Tag Archives: opportunity

Yellen to college grads: Best job market in nearly a decade

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Monday that college graduates are entering the strongest job market the country has seen in nearly a decade, and their degree is more important than ever.

Yellen said that with changes in the job market such as technology and globalization, succeeding in the job market is increasingly tied to higher education.

“Those with a college degree are more likely to find a job, keep a job, have higher job satisfaction and earn a higher salary,” Yellen said in remarks at commencement ceremonies at the University of Baltimore.

She said that annual earnings for college graduates last year were on average 70 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma. Back in 1980 that difference was only 20 percent, she said.

Yellen said the increasing demand for people with college and graduate degrees reflected the need for higher technological skills and the impact of globalization, which allows goods and services to be produced anywhere. She said those trends were likely to continue.

“Success will continue to be tied to education, in part because a good education enhances one’s ability to adapt to a changing economy,” she said.

In her remarks, Yellen did not make any comments about Fed interest-rate policies. The Fed last week boosted its benchmark rate by a quarter-point. It was the first increase in a year. In making the announcement, the Fed projected that it would move rates up another three times in 2017.

Yellen said that in addition to the improvement in the unemployment rate, which in November fell to a nine-year low of 4.6 percent, there have been recent signs that wage growth is picking up.

But Yellen noted that challenges remain.

“The economy is growing more slowly than in past recoveries and productivity growth, which is a major influence on wages, has been disappointing,” she told the graduates.

Study shows gender gap narrowing in book coverage

A new study of literary publications finds that men remain the majority of book reviewers and authors reviewed, but the gap is narrowing.

VIDA, otherwise known as Women in Literary Arts, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that The New Republic and Harper’s were among those showing notable increases in the representation of women in their book coverage. VIDA chair Amy King said the report showed some “upticks worth noting,” but also cautioned against possible backlash that “happens with increased awareness.”

“We see regular improvements, some large and some incremental, which makes us cautiously optimistic; however even great strides seem to also regularly take one or two steps back,” said King, noting, for instance, that men outnumbered women by 2-to-1 for The Paris Review’s book coverage in 2015. Two years earlier, the ratio was nearly even.

Debate sparked

VIDA (www.vida.org) sparked an extensive debate in the book world when it released its first study, in 2011, showing vast disparities between men and women at such elite and politically liberal publications as The New Yorker, Harper’s and The New York Review of Books, where more than 80 percent of the reviewers in 2010 were men and a similar percentage of the books were written by men. As in previous years, the current charts were compiled by a team of VIDA volunteers.

In an email to The Associated Press, Paris Review editor Lorin Stein said that year-to-year changes in gender representation were a matter of “about a dozen poems in one column or the other, a handful of stories.” He noted that the magazine has given four of its last five Plimpton Prizes for fiction, awarded to outstanding new writers who have appeared in the magazine, to women: Emma Cline, Ottessa Moshfegh, April Ayers Lawson and Amie Barrodale.

“But that’s not why those women got the prize,” he said. “They got it because they were the best new voices in the magazine. That’s just how we work.”

He also cited the online Paris Review Daily, which, he said, consistently publishes more work by women.

“Again — and I want to stress this — we’re not counting heads. It just works out that way,” he said.

At The New Republic, just nine books reviewed in 2010 were by women, compared with 55 by men. In 2015, a year marked by numerous staff changes amid contention with owner Chris Hughes, 24 books reviewed were by women and 19 by men. At The New York Times Book Review, the number of women book reviewers jumped from 295 in 2010 to 475 last year, six higher than the total of male book reviewers.

At Harper’s, the byline gap between men and women narrowed from 65-13 in 2010 to 64-50 in 2015. “Harper’s overall numbers reflect editor Christopher Beha’s public commitment to improvement,” King said.

At The New York Review of Books, the man-woman ratio for reviewers has changed just slightly, from 200-39 in 2010 to 216-52 last year. The disparity at The New Yorker also has become smaller, although male bylines are still far more common, 453-232, compared with a nearly 3-1 margin in 2011.

The New Yorker’s editorial director, Henry Finder, called the numbers “sobering.” He added that he was “pretty hopeful” the results for 2016 “will look less unequal.”

Vida defines its mission as increasing “critical attention to contemporary women’s writing as well as further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture.”

For Sanders, Iowa is chance to turn revolution into reality

Bernie Sanders was halfway through his opening statement — a stern, 45-minute lecture on domestic policy leavened with a dash of political pep talk — when he realized the crowd had missed one of his rare attempts at humor.

“That was a joke!” he bellowed. Laughter briefly rippled through the audience as the Vermont senator returned to his statistic-rich pitch for increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and breaking up big Wall Street banks.

Bernie Sanders’ down-to-business demeanor on the campaign trail belies the youthful enthusiasm that’s accompanied his unexpected rise in the Democratic race for president. With less than two weeks until voting begins, the 74-year-old self-described democratic socialist could win both Iowa and New Hampshire, a once unthinkable outcome in a primary campaign that was supposed to be tailor-made for Hillary Clinton.

“Today the inevitable candidate doesn’t look quite so inevitable,” Sanders told voters who braved icy roads and single-digit temperatures to see him speak Tuesday morning in Fort Dodge.

While Sanders first garnered attention for the overflow crowds he drew around the country last summer, he’s making more intimate appeals to voters in the final few days before the Iowa’s Feb. 1 caucuses. On Tuesday, he slipped into a luxury bus (“You can walk around, it’s got comfortable seats,” he said of his new ride) for a day of smaller town hall meetings across central and northwest Iowa.

As voters filed into the events, a campaign soundtrack played a heavy rotation of songs touting revolution, a nod to Sanders’ call for a “political revolution” in America. Singer Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution” is a favorite, as is the band Flogging Molly’s “Revolution”.

Young people with nose rings, green and purple tinted hair, and wearing an array of hoodies filled the seats directly behind the candidate, though the rest of the audience skewed older. A campaign supporter in Carroll used a Robert Frost poem to introduce the senator, urging supporters to make sure Sanders’ “road less traveled” takes him to the White House.

Yet there’s little lightness once Sanders begins to speak _ no amusing anecdote to open his remarks, save for a small quip about how Iowa’s winter reminds him of his home state. Sanders leans into the lectern and his Brooklyn-accented voice quickly reaches a shout. He repeatedly jabs his index finger at the audience, and when he’s ready to make a point of emphasis, he lifts both arms into the air as if conducting an orchestra.

Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats on Capitol Hill, began his campaign with firm rules about what he was not willing to do to win the presidency. He’s among the most vigorous critics of super PACs, political groups that can accept donations of any size, and frequently touts his campaign’s reliance on small donations. He also vowed to avoid negative, personal attacks on his rivals.

But with the prospect of victory in the early states at hand, Sanders is testing the limits of that latter pledge. In addition to his shots at Clinton’s evaporating inevitability, he relishes pointing out the big-money speaking fees Clinton received from Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street giant that’s a frequent villain in Sanders’ speeches.

“Goldman Sachs also provides very, very generous speaking fees to some unnamed candidates,” he said during a town hall at a winery in Carroll, just across the street from Clinton’s campaign office in town.

While Sanders may be striking a chord with voters seeking an outsider candidate, he’s also a practiced politician and it’s clear he’s acutely aware of his standing in the Democratic race.

Taking a page out of Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s playbook, Sanders has recently started opening his remarks with lengthy references to his improving poll numbers. He’s particularly fixated on surveys showing he’s more likely to beat Trump in the general election than Clinton, underscoring his irritation with suggestions from within his own party that’s he’s unelectable.

He also knows he lacks foreign policy experience, particularly when his record is stacked up next to Clinton’s four years as secretary of state. So he reaches for an easy applause line with his liberal base, reminding voters of Clinton’s vote in favor of the 2003 invasion of Iraq — then noting former Vice President Dick Cheney also had foreign policy experience.

Even if Sanders can turn his momentum into victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, there are daunting challenges ahead. He’s less well known among minority populations, which some Democrats see as a vulnerability for him as the race heads to states with more racially diverse populations.

Sanders seems well aware of this, too. He’s making an effort in South Carolina in particular to reach out to black voters, hoping that like the crowds that greet him in snowy Iowa, they’ll see the rumpled, aging socialist as their advocate.

“This is it. Here I am,” Sanders said as he closed an event in Iowa. “For better or worse.”

Dems say they have a shot at Senate in 2016

During the once-a-decade redistricting process in 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican majority carefully crafted a map of political districts that guaranteed them the majority in the state Assembly and Senate, as well as in the state’s congressional representation, until 2022.

A challenge to the hyper-partisan, gerrymandered map is winding its way through the courts. Meanwhile, Republican candidates continue to dominate the Assembly, even when, as in the last election, Democrats receive far more Assembly votes on the whole. 

Gov. Scott Walker frequently claims he’s a conservative Republican who’s able to draw support in a purple state, but in reality the state is very blue in presidential-election years and very red in midterm election years. Since 2016 is a presidential year, Democrats have the best prospects they can possibly get at picking up seats in the Senate.

The GOP is trying hard to prevent traditionally Democratic constituencies, including blacks, Latinos, the poor and college students, from voting. They’ve created a voter ID law and closed down or reduced hours at DMV sites that can issue those IDs — particularly sites in poor and minority areas. Republicans hope to toss out the ballot of every voter who’s moved since registering, which poor people do more often than middle-class and wealthy people.

But despite all of the undemocratic measures, some Democrats believe their party might pick up the state Senate. Republicans hold a narrower majority there — 19 to 14 — than in the Assembly, because Senate districts are larger, making them harder to manipulate for partisan purposes. Democrats need to pick up three seats in the Senate.

With Democrats holding the presidential advantage in Wisconsin and with the popular former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold near the top of the ticket in a rematch with the unpopular incumbent Ron Johnson, there might be Democratic momentum in the state. Figure in Walker’s low approval rating and the field appears even more open to change, especially if the Democratic presidential candidate wears long coattails.

According to expert political observers, at least three seats currently held by Republicans are in play.

Tom Tiffany, R-12, is especially vulnerable. Tiffany has offended many Wisconsinites since he took office. He was behind efforts to cut scientific positions from the Department of Natural Resources and transform the DNR into a rubber stamp agency for polluters who donate to the Republican Party. He helped lead the effort to change mining regulations so that an out-of-state company could build an open-pit iron mine — a project that was later dropped by the mining company itself because it was too environmentally risky.

Tiffany pushed to make old-growth forests in the state available for logging and he helped to take away the powers of counties to pass tougher zoning standards along their shorelines.

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters put Tiffany on its “dishonor role,” a position that he called “a badge of honor.” But it’s a badge that’s made him a top target of the state’s well-organized environmental community.

Still, the biggest albatross around Tiffany’s neck is that, as a key member of the Joint Finance Committee, he ignored warnings of growing problems with understaffing and safety issues at the Lincoln Hills School in Wausau, a prison for young male offenders. Because he helped slash 100 positions and $145 million from the Department of Corrections budget, he’s being held responsible for physical abuse at the facility.

The state Department of Justice is investigating the situation, and the issue is not likely to go away soon.

In 2016, Tiffany will face Democrat Dave Polashek, who recently retired as superintendent of the Oconto Falls School District.

Senate District 18 has no incumbent, which makes it ripe for picking. Retiring Republican Sen. Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac won the seat from Jessica King in 2012 by 590 votes, despite outspending her six to one, according to Wisconsin Democratic Party executive director Kory Kozloski.

Gudex is retiring because he knew he faced a tough re-election battle against popular Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, a Democrat. Harris has decreased the county’s debt and built its reserves while increasing public investment in infrastructure, including improvements to roads, a nursing home and UW-Fox Valley. The personable Harris also is a strong campaigner.

But that’s not the only reason Gudex bailed. As a board member of the failed and corrupt Wisconsin Economic Development Council, his name was rightly dragged through the mud during its endless scandals and he was heavily criticized from both sides of the aisle for resisting calls for an investigation. He was personally associated with some of WEDC’s more controversial loans, which critics denounced as cronyism rather than investment in job growth. Sixty percent of all loans made by WEDC went to Scott Walker campaign donors. 

Harris will face Fond du Lac GOP chair Dan Feyen. The district is historically a tossup. In 2008, Republican Randy Hopper won by a 168-vote margin. In the 2011 recall, King upset him with 1,250 votes.

Democrats also hope to unseat Sheila Harsdorf in District 10 and Rob Cowles in District 2, both of whom easily survived recall races in 2011. Republican Luther Olsen in District 14 also survived a 2011 recall, but by a margin of just 52–48. His is one of the races in which strong turnout and presidential coattails could make a difference.

Milwaukee County board adds gender identity to nondiscrimination ordinance

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted on April 24 to amend its nondiscrimination ordinance to ban bias based on gender identity and gender expression.

The ordinance protects those who work for the county and also those who work for companies that do business with the county.

Milwaukee has similar protections in its nondiscrimination ordinance, as do Madison and Dane County.

The state of Wisconsin, though it was the first state to ban bias based on sexual orientation, does not protect transgender citizens in its nondiscrimination law.

In a statement, Marina Dimitrijevic, chair of the county board, said, “Thank you to my colleagues on the county board for voting today to end discrimination and to update our non-discrimination ordinances. Milwaukee County will join 17 states and more than 100 communities across America … who have all passed similar fully inclusive non-discrimination protections and implemented them successfully.

“County Executive Chris Abele has been an excellent partner in moving our county towards equality and fairness. I thank him for his support of my legislation. This inclusive resolution will modernize Milwaukee County’s existing policies and help protect against discrimination. The implementation of this type of change will enhance our competitiveness as Milwaukee County seeks to build a talented workforce.”

She continued, “I am proud of the Milwaukee County Board for taking a stand against discrimination and ensuring that all residents have the same access to our resources, services, and employment opportunities. Milwaukee County is the economic engine of our state. A fair and inclusive Milwaukee County strengthens our state.”

The county’s website said the update expands the nondiscrimination policy “to ensure equal opportunity to all persons from all segments of Milwaukee County in contracting, employment and promotional opportunity and equal access to public services.”

Excerpts from the State of the Union speech

Excerpts of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address released in advance by the White House:

“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.”

“Let’s face it: That belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.”

“Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.”

“Our job is to reverse these tides. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”