POLITICS: PennAve

Big Ideas: On superheroes, inequality and Hollywood

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Entitlements,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Think Tanks,Law,Law Enforcement,Magazine

Mytheos Holt for the R Street Institute: In what is likely the most bizarre story you will read all week, Seattle resident, trained fighter and self-proclaimed “superhero” (read: costumed vigilante) Phoenix Jones has decided to disband his team, the Rain City Superhero Movement (RCSM), citing an amusing problem: A lot of people seeking to join it aren't all that … well … super. ...

In other words, Jones was confronting a number of problems that really would plague a vigilante who decided to take the law into his hands. For instance, any time a rogue superhero did something wrong, Jones’ name would be mentioned and he’d be tarred by association. So what to do? Apparently, the answer is to institute Superhero Quality Control. And if you can wrap your head around the seeming absurdity of those three words, it’s a decision that makes eminent sense.

Of course, not everyone is pleased by the news. Rex Velvet (yes, someone really calls themselves that), Phoenix Jones’ self-proclaimed “arch-nemesis,” issued a Facebook message offering any and all rejected superheroes the chance to join in a tell-all documentary about Jones, presumably to try and tar the “superhero” and by extension, damage his ability to do his work.

It’s a case that would be worth writing about for its oddity alone. But when you manage to look past the weird costumes, theatricality and seeming pointlessness of it all, the whole affair is actually something else as well: A lesson on the ability of businesses and professional associations to self-regulate. In fact, even going beyond that, you could even see the travails of the RCSM as a case that the vast majority of occupational licensing is unnecessary.

 

INEQUALITY IS BAKED INTO THE CAKE

Jeff Madrick for the Century Foundation: The victims of childhood poverty, as with most diseases, are not responsible for what has befallen them.

Evidence gathered over the last 10 years increasingly shows how damaged these lives are. Malnourished and psychologically traumatized by family instability and constant moving, poor children’s brains are often neurologically underdeveloped, with cognitive abilities measured as lagging as early as 1 year old.

Studies now convincingly show the effects of child poverty have serious long-term consequences. Such children do poorly later in school, have lower high school graduation rates, and often wind up in poverty and on welfare as adults. They suffer from chronic diseases, such as asthma and attention disorders.

In what is now a vicious cycle, they pass poverty on to their children. They are also costly to the American people, because they are often unable to become skilled workers and instead eat up a significant chunk of social spending.

To a nation so conscious of workers' skills, these children are destined to become an enormous wasted resource.

Education is widely considered the pathway to reducing inequality. But in America, inequality really begins at birth.

 

HOLLYWOOD IS NOT IMMUNE

David Callahan for Demos' Policy Shop: Times are tough for creative people in the entertainment industry — even as big profits roll in for corporations like Viacom and Disney. It's a familiar story, only in this case it's film editors, make-up artists and musicians who are getting creamed. What's happening to these talented people is a reminder that no one is safe as corporations keep getting ever savvier and heartless about maximizing their bottom line.

In contrast to many industries, the entertainment sector has strong unions, with just about everyone who works on major films and TV shows belonging to one of the unions. But that hasn't stopped creative workers from being bulldozed. What's happening is a variation on an old theme: entertainment companies have searched far and wide for the cheapest places to do everything.

So, for example, they have hired overseas firms in India and elsewhere to do post-production work that skilled workers once did in offices in Los Angeles or New York ...

Many musicians once made a good living writing the music for movies and TV, but that is changing fast. Entertainment companies are turning to much lower paid musicians in Eastern Europe to produce music, leaving musicians in places like Santa Monica wiped out. ...

Why spotlight what's happening in this one corner of the labor market? Because too often we think only about manufacturing or low-skilled service workers when we talk about the victims of a ruthless new bottom line — when, in fact, more and more creative and white-collar professions are now being disrupted, with traumatic results for people who once had secure livelihoods. ...

Who knows, maybe as more Americans realize that nobody is really safe we'll finally start to see more actions to reduce economic inequality and insecurity.

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