Our country, we tell ourselves, is a place where anyone can make it if they study enough, and where the smartest rise to the top. Grow up in a sad town with only empty lots where factories used to be? Hit the books, spend your days in the library memorizing dates, equations, and working out […]
Like every banker, I remember my first bail-out fondly. Mine was January 1995 and I was working for Salomon Brothers bond trading business, and we, like all of Wall Street, had gotten ourselves out over our skis. The particular reason was Mexico, but the general reason was hype and greed. The hype surrounding the recently […]
After spending eight years driving four hundred thousand miles to take 60,000 pictures of working class Americans, I could easily write a Labor Day essay on the dignity of work, topped by a photo of a man dirty from work, leaning on his well cared for F150 with a back-rack, silver tool box, two bright […]
Like the largest political group in America, the non-voter, I completely ignored this year’s Democratic convention. Like an overwhelming majority of Americans I didn’t watch any speeches, didn’t go online to read hot takes spinning those speeches, and I didn’t fight on Twitter over whatever happened. Instead I spent the week doing what I usually […]
I get criticized for not talking about policy enough, so here we go: No Child Left Behind is a disaster, the spearhead of our misguided attempt to funnel everyone to college. It has hurt the working class, because it devalues their worldview, leaving them feeling humiliated and labeled dumb hicks or lazy hoodlums. It has […]
The current debates over cancel culture are odd because few involved in them have been canceled, or risk being canceled, while entire institutions are indeed being canceled. Institutions that serve and amplify the interests of the working class, such as local newspapers, unions, and churches. The death of local journalism is at least acknowledged by […]
From my ten years documenting the poverty, pain, and frustration of lower-income communities it is easy to conclude that the American Dream is dead for the working class. There is one big exception though: Newer immigrants, who despite poverty, are still optimistic.
It is easy for the right to look at excesses from the current protest, or the incoherence of some protestors, and dismiss them in total. They don’t know their history! They are yelling about capitalism from an iPhone! Defund the police! Crazy! That is a mistake. The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t simply about the […]
In the early 90s, as the Soviet Union crumbled, a trickle of Eastern European students came to the US. One of my roles at Johns Hopkins was to greet them at the airport and try to help their transition. One young man, without asking me, spent his first Sunday in Baltimore walking the length of […]
In physics, to reveal deeper truths, you slam particles together to expose their inner structure. The pandemic has been like that, slamming different parts of the country together, revealing it to be deeply divided by geography, race, education, and wealth. It is hard to imagine it once fit together or will ever fit together again.
If you spend significant time in poor communities, especially poor black communities, you wonder why they don’t explode in protest more often. The inequality that is a concerning statistic to academics and politicians is their daily commute from cleaning the office of a Wall Street bank to a home surrounded by boarded-up buildings. The oppressive […]
We used to joke on Wall Street that you should marry a trader at another firm, trade with only each other, and by end of the year one would have made a lot of money and the other lost the exact same amount. The winner would be paid a big bonus, and the loser only […]