As some of you know, my wife and I retired from the world of regular wage labor in the Spring of 2001. Since then we have lived in many places, the last being Portland, Oregon. We spent fourteen months in Portland, along with our twin sons. We were attracted to this city because we wanted to see the Northwest and because of the publicity it has received as an environmentally conscious urban area with a very liberal politics. While the city is surrounded by a green belt of parks, fine for hiking, and while great trees and beautiful flowers abound, Portland’s reputation for liberal politics is mostly myth. Unemployment is very high, wages are low, and workers are treated poorly. One of my sons, a talented chef, was paid a wage much less than half of what he had earned in Pittsburgh and is now earning in Washington, DC., which included several one-day strikes with mass picketing He seldom worked full-time, and the manager of his last employer routinely went on the company com puter and stole hours from workers, a practice which I have come to learn is commonplace in the United States. Working people are almost never mentioned in the local newspapers or discussed by leading politicians. A valiant struggle by unionized workers at the famous Powell’s bookstore, which featured several one-day strikes and mass picketing, got no publicity at all. The labor movement, such as it is, is all but invisible.… [Parts 1-5]
Notes from the Associate Editor
In the New York Times of December 15, 2001, there is an article titled, “Grounded by an Income Gap.” The subject of the article is the growing income gap between the richest and the poorest people in the United States, a disparity greater here than in any other industrialized nation. Apparently the reasons for this inequality have been vexing the brains of our best economists. Martin Feldstein, Harvard professor and, under Reagan, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, is quoted as follows: “Why there has been increasing inequality in this country is one of the big puzzles in our field and has absorbed a lot of intellectual effort.” But, this effort has apparently been wasted, since he goes on to say, “But if you ask me whether we should worry about the fact that some people on Wall Street and basketball players are making a lot of money, I say no.”
It is with great pleasure and a sense of humility that I begin work as Associate Editor of Monthly Review. The pleasure comes from living in New York City and knowing that I am working at the best-known and most important radical journal in the world. The humility comes from knowing I am working with a group of outstanding intellectuals and activists. Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff have been mentors for many years, and in the small ways I have been able, I have tried to pattern my life and work after that of MR founder, Leo Huberman, a great popular writer and labor educator. Now John Foster and Bob McChesney, two scholars of the highest rank, have come on board as editors. It is an honor to be on the masthead with such people.