireless carriers to offer competitively priced services is based on specific regulations that prevent special access providers like AT&T and Verizon from charging exorbitant rates. These protections against monopoly prices will disappear if AT&T gets its way.
Inequality and discrimination. Seniors, low-income families, and rural residents — all of whom are more likely to rely on fixed-line voice services or dial-up internet access — would especially feel the pinch. Carriers that are now required to offer universal service will be free to redline poor neighborhoods and disconnect consumers at will. Elderly grandmothers living on fixed incomes rely on rate-regulated landlines to stay connected, but they need not worry: AT&T has an expensive wireless plan they can purchase instead.
The political arm of Peru’s brutal Shining Path insurgency was largely dormant for two decades but it is now rebuilding, hoping it can take advantage of disappointment on the left over President Ollanta Humala’s swing to the right.
To recruit new members to the Maoist group, Movadef, as the political wing is known, is organizing in poor neighborhoods, holding rallies, performing theater, and forming clubs at universities.
According to more than a dozen people interviewed by Reuters, from former police detectives to former rebels, Movadef is pursuing a two-pronged strategy to broaden its base: pushing for the release of Shining Path’s founder, Abimael Guzman, 77, who was jailed for life in 1992, and radicalizing unions to undermine Humala’s free-market policies.
Though Movadef and its allies represent an isolated minority, the government is worried.
Under Newt’s logic children of the uber rich should be put into forced labor camps because they grow up in an environment where nobody around them works. Indeed, there’s even less opportunity to see work being done among the children of the Uber-rich than among the children of the poor and working poor who Gingrich singles out.
Earlier in the day, Gingrich offered more explosive rhetoric on the subject. During a meeting with Nationwide Insurance employees in Des Moines, he was asked to clarify his views on child labor laws, which he recently described as “truly stupid.”
“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and nobody around them who works,” Gingrich replied. “So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”
He said he favored putting children to work in paid jobs at the schools they attend “as early as is reasonable and practical.”
Gingrich initially drew criticism for the idea after an appearance at Harvard last month, when he promised “extraordinarily radical proposals” to change America’s “culture of poverty,” such as allowing children as young as 9 to replace adult janitors at schools.
It was a scene to curdle liberal blood. A ballroom full of New York hedge-fund managers playing poker … to raise money for charter schools.
That’s where I found myself last Wednesday: at a Texas Hold ’Em tournament to raise money for the Success Charter Network, which currently runs nine schools in some of New York’s poorest neighborhoods.
While Naomi Wolf was being arrested for showing solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, there I was, consorting with the 1 percent the protesters hate. It’s no surprise that the bread-heads enjoy gambling. But to see them using their ill-gotten gains to subvert this nation’s great system of public education! I was shocked, shocked.
Except that I wasn’t. I was hugely cheered up. America’s financial elite needs a compelling answer to Occupy Wall Street. This could be it: educate Harlem … with our poker chips.
Life, after all, is a lot like poker. No matter how innately smart you may be, it’s very hard to win if you are dealt a bad hand.
Americans used to believe in social mobility regardless of the hand you’re dealt. Ten years ago, polls showed that about two thirds believed “people are rewarded for intelligence and skill,” the highest percentage across 27 countries surveyed. Fewer than a fifth thought that “coming from a wealthy family is essential [or] very important to getting ahead.” Such views made Americans more tolerant than Europeans and Canadians of inequality and more suspicious of government attempts to reduce it.
Yet the hardships of the Great Recession may be changing that, giving an unexpected resonance to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Falling wages and rising unemployment are making us appreciate what we ignored during the good times. Social mobility is actually lower in the U.S. than in most other developed countries—and falling.
Academic studies show that if a child is born into the poorest quintile (20 percent) of the U.S. population, his chance of making it into the top decile (10 percent) is around 1 in 20, whereas a kid born into the top quintile has a better than 40 percent chance. On average, then, a father’s earnings are a pretty good predictor of his son’s earnings. This is less true in Europe or Canada. What’s more, American social mobility has declined markedly in the past 30 years.
A compelling explanation for our increasingly rigid social system is that American public education is failing poor kids. One way it does this is by stopping them from getting to college. If your parents are in the bottom quintile, you have a 19 percent chance of getting into the top quintile with a college degree—but a miserable 5 percent chance without one.
Your ZIP code can be your destiny, because poor neighborhoods tend to have bad schools, and bad schools perpetuate poverty. But the answer is not to increase spending on this failed system—nor to expand it at the kindergarten level, as proposed by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times last week. As brave reformers like Eva Moskowitz know, the stranglehold exerted by the teachers’ unions makes it almost impossible to raise the quality of education in subprime public schools….
If you’ve begun to pack on the pounds, your doctor may recommend that you get up and move around. But a new study suggests that it’s not just your body you should be moving. Researchers have found that relocating people out of poor neighborhoods can be as effective as drugs in reducing their chances of becoming overweight and developing diabetes.
The idea that neighborhoods have subtle but powerful effects on our health goes back at least to the 1920s, says Jens Ludwig, a sociologist at the University of Chicago Law School. “This question is one that I have been personally very interested in for a long time, partly because I live here on the South Side of Chicago [where] there are massive disparities in people’s life outcomes and well-being.” But how to tease apart the causes?
“Consider two low-income African-American 50-year-old women in Chicago,” Ludwig says. “One lives in Hyde Park,” an integrated middle-class neighborhood, “and the other lives in Washington Park,” a nearby but extremely poor and racially segregated neighborhood. “We see that the woman living in Hyde Park has better health,” Ludwig says, but is that due to the neighborhoods themselves or some difference between the women that led them to choose where to live? The only way to sort out cause and effect is to do a randomized trial, moving people around between neighborhoods and tracking their health over several years.
That is what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) did, and a team led by Ludwig has been analyzing the results. In an attempt to suss out a link between education, employment, and neighborhoods, HUD recruited 4,498 volunteers from 1994 to 1998 living in public housing in cities across the country and randomly assigned them to one of three groups. The first group received rent vouchers that enabled them to move to middle-class neighborhoods—defined as having less than 10% of residents with incomes below the poverty threshold. The second group received the same vouchers to help with rent but stayed in the same neighborhoods. And the third group was a control that received no vouchers and stayed put. Researchers checked on everyone’s health at the start of the experiment and again between 2008 and 2010, measuring data such as height, weight, and the amount of hemoglobin in the blood bonded to sugar molecules, which is a diabetes indicator.