My previous blog - The Third New York - focused on the fact that in May of 2008 I moved to New York City and developed a settler's passion for this city's endless attractions. This one - beginning today - February 21, 2011 - takes up a lifelong passion for the New York Times and turns that passion into a blog about how one New Yorker reads and is influenced by the so-called Paper of Record. I love reading the Times; it is a habit I cannot give up. In fact, I love it so much, I am thinking of making the Times my main text for a course I will teach at Wagner College in the Fall. But more about that later.
For now, I just want to say that the chart that Charles Blow presented on Saturday's Op-Ed page is, for me, this weekend's irresistible piece. It shows the US as third from the bottom among 33 countries on the Gini Index of Income Inequality and far, far above all the others in the number of prisoners per 100,000 citizens. Incidentally, this chart also shows the US as not particularly competitive when it comes to its level of democracy, with a ranking far below that of such countries as Australia, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and many others. There is very little good news on this chart, though our level of educational achievement is probably not as low as many would have expected. It is nevertheless pretty low. But the real story is how unequal and how punitive the US has become. This cannot be sustained over the long run. New leadership is needed to remind us that public investments in the future are imperative. At the very least, these investments must be structured to help equalize wealth and provide healthy outlets for our adjudicated youth. These concerns have become more important than ever and yet are ignored as never before. Therein lies disaster. Our best hope is that the American people will come to their senses and insist that these critical public investments be initiated without further delay.