Monthly Archives: January 2021

EP 416 The Rise and Fall of America’s Middle Class

 Societies have always had rich and the poor, but America gave definition and prominence to the three fifths of our countrymen who land somewhere in the middle.  The reforms that followed the Great Depression put the federal government squarely on the side of those looking to attain a piece of the American Dream.  Policies were developed to develop a new suburban America which drove our economy, politics and culture through 1968, according to David Stebenne, who teaches history and law at Ohio State university and is the author of ‘Promised Land’. While many think that the middle class ideal began to erode in the 1980’s, Professor Stebenne dates the decline to the tumultuous year of 1968.  Given our focus on social and political trends we explore the future of the middle class, which we have been told by many may elude many in the millennial and Gen X generations.  

EP 415 A Reckoning With Our Confederate Past

The raging battle over Confederate monuments speaks to a past and a heritage that just won’t die.  The remnants of enslavement and degradation of African-Americans in America casts a long shadow and reminds us of what some call our ongoing cold Civil War.  Connor Towne O’Neill in his must read book, ‘Down Along with That Devil’s Bones’, illustrates the many ways in which our society is still dominated by issue of race.  He examines the legacy of white supremacy and its many overt and hidden manifestations.  He does it with an awakening as a man raised in the North yet transplanted to the South.    

EP 414 People’s True Attitudes About Abortion More Nuanced Than You Think

You may not really know how people feel about abortion because no one likes to talk about the issue.  The sense you get from reading about abortion is that it divides people very neatly into camps-pro-life or pro-choice.  The truth is that once you sit down and discuss the issue with everyday Americans their views are much more difficult to categorize in neat buckets.  That’s according to Tricia Bruce, PhD., of the University of Notre Dame, who led a team of five sociologists in the definitive study called ‘How Americans Understand Abortion’.  People seem to grasp the gravity of the decision and the many factors that weigh into a woman’s decision.  In fact, one out of four women who agreed to be part of a survey on a major ‘social issue’, unaware when agreeing that it was abortion, had had one.  A major finding was that abortion is not merely a political issue, but an intimately personal one which involves not just life, but the notion of what is a good life for the mother and the child.  And while Americans don’t ‘want’ abortion, most recognized its place in the sphere of reproductive rights a woman should have an ability to choose, even if they want strict limitations placed on it.  Learn more about what Americans truly feel about one of the most contentious issues in the public realm.

EP 413 Joe Biden Readies To Move America Forward

Evan Osnos starts his new book, ‘Joe Biden: The Life, The Run and What Matters Now’ by recounting one of the tragedies that has befallen our 46th President on his long and arduous rise to the political pinnacle.  And while he will often talk about the loss of his wife and daughter in a car accident or his son Beau’s death to cancer, he rarely recounts his own near death experience with an aneurysm, which left him unable to perform his senatorial duties for months.  While this is the first revelation in the book, there are many others provided by this National Book Award Winner.  For example, Biden’s theory of the case as to how to win the nomination defied all conventional logic about the drift of the Democratic Party and his private words with Vladimir Putin offer insight into a different relationship tro come with this President and the Russian leader. If Joe Biden’s right he can also calm a jittery and divided nation and make deals from the center which will bring movement on major policy issues, like climate change, income inequality and racial justice.  On the eve of his inauguration, Evan joins us to discuss where his insights suggest we may be headed.        

EP 412 Can We Achieve Authentic Diversity?

No matter the effort we say is being put behind the movement for more diversity in the workplace, the sad reality is that the numbers are dismal.  In the Fortune 500 companies where diversity numbers are compiled, fewer than 4 percent of their workforce is racially and ethnically diverse.  Additionally, a study of 279 companies found that White workers occupied 86 percent of C-suite positions.  And yet in America we are approaching a moment when forty percent of the workforce is non-white.  In the period of the pandemic, that percentage seems low as we see so many people of color populating the front line workforce keeping America operating in this tremulous moment.  Michelle Silverthorn, author of ‘Authentic Diversity: How to Change the Workplace for Good’ takes us to school in her informed and reassuring way that there is a path but it will require an honest discussion of race, admitting that we are a mosaic, not a melting pot, and at times stepping out of our comfort zones into a place of discomfort and new discovery.  We move beyond EEO speak into an honest conversation very quickly.  You may want to listen twice to gain new insights.

EP 411 Unprepared: America in the Time of the Coronavirus

In the introduction to the book we base this podcast on, Tim Egan describes the response to the coronavirus as ‘perhaps the greatest collapse of American society in so short a time, ever.’  Why did a confluence of unmet concerns coalesce around this health crisis, including economic suffering, disparities in care, inability to mobilize and marshal government resources and racial inequities that have been knawing at our society for years?  Historians will have a field day trying to unpack why it happened on this scale at a time that the sitting President said he had made ‘America great again’.  A dubious claim, indeed.  Jon Sternfeld who compiled and edited ‘Unprepared’ joins me for a great conversation about how democracies respond to crisis, the hollowing out of our federal governmental infrastructure over decades and the abject failure of leadership throughout the pandemic.  America’s reputation as the can-do nation in the world has suffered a mighty blow from which it may never recover and Americans must ask themselves hard questions about the responses needed and the wherewithal to provide them.  There will be the next crisis.  Will we be better prepared to address it or unprepared–again?

EP 410 What Happens When Some States Are No Longer Habitable?

Does the title sound like science fiction?  Then you haven’t been paying attention when heat besieged California this summer in ways unseen in generations.  Or that a surge in air-conditioning broke the state’s electrical grid.  Or that in Death Valley the 130 degree temperature was possibly the hottest ever measured on Earth.  Not to mention the wildfires, intense hurricanes, floods and drought impacting various areas of our country.  It’s the elixir of climate change meeting indifference on many levels in our society.  If it’s going to take more convincing on the part of many people that this phenomenon is real and helped along by our own actions, perhaps your inability to get a mortgage because banks won’t secure it or insurance companies not writing you a policy for your dream home that will convince you we have a serious problem. At the moment, people are still rushing toward the danger looking to re-locate to shoreline communities and hot zones, like Arizona and Florida.  Jesse Keenan is an urban planning and climate-change specialist who advises the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission on market hazards from climate change and is an associate professor of real estate at Tulane University  He joins us to discuss where to when where we are becomes uninhabitable.

EP 409 Self Neglect is Growing Threat Among America’s Elderly

Most people are aware that the elderly are vulnerable and that this population is often targeted by scammers and abusers.  Elder abuse, whether it is physical, emotional or financial, is a real concern for family members of seniors.  However, there is a growing threat that receives less attention: self-neglect.  That concept may be new to many, but given that there are more seniors than ever, many of them living alone, with relatives long distances away, it’s harder for family members to know if their loved is fully capable of taking care of their many needs.  Imagine walking into the home of an elderly loved one and being greeted by a foul-smelling odor that has no identifiable sourse.  The house is in disarray and there are papers, dirty dishes and pills not taken strewn around the living quarters.  The stories are heartbreaking.  How America is going to address the needs of an aging population is soon to become a national crisis. Lori Delagrammatikas, Executive Director, of the National Adult Protective Services Association, joins us to discuss the nature of the problem and ways we might address it.  If you have an aging parent or grandparent, please take a close listen.