The progressive movement’s political struggles involve much more than the loss of Sanders as a Presidential candidate. He has laid a new foundation, but there is much more to learn by defining the malfunctions of twenty-first-century center-left political thinking. From the day of his bid for the presidency in April 2015, he leaned gracefully away from the Democratic Party’s failures, leading directly to Joe Biden’s nomination and ultimate success. He effectively repositioned where a Democratic Socialist can stand on the American political spectrum in just five years. That is a strong indication of an expanding political organization.
The thirty to forty percent of voters who accept the historic social ideals of the Democratic Party have a new problem. The need to find about a thousand new Bernie Sanders, or an average of one hundred per State. Ideologically we are not challenging to find. Identifying those who can be loved like Bernie is the question. How many will have the skills to become a national leader, run for President, and keep the burn real? Many are in office but placed into the oddly shaped, swayable, gerrymander-purple of districts where despair is easily defined as the failure of those who have it. Today seven households can be pushed into despair for every 3 capable of weathering any storm. The odds are moving toward eight to one against, and the world is entering a century of storms. This indicates a need for the expansion of political leadership organizations.
The malfunction includes the inability to describe this shift in odds as a political policy product, not destiny, and not jargon like “globalization.” Real? Yes, but falsely used to blame others amid divide and conquer economics. Sanders succeeded in teaching every American the words “billionaire class.” He failed to help Americans understand what that “class “has done to the Democratic Party’s leadership and social justice politics generally. The American people are still looking across a chasm of fog and clouds filled with inadequate descriptions. For instance, “the one percent 98 percent of the wealth.”
The average American’s eyes glaze over when the percent of what questions regarding wealth categories are all described as fungible. The progressive movement’s ideological malfunction remains. It is the inability to illustrate the widening gap between working people and those earning $5,000 per week and up.
When the power to influence is set by corporate “identity scrubbing,” negatively influence the lower seventy-percent you get lists of storm makers such as the following (here). Alt-Right indexDark Right index) These lists need to be thoroughly understood far more thoroughly than the ordinary person can do alone. Who should tell the story and share it well enough for it to be believed without question,
Some traction has been added to the storm metaphor. Beyond the useful but battered ones, there is a new disorder. Call it climate change roulette. No matter who you are, your number is on that wheel. In this century, the impact predictability of storms beyond a few days or minutes creates the opportunity for catalytic cooperation as a strategy for avoiding catastrophic resolution.
The 2020-2021 pandemic is a storm-lesson people can understand as a catalyst demanding collaboration. Resolutions to big problems like this are led far more adequately by science than politics. We fail as a nation by quietly allowing political science to displace the message of medical science. We missed the opportunity to teach some hard science from the top down.
America’s social democracy ideals will be exhibited in Biden’s platform more strongly, given success in Georgia, but with not much credit to Sanders. Still, both men are embedded in this predicament of honest speech in a society so willing to accept lies. The race for the Senate in Georgia became an economically overheated representative of a winner-takes-all system. Why are so many people screaming fire in a crowded theater? Why are the stakes so elevated, why are the shares in the American economy sought with such desperation?
One answer comes in four words from one of America’s billionaires, capable of being progressive. He said, “Never bet against America.” Warren Buffet’s words speak of pure confidence. They have a dramatically calming effect. Frightened people in a wealthy nation can clearly understand that message. Even so, public policy has got to start proving it. Think of the conversation that might occur using a few reasonably precise talking points.
We are a diverse nation that cherishes liberty and freedom from fear.
We are a nation that lifts people up and away from the horrors of despair
We select multiple opinion and influence leaders with different perspectives
We can name the sources of news and information we use daily.
If the quality of life is reduced, you are not its origin. It is a product of public policy.
What has been taken from you? Who took it? How? Why? When and Where?
One other corporate leader’s points need to be added. They are best heard from a speech by Betsy Bernard on “rules” delivered just before the election of POTUS45. In a few memorable minutes, she gave me seven reasons why POTUS45 was a one-term, dishonest President (here). I also learned how quality leadership could produce trusted-responses and strengthen American values in challenging times. Progressives and Democratic Socialists can find some new doors to open that could expand social justice organizations. The times ahead require effort to find those best to knock on, and how lightly or firmly, a pitch on mutual interests will be needed.
There is no doubt, the dangerous world became more so as a product of the 45th President. America’s 2021 geopolitical position may take years to resurrect. In the previous four years, systemic racism and violent, outright bigotry in America is benignly accepted by this rude President’s raw manners. Lies and obfuscation must no longer be accepted. It must be rebuked. I thought this to be the warning letter by former Secretaries of Defense. Then, on January 6, 2021, the President’s demand for mob insurrection has led to a call to use the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. These and other remedies are compelling, as would a second impeachment, but it was all too late. And we all knew better.
What will matter most is that on January 20, 2021, the nation’s heart can be set on a new path, and its head will turn in a new direction. A journey demanded by the U.S. Constitution and put deeply into its foundation as – e pluribus unum — out of many, one. That will always be the goal of America.
The two projections touched on here points to reform how political representation is established from precinct to State. At the center of a healthy representative government is how the voting structure for a free and fair election system is sustained as transparent. The second issue describes the need to analyze political influence structures and corporate identity scrubbing in funding political organizations and campaigns. The media-spheres of the 21st c. present a complex issue that travels all the way to the Supreme Court U.S. and the U.S. Constitution.
These two problems tell me of one pressing need. We need to find new alliances and allies. We need to them not just from the streets and neighborhoods of America, but from the vast storehouse of wealth, these streets and neighborhoods have produced. That wealth now rests in an extended new class of investor-owned businesses. Our representatives have done their bidding, a massive accumulation of wealth has occurred. The time to ask with a strong sense of urgency – has this policy worked?
The Democratic Party is best known for its past in job creation, fight for equal pay, and quality education and health care for all. It sees the future of clean, renewable energy as the best way to meet every other goal. The Democratic Party is reasonably aligned with the Working Families Party (WFP). This progressive political organization now sponsors candidates in nearly twenty states, and it is growing in popularity. The WFP fights to make every voice matter, first in the sanctity of the vote, and second as grounded in free speech principles. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. It is a U.S. affiliate of Socialist International. Like the WFP, it believes working people can democratically manage the economy and build a diverse society that reduces profiteering and still invests in the future. A federation of state Green Parties committed to ecology, non-violence, social justice, and grassroots organizing established the Green Party of the United States.
The two other major players in the American conversation of social democratic principles are the Labor Party and the Socialist Party USA. The labor party stands for a democratic social revolution from the grassroots up in opposition to a single political party’s violent seizure of power. The Socialist Party USA is recently founded. In June 1996, delegates from several hundred local and international unions and individual activists came together to identify new ways to advocate for working people.
Please spend some time with the websites and confirm for me the following idea.
All six of these organizations recognize in varying degrees the need for a more radical democracy. There is a need for a government that will fight against and exposes fascist, communist-style state control. These organizations can help assure primary government institutions, from the small town fire department to the Department of Defense, serve the people well. These political parties believe in a diverse society. They know they can end racism. They are confident in building a new American understanding of a shared egalitarian future. Can these organizations lead people to a socialist society that values cooperation, work, home, and community? If not them who, and if not now, when?
“The attention given to the social construct of race and racism is four-hundred-year-complicated, the subject of multiple doctoral thesis, many excellent books, and legislation. On the other hand, there is an uncomplicated pre-systemic solution to racism for ordinary people available right now. Become a playful toddler again, and stay that way, We would just have new friends to play the game of growing up in the world. We could sustain the social context of newness without bias. The lesson here is we do not have a self-identity in these first years of our lives and that the bias now held is learned and can be unlearned.”
Rex L. Curry
Yes, white people do something. Everything we think we know about the world is wrong, and that is a good way to look at it if we expect to learn anything new. I found Corinne Shutack (also white), who found Kara’s work (above) to be a helpful image for the distribution of 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. Her list helped me get into racism as one of several American malfunctions I am working on and drafted for you to scroll through (here).
Shutack’s work helped me view recent events as having systemchange potential, a process described in five other posts (here).
Even though the world has been brought down by one innocent pangolin, the secret lesson of the dystopian pandemic is the exposed super-power of a national strike for health and social justice. Coupled with ongoing racial injustice events, I must now plead with you to gird your loins, gear up, and steel yourself for the return to normal.
Do Not Let That Happen.
One of her brilliant teachers said the problem is not whether the events are racist or not. The question is this: “How much racism was at work?”
To deal with the inequality of life chances for a newborn child, it is necessary to recognize probable impediments. Number one on the list should become the disparities of culture, race, and ethnicity that pose grievous imbalances caused by each of those obstacles. Those that are products of city, state, and national policy offer many opportunities for change. They are aimed and every human being from New York City to Los Angeles and from Minneapolis to Houston. Each of them produces vastly different consequences for everyone on the diverse spectrum of America.
The blue note is coming for all to hear and understand (listen) (read). Common interest groups will form, and coalitions for change will be built. System changes occur all the time (here).
Love the One Your In?
A significant part of American history and perhaps of the whole world include patterns of race insecurity. The system we are in fosters that anxiety. The combination of insecurity and anxiety attracts opportunists of all kinds. The emotions are often sought out and exploited by those with political power to sustain or advance their position. Recognize the overarching pathway of this behavior as follows: Pick a group, ostracize them, identify a weakness to exploit or strength to fear, support false but agreeable “like-with-like” ghetto policies, and next, isolate and then criminalize the poverty of the marginalized people. Find or select behavior to define as a crime, confiscate their possessions through forfeiture, and then seize and imprison them. As a process, this is a historical lineage nourished by hate and fear. Reform is a failure with this kind of unremoved, unexamined sickness in the world.
The history of this pattern is that of political practice. It reveals a design to fund and establish the eradication of equality as a self-sustaining Apartheid. In America, the persecution of Chinese immigrants, the internment of Japanese citizens, the eugenic sterilization of the “unfit,” the criminalization of drugs vs. health treatment for the addicted are well known political power moves. Justice speaks when these practices are exposed, the crimes are admitted, and payment for reparations is agreed upon. On a rare occasion, paid up.
Vox developed a story on the four times reparations were paid in America of the six-times world. Think about that ratio. Vox also encourages close reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ case for reparations. Since the early 1970s, the genocidal aspects of American racial policy remain in the slow-motion systems associated with the so-called War on Drugs. Like all war, the one on drug use has failed the people while it enriches the businesses of war itself. Reform is a failure; a revolutionary perspective for change will be needed. The debate for me hovers over the idea called a “new era of public safety” vs. “the end of policing as we know it,” and that’s all right.
The two contemporary responses of enlightened leadership on race and cops can be considered as pivotal. The wisdom and vision of Barack Obama to even tackle the subject and the far less known insight of Alex S. Vitale, a “critical criminologist.” Of the thousands of research efforts available for discovery, I recommend two of them as follows:
“…here’s a report and toolkit developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and based on the work of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that I formed when I was in the White House. And if you’re interested in taking concrete action, we’ve also created a dedicated site at the Obama Foundation to aggregate and direct you to useful resources and organizations who’ve been fighting the good fight at the local and national levels for years.” The whole 416-page full policing pdf report is (here).
Barack Obama 2020
The second response includes the excellent criticism of the Task Force’s thorough but modest volley toward a fundamental change in policy by Brooklyn College Professor Alex S. Vitale. His book, The End of Policing, reviews the multifaceted work in this field that recognizes the path on which law enforcement now stands has made it a significant contributor to America’s spiral into deeply racist and racialized practices. There is no double or triple bottom line; cops do more damage than good, and “protect and serve” is the exception to the rule. The bottom line is Fidelis ad mortem does not have to be the NYPD’s motto. It can translate as “faithful (unto or until) death, and there you have the poetic vs. narrative art of the blue wall.
The call from the President of the United States to serve is a compelling and personal honor. A review of the task force report and toolkit reveals a set of thoughtful, experienced change agents. The movement for racial justice in America must call upon the task force’s people to confirm progress, if any, and consider the next steps.
To fully understand the task force report’s failings, excellent insight is offered in Vitale’s book and through his media interviews (here). The Policing and Social Justice Projecthas an implementation arm for the movement. Finally, life-long learners on the subject should subscribe to The Criminal Criminologist (here), where he interviews scholars and activists. It is a great way to meet people you have yet to work with or encounter.
The relationship of policing to racism requires the use of the inverse proportion rule. It occurs when one value increases (more people working to solve non-police problems), and it decreases another (i.e., the incidence of unproductive police tasks). Adding more workers on a task to reduce the time to complete the task is inversely proportional. Reducing the time to get law enforcement less harmful is now critical (meaning short term) or back to the same old and seriously wrong-normal.
The best relationship between all Americans to every neighbor should be about the structural, materially unequal experience a child may have when entering the world. The systemic inequality of life chances for newborn children of color is exposed decade after decade. The facts are exhibited as shameful but continue unchanged, even though it would be good for every kid.
The use of law enforcement tends to be the hammer that helps to silence criticism. The rightfully enraged also hold a hammer. The better question is, who and what put that hammer in both their hands? Why is the hammer the only tool available? Much of this is already well understood, it is known, and solutions can be implemented with levers and a fulcrum, but not with a hammer. Wilson (below) can tell you in a few seconds with perfect intensity.
Since the early 1970s (Nixon), the severe problems (the ones requiring a sophisticated toolbox) got fully embedded in racism. Ever since Nixon, every President has presented to the American people ideas with an air of cultural sensitivity. They are truisms such as the need to improve ties, strengthen lines of communication, and to make right past wrongs. All of them are politically calculated half-measures and part of the problem. A social reflex in America is to hide from its history while acknowledging our nation as one of the immigrants. Ignoring the record of formal attacks on the “value” of every new group requires exposure and condemnation from every leadership position available on slavery.
Marginalizing the oldest mass immigration group explicitly enslaved since 1619, to build the nation requires uncovering the cover-up of all cover-ups. The failure of remedies for yet another century of repression angers the mind and fills the heart with hopelessness. Neither form the basis for a system change.
Perhaps it is the violence of human history and centuries of brutal intolerance that the American Constitution sought to purge from people’s governance. It aims to enable and encourage people to sustain the hope for change outside of the system by establishing a false representative government and inside produce as majority vote rules to kill compromise. The idea is that excesses of either could be no longer be rendered invalid by the other.
Nevertheless, America’s social and economic power continues as a thing fueled by slavery and imprisonment. It is a governance system that appears unwilling to fully deactivate rules that encourage and support racism even though the incidence of injustice persists. Change must, therefore, come from changing the system.
The system has been changed, and for an hour and a half, I ask you to please watch white folks talk about the bifurcation of America by Robert Putnam and friends regarding the subject of “our kids.” Beware, the time spent here is informative, but it can make you a little crazy. They know, they really do know, and have the numbers and the argument for change, so why are we supposed to think they will? they do not create change. Is it because they are just “talking points?” Have we failed to empower them to turn their power into change? Do not let it go back to normal.
One last thing. If you believe in the power of working-class greatness, remember the super-power revealed the 2020 pandemic – a national strike for health and justice could get health and justice because if a little bug can bring capital to its knees and put some in your pocket, that bug is telling you something. Encourage everyone to have three to six months of savings to cover the basic, essential living costs. This is a challenging thing, but it is doable and smart for many reasons.
Software, digital hardware, and the life-science industries can add jobs indirectly to a local economy as multipliers, in much the same way as the manufacture of autos and appliances contributed decades earlier with one significant difference. The education of the workers.
Research and development firms in physical, engineering, and life sciences were the first to take full advantage of information management’s technological revolution. These industries deposited economic growth into regions with innovations in software and hardware. Perhaps the best-known example of this marriage of technology and science is our understanding of DNA would have been impossible otherwise, leading to exponential growth in these industries into exclusive new fields.
Economists have several explanations, but two words get to the multiplier effect for business and jobs – supply chain. The 2020 pandemic revealed specific concerns regarding breaks in this chain, reflecting national security concerns. The logistics of technology for refining acquisitions of material into “just in time” cash saving packets fail miserably during periods when critical conditions demand everything “all at once” to avert a crisis. Global terrorism, climate change, and pandemic conditions more than hint at this issue. Each occurs like an hour hand, but it is the second hand that sweeps the planet with a new reality regarding readiness. Frightening concerns as these are recommitting Amerian policy to jobs and education may be the only way for the economy to stop shaking. It is time to stop looking at the promise of a chrome future and think of it as something a lot more fleshly.
UC Berkeley Economics professor Enrico Moretti’s The New Geography of Jobs examines places in the United States that illustrate the critical difference between economic growth and decline in the context of winner/loser locations in a rapidly globalizing economy. Using U.S. Census Bureau data, Moretti’s book exhibits maps of the United States to reveal the system change’s location impact. The growth areas were those with a high percentage of college-educated people. He shows a decline in the regions that still have many “smart people” to this day but failed to produce, keep, or attract educated people in the newly growing system change businesses.
Scholarly observers labeled “the losers” as shrinking cities, pointing to Detroit, MI, and others of the Northeast “rust belt” following their analysis of 2000 and 2010 Census. Studies of similar “shrinking” conditions throughout Europe focused on this as a phenomenon of industrial globalization, regional deindustrialization, and suburbanization. In all cases, the winners were those who had in residence or could attract well-educated people. The analytical resources are available for the ordinary observer to dig into these changes as a dynamic force and one affected by public policy. In 2020, the importance of easy access to vital information and re-establishing confidence in the small business and banking community is more important than ever. As the history of the Bureau of the Census shows in its “understand America” mission, it has grown to become a major business subsidy for nationalizing businesses. Moving forward is how to make the richness of the Bureaus’ “jobs and education data” more widely available and easily accessible by the small business. Here is a quick look.
Geographic Support System Initiative (GSS-I)
For the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau’s reengineered address canvassing reduces costs. In December 2015, BOC published a 100-page report entitled, 2020 Census Detailed Operational Plan for the Address Canvassing Operation to describe this new Address Canvassing methodology. The practice has been routinely updated through 2018 (here) and eventually rolled into the GSS Program.
The maps (left) should be of interest to all Americans. Authorization constraints still hamper the advancement of this resource toward the routine use of a small business. The API from BOC has tutorials on how the data can help businesses. A tutorial of an analysis that links small businesses with congressional elections (here) is an excellent example.
The policy impact on regional economic growth or decline has a range from why Microsoft owners decided to move to Seattle to attract business policies two decades later. Microsoft took their small but rapidly growing 1970s company to Seattle because they were from and felt comfortable. However, the decision by the fledgling Microsoft is also like, but the reverse of public initiatives in regions hoping to find growth. Both are equivalent, as they are a roll of the dice, plus confidence. Federal officials would not learn of the software and hardware technology industry’s explosive growth until the early 1990s when a variety of attraction-bets came logically into policy.
I doubt that Bill Gates went to the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system to select Seattle as the optimal location. The SIC was developed in the late 1930s as a New Deal-era initiative by the Interdepartmental Committee on Industrial Classification. His business was barely on the list and would not be there solidly until the reinvention of the SIC in 1997 turned it into the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). By that time, Microsoft had already put sad little Seattle on the wow-map, but it was not all by itself. It happened because of the enormous attractive power of the industry. Seattle was not a place with a high percentage of educated residents in the 1970s. Over the next twenty years, Microsoft attracted whole businesses, and they all attracted people with educations that met their needs.
The nerd factor here is essential in another way. The mayors of cities called up their planning, and economic development commissioners said, “get me some of that!” So they put the staff that loved digging into the nooks and crannies of the NAICS to define their regions for comparison to all others economically. More mayoral questions on the decline and what to do tended to get answers such as publicly investing in “cultural transformation” that led to the arts and a bet on the instinct of people not only to be creative but also productive artisans.
A search engine for NAICS (here) now takes researchers into a six-digit code that parses twenty industry sectors: five goods-producing industries and fifteen services sectors all geographically searchable at Bureau of the Census (here). In looking at the economic structure of employment, the basics are:
Jobs drive economic growth wherever they are located.
Where you find around 50 percent of workers with college degrees, there is growth.
When the meaning of the word strategy is to get the advantage, examining sector-based development is a good idea. When it comes to isolating specific industries by region, this is especially true. Shared needs mean common supplies and mutually beneficial investments in human capital. Public “attraction” strategies that attempt to connect a worker to an employer is an abstraction. It functions well in the short-term, but in the long, it is a malfunction sustaining the myth that low-end employment leads to a ladder that has rungs. They are there, but very far apart if the business-model is the provider, without public partners.
What works more effectively are efforts that alter the worker/employer relationship with massive investment in skills that add choices to the worker and their flexibility within a region. Flexibility has cards to be dealt into the public policy hand as well. The options range widely from help with a car, or specific procurement practice, to a fully paid training program or support for a master’s degree. An added benefit of worker-centered investment is that participants can contribute to the advancement of policy decisions in the future of meaningful work.
Whether that work is by a forensic accountant or a cashier, the purpose of a system change is to build on challenges, opportunities, and futures of them both into eloquent experiences in personal development. One might seek to build a substantial business and growing consulting practice for just need a living wage and happy kids. It should not matter which of them is doing that thinking. The idea of winners and losers will probably always be a macroeconomic point, but it should never exist as a community-based experience. What should happen in the heart of the cashier or the accountant is the opportunity for growth through a higher education resource is unquestionably and unequivocally available.
The national partnership between employment and education is a failure. In 2014 the Economic Opportunities Program of the Aspen Institute and the American Assembly (Columbia University) published Connecting People to Work: Workforce Intermediaries and Sector Strategies. It is a 500-page set of whitepapers. The paper to read in this book (pdf here) examined the February 2012 announcement of the Community College to Career Fund. An eight-billion-dollar investment was seeking to bring skills that lead directly to good jobs with the goal of two million workers. The program aimed at high-growth industries by funding regional or national industry groups tasked with identifying workforce needs in their fields and developing solutions like standardized worker certification, new training technologies, or collaborations with industry employers to define career pathways for workers.
When a 500-page document becomes available for the ordinary reader, parsing it for keywords is a powerful tool for skimming the material, searching for specific content using one or two words. I discovered the essay on public investment in a community-college program this way. This one brought out the economic “malfunctions” that affect connecting jobs and education to community development. The words below are ranked from most to least.
The word “sector” occurs 1,319 times and “national” 817 and “region 468 times. The word “federal” occurred 197 times but “federal government” just 14 times. Community College was 151, “university” 115 with cities at 86 and “suburb” only 5. I found “local government four times, and “regional government” just once. The use of the word “schools” – 20 with high schools getting only three mentions. The choices are many, “union” was interesting as was “interprofessional” and training.
Central to improving connections between job seekers and producers is the idea of fairness or balance. In a global economy where the imbalances are overpowering, local efforts can seem heroic. This is what is wrong with them. With this view, the use of the word “race” was a mere 36 times, that broke down to “African-American” 24 times and to Hispanics just 7 with the rest mixed in with the word “gender” 18 times. These are not hot-button words for the footnotes. The issues the people face with these labels must drive the conversation forward, not help it disappear.
Again, the brilliant, heroic work at the local level is not the issue. The megaregions of the nation hold over 85% of the nation’s GDP. Still, the usefulness of regional institutions beyond a structure of few mutual benefit corporations is nil. Malfunctions in jobs and education remain piled into a quagmire of State policy competition neatly encouraged by national policy scant.
In every developed nation in the world, children are considered the top national resource. In the United States, the policy appears to be the children of America are among the highest percentage of low-income whites amid towering imbalances involving people of color. Programs that look at popular fixes such as H1B visas and other short-term job filling policies fail to fully consider a thirty to fifty-year generational failure aimed at children from low- and moderate-income in America.
“The vitality of architecture does not stand on the strength of its foundations or the vision of its builders. It stands on the dignity of life formed in the heart of all of its creators.”
Rex L. Curry (Review of video by Mike Yellen for Ironworker Union 2017) Watch below.
The video above will also be found in a “system change” post on planning, architecture, and engineering (here). It opens like this: “Your bones tell you, you smell it, there is the challenge of unclear change on the tongues of the public speakers. The sticky multiple versions of the truth offered in our modern lives’ political-speech will be swept away by the clear mind of science. This is a call for help in that simple pursuit.”
Below: a sample of data available from U.S. Census Interactive Maps as described above.
This section on malfunctions prepares a larger narrative. We are working on how America has 1) an unqualified health problem that includes the inability to self-study health challenges. The importance of recognizing how 2) equality and equity for all Americans requires a system change that clearly shows the flow of equity as a factor of race. Central to these issues is how capital has become 3) more digitally fungible today than in the entire history of civilization, and the door is wide open for thieves. The most perplexing malfunction is that 4) trust and confidence appear broken as agents for change. These are the vague, often confusing signals of malfunctions in America. They feed and multiply combinations of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance of which American’s are uniquely susceptible, and there is no one helping the American people figure it out.
Introduction to Malfunctions
The weakening state of America’s physical and mental health and the inability to build a platform for advancing equality and equity are malfunctions aggravated by a growing number of uncaptured thieves busily destroying ordinary people’s self-confidence and trust in change. The following examines all four of these observations through a lens of how problems should be defined to eliminate the axis of contention now tearing at the American spirit.
Part One: Part Two: Part Three: Part Four: Part Five:
The causes of the housing problem can give you a facial tick. Here goes one recent example; the housing market has added single-family-rental securitization. This specimen is made of our old friend mortgage-backed securities that continue to be backed by inflated home value and a rising market for rental housing. Combined with the collapse of employment, a friend from Michigan put it this way, this could turn into a nasty brew of outraged and hungry people, all of whom have guns.
By 2016, 95 percent of the distressed mortgages on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s books were auctioned off to Wall Street investors without preconditions and few provisions. The market recovered but without homeowners. Private-equity firms acquired over 200,000 homes. While cities like New York are attractive but expensive investments, a substantial percentage of these new acquisitions occur in middle-class and low- and moderate-income suburban neighborhoods. Single-family-buildings have been in the rental market for a long time, but only recently has this practice added volatility to the market with the public humiliation of eviction.
Matthew Desmond’s book focused on eviction as a cause and consequence of distress in low to high-density communities. Once considered a big-city problem where evictions occurred formally through the courts. Less known and understood are management practices using subtle displacement practices such as “rent to buy schemes,” where low rent is the “hook,” and high down payments provide the profit. Overall, the increased rate of housing displacement is driven by weak government policies attracted to quick fixes, leading to the rise of institutionally managed and owned rental housing, and a court system that does not recognize the rights of tenants as comparable to landlords or developed the capacity for mediation before calling a U.S. Marshal.
The tables below will look very different from 2020 onward, so the best place to keep an eye on America’s housing policy crisis will be found on Eviction Lab’s website(here). The legislators’ learning curve can be flattened by examining the Lab’s scoreboard of state policy changes in response to the pandemic. The continuing legacy of the 2008 crisis is directly reflected in their lab’s state by state checklist (here) and the help of NYC’s Columbia Law School. May landlords in New York can’t file eviction orders against tenants right now – but they can after June 20, 2020. The best source for monitoring policy changed in NYC is through the New York University Furman Center.
The market recognizes home value fluctuations with an increased number of tenants available to cover mortgages. The market could not recognize the collapse of renter capacity to prioritize shelter over all else. Another fly in the soup (aka malfunction) is the invisibility of increased corporate ownership in low-density areas whose legal systems heavily favor owner over renter. The table below shows how NYS is attempting to protect its 8.2 million people in rental households, of which 5 million are in NYC. The share of renter households whose gross rent made up more than 30 percent of their monthly pre-tax income is approaching 50% of households.
A 2018 study of New York eviction cases (Collinson & Reed, here) established a connection between eviction and homelessness in New York City. The malfunctions of the housing market go both ways. A similar graph showing the percentage of household income for rent would also move steadily up from a baseline of affordability at 30%, rising to over 50% in 2019.
America’s complicated housing market story includes a blaze of web articles (example here) that claim property management and rental housing acquisitions are good investments based on the volatility of sales (figure 3 below), offering the fun of bargain hunting coupled with the steady upward trend in asking rents (figure 2 above).
Wall Street as Landlord
Wall Street’s $60 billion real estate purchases have altered housing markets all over the United States. (NYT Story) The total funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8) was a third of that at $20.292 billion in FY 2017. As in the 2008 recession, the malfunction is not paying attention to the possibility that former housing policies put equity in ordinary families’ lives through homeownership have disappeared just as the public might have been ready to recognize the inequity built into the system since 1950 could be corrected for the damage to families of color.
New York City’s real estate market includes some of the most high-profile properties in the world. It is also one of the most expensive in which to invest. This wrinkle in a hot market is smooth with the invention of publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).
These outfits are companies that invest directly in real estate through properties or mortgages. The Internal Revenue Service requires REITs to pay taxable profits in dividends to shareholders. Companies with REIT status do not pay corporate income tax. It has developed adjudicative services with support systems that recognize the rights of residents as renters. Investopedia’s description of Investing In New York City REITs is recommended reading.
In 1968 the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Council of New York (CHPC) produced a little sixteen-page booklet on the housing problem with the above graphic on the cover. As a housing affordability advocacy group, they wanted people to understand what it took to build and operate affordable housing. They put in the form of a five-room apartment in which the average cost of its development came to $20,000.
It is important to point out that this was considered reasonable and $20,000 in 1967, based only on the consumer price index changes that would be $155,000 in 2020 to yield a total inflation rate of 675%, averaging 12.73% per year. The genius of this presentation is how the five rooms represented the development was composed of 1) construction, 2) taxes, 3) land, 4) money, and 5) operating costs and then pointed out of the five which had the greatest impact on rent. Answer: the cost of money is the major factor. Today a change of one percent in the average interest rate from development through permanent financing could alter rents by $120 per month. Manipulate all of the other costs, possible, yields minimal impact on rent.
The affordability of housing is built entirely on Wall Street’s finance and banking industries’ desire to sustain both low (for them) and high-interest rates (for everyone else). Since 1967, or just over fifty years, the rate is based on the CPI alone, the trend toward high and almost 675%.
The lack of affordable rents and housing (a human right) sits squarely on government steps in how it has handled the cost of money for the safety and health of the American people.
In taking on a major malfunction, breaking it into smaller pieces is helpful, but whether in big parts or the little ones, it is hopeless when it comes to constitutional jargon. Observers of the jurist legislators tie knots in their tongues. Perhaps they should be replaced with scientists. There are reasons to do homework on how this may be possible. Step one is to find the source of idiocy.
The Critical Legal Studies movement (Wiki) in the 80s examined liberal legalism of the late 1950s through the 1970s. Since then, observers of the conservative and progressive discourse are rebuilding the debate about our future under the law with discord and bad faith arguments. Common ground will not be found in this noisy place, and that is my problem. It is yours too.
In the conservative constitutionalist’s view, normative or private social authority are centers of localized jurisdiction, designed to guide the republic’s actions and protect against legislative or judicial encroachment. The progressive constitutionalists often critique these private sources of power (normative social organizations) as an unacceptable hierarchy to be challenged.
The pathway to social innovations among conservative and progressive views has a constitutional basis. The only common ground here is that both claim the right to system change. It is the pathway upon which they walk that requires clearing. I offer the following example.
Before proceeding with a system change effort, I recommend investing time to understand better two compartments in the same robe’s sleeves known as the Fourteenth Amendment. There are others, but you can see by the top ten list (below) from TIME magazine the Fourteenth plays a significant role, directly and indirectly.
On June 21, 1788, the Constitution became the official framework of the government of the United States of America, but it was not until eighty years and nineteen days later when The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868. as one of the Reconstruction Amendments ending slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution “abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime and on this point, I highly recommend Ava DuVernay’s 13th (here). The focus here is the subtle malfunctions of the Fourteenth that requires equal attention.
The law tucked into the conservative sleeve holds the fire of civil war and the struggle against rulers, something the progressive sleeve shares and knows well. The fabric is the same, but as ideas attempt to move from one sleeve to another, the meaning changes. The only insight I have other than the overabundance of male intellectual hubris of legislators is as follows.
The law demands obedience with rules that either mediate or deactivate. The writers and readers of the U.S. Constitution then speak to normative claims differently. The table below illustrates how oppression was a mediated function between an owner and the people owned from 1619 to 1865. The conservative mediation of authority accepts and activates a wide range of institutions as separate from the citizen as a subject of law because the State defines a person’s legal status, relation to the state, and other persons.
The progressive view of authority reframes the rule of law in search of new conditions. A claim to power sources can become realizable and capable of deactivating practices such as the specific evidence of oppression. That would be the list you see after 1865 as statements of that evidence.
Critical thinking about big problems builds on billions of local event moments, now accelerated with digital communications. Framed in the 402-year sweep of history, the list of post-1865 malfunctions that demand deactivation is a demand for equality with equity. The digital divide is a fact exposing and expanding the educational challenges of resolving these two issues. Still, the Civil War’s polarizing elements may be a strong contributor to today’s binary politics. It is now a digital freedom-ride world.
These actions of the last century and a half are mixtures of wins and losses. In a four-century framework, these events are brief, even seem temporary, impermanent, cursory, in passing, and can strike one down lift one like the 1965 Voting Rights Bill and Fair Housing in 1968, as one of thousand other ways the arc of history bends toward justice.
The conservative’s and the progressives’ understanding of the Constitution support outcomes for empirical reasons but different ends. Down to a couple of basics, the constitutional outlook is as follows:
Imperative judicial restraint.
Defined by community traditions
Precludes race conscious decisons
Open to the necessity of choice
Defined by community ideals
Affirm eradication of hierarchy
The critical thinking outline I use (here) comes down to two items No. 6 – prediction and No. 7 – transformation. Both can be fully imagined, but those are actual steps onto a pathway that seeks to create change. Not the imagination of change, the slap in the face, tearing of the skin variety.
The movie is well-known, as a book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (published in 1900) was very different. These two works neatly reflect half of the 20th century and the trends to its conclusion. By 1939 the original highly violent animal slaughtering tale in the Oz became a dreamy musical. The film and, more importantly, the re-write became more widely known than the book could ever accomplish.
No longer a satirical look at the gold standard, the focus became a hop and skipped down a yellow brick road where you and the charming Dorthy (Judy Garland) go on an optimistic quest to get a strawman a brain, a lion some courage, and a tinman a heart. To serve these purposes well, it is necessary to have relationships with people in a community with a common goal because there is no place like home.
The transitional sentiment from the book to the film follows the Gilded Age through 1900 (solidifying segregation), the First World War to 1918 (initializing the war/industrial complex), and The Great Depression to 1939. In this last phase of the century that the film seemed to propel forward was the Federal Government’s power. It accepts a securitization role by taking responsibility for contractual debts such as residential mortgages and other investment obligations like a national highway system in the post-war era of the 1950s. All of this “interstate” power was built on its proven ability to establish the people’s trust to secure and support human dignity from the Great Depression through the Civil Rights Movement. The national response to these two forces for change should have propelled the American people forward for another century had it not built racism into the Constitution.
Despite the enormous capacity for social resilience and economic growth established since that time, 21st-century America is losing itself in Constitutional jargon in preference to straight talk on social justice. The cost will be the lost confidence and trust of ordinary people and investors throughout the world. Do not get trapped in this dialogue of the jurists. It is now time to turn to the scientists for the truth. The world recognizes us better than we do ourselves. To close and as to why I offer one example:
“World Bank’s 2019 Migration and Development Brief, $529 billion in remittances were sent to low- and middle-income countries in 2018—an increase of 9.6% over the previous record high of $483 billion in 2017. This figure is significantly larger than the $344 billion of foreign direct investment in these countries, excluding China, in 2018. If we include high-income countries as well, the total amount of remittances jumps to $689 billion, up from $633 billion in 2017.” (Source)
The impact COVID-19 presents one of the most serious recovery challenges New York City has ever experienced. It will require a system change as it will, without doubt, reveal a previously unknown range of malfunctions.
A practical example of how never doubt groups of strategic economists, civil rights activists, and social service leaders decide to tackle the following set of problems linked to the pandemic. The pandemic changed New York City’s world. Its impact is diving into the city faster than a Peregrine Falcon ripping into the entrails of a Central Park squirrel.
COVID-19’s blow to the economy led to abrupt job losses and business closures. The New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) prepared a preliminary report on economic impact projections defined by job loss and tax revenue declines compared to previous estimates. Every urban person knows how serious this is going to become. But, on the oddly positive side of the issue, a super-power is revealed in the Pandemic – a national strike for health and justice could get health care and social justice because if a little bug can bring capital to its knees and get the government to put some in your pocket, that bug is telling you something about a national strike. Get prepared.
As the pandemic remains a moving target, the provision of this IBO readiness report could give the deep network of nonprofit community-based organizations time to prepare strategies responding to needs in their community. Read the details here: PDF HTML. See the summary and tables below.
The local economy will shed 475,000 jobs for over 12 months.
Large drops will be in personal income tax and sales tax.
Property tax will “lag” the next few years through 2022
Impacts on real estate values will occur in 2023 and beyond.
The U.S. economy in recession through 2020; GDP falls 4.5%.
The shortfall of $9.7 billion in tax revenue from major tax sources fiscal 2020 and 21.
The contraction will last through the first quarter of 2021, and job growth will be slow through to 2022.
New Yorkers will need a system change. Most major cities do, and it will not happen anywhere else before it is too late.
The information in the IBO report (summarized above) can stimulate a long list of questions following the critical thinking path outlined in Part Three will be highly useful.
How can small “never doubt” groups be encouraged to begin?
Where do they get to begin? Who do they work with in the government to establish a role?
How would they find each other, get started, and coordinate their activities?
Can they be organized in networks of expertise?
Is it possible to organize networks of a neighborhood, borough, and city-wide economists?
How about local social science workers conducting interviews?
Can they feed local data (testing, food, rent protection, transit, job access, IRS, SBA) to a city-wide source?
Help confirm the efficacy of aggregate stimulus payments.
Identify and implement innovative assistance services.
Here are just a few of the facts that stimulated restorative action questions above.
The following few thousand words seek a new value system for the professions of city and regional planning, architecture, and engineering. Your bones tell you, you smell it, there is the challenge of unclear change on the tongues of the public speakers. The sticky multiple versions of the truth offered in the political-speech of our modern lives will be swept away by the clear mind of science. This is a call for action in that simple pursuit.
The challenges embedded in the failures of planning, architecture, and engineering are vast. Only a third of the earth’s landscape is urban and it holds over half its population and will not stop. The densest regions are near natural resources and ocean and every part of it is instructive of an adaptation to restraint and the failure to do so. These regions range from heartbreaking failures to soaring enclosures of fully actualized human potential. This duality is now squarely before the change-makers. The rationalized contradictions of “have” and “have not” has become the tragedy of the knowing and the unknowing.
Core Elements of Planning, Architecture, and Engineering Practice
The practice knows that humans
experience the world through their bodies.
The practice focuses on specific
purposes for buildings and built environments for humans to provide experiences
of the world.
The practice builds environments
made of materials drawn from the earth’s crust, for which there is a timeless
The quality of an architectural
solution derived from demonstrations of extraction processes includes
responsibility for all human experiences in the creation and use of each
Demonstrations of quality derive
from combinations of functional and technical requirements.
The creation of a place, its
coherence, and material quality produce an aesthetic experience assigned by its
users to the design solution.
Standards of practice develop
through deliberate periods of reflection, evaluation, and routine performance
tests to establish planning, architecture, design, and engineering expertise.
The desire to build a city of gold or a shed in the forest does not require the expertise of architecture and engineering (A&E). It does require the confidence presented by preexisting, demonstrable products. Regretfully, the solutions are, therefore retrogressive on all aspects of economic as well as social change. Less understood is the fundamental intention of design as a producer of hedonic experiences known as aesthesis. However, the ability to love, like, or just appreciate your environment, yourself, and other people as part of that experience require psychological and physiological knowledge. At the center, the human ability for profound learning is an ability to anticipate and empathize with the knowledge of another. In the A&E professions, this responsibility has been allowed to remain indeterminate, weak, and damaging to the United States. This is due to a “first” principle. Remaining accountable to the desires of the bill payers, and only as accountable to government as the law requires. See (Finding Density)
Whitney M. Young Jr raised the issue of racism in A&E in 1968 at the 100th convention of the American Institute of Architects. Just a few years before his accidental death (1971) he put a deck of cards on the table and explained to the AIA membership that they were the problem.
“Now, you have a nice, normal escape hatch in your historical, ethical code or something that says after all you are the designers and not the builders; your role is to give people what they want. Now, that’s a nice, easy cop-out.”
Whitney M. Young Jr. Read the complete speech here.
Providing the service of design expertise to meet severe challenges such as “sustainability” exists, but it is weak. The desire to end development practices that contribute to racism are supported, but with actions subservient to the an historical ethical code used as an escape hatch.
Demands to improve the human experience with the world require steps well beyond establishing the coherence of place. Confirming a sense of safety, comfort, accessibility, mobility, novelty, color, harmonics produce a long set of demands for consistency. The designer’s production of spatial and aesthetic content requires a new social resonance in the 21st century, an open and uncertain intelligence essential to understanding every human need as more than physical. The space-makers knowledge of existence will grow in service to a higher cause, and one of purpose in service to humanity, not the bill payers. In failing to take these steps, architecture and engineering are not improving the human condition and the world must ask why?
The following four topics summarize research and analysis of social and economic issues affecting the professional and non-professional urbanization of the United States. It began with the idea that a small laboratory on the idea of breaking some rules in one medium-sized A&E firm could reveal the brilliance of design as power. The topics outline an Occam’s Razor set of four simple steps by the professions of planning, design, architecture, and engineering that might save us all.
Planning, Architecture, and Engineering Practice
Topic One: The Arc of History Is an Act of Construction
For the last few thousand years, humanity has gathered and shaped materials from the earth’s crust. It now occurs at a rate unprecedented in any other period. From Fordism to now, history does not describe the cost of this change as safe practice in any sense of the word, but as one designed to be continuously more profitable.
As a matter of national policy, this practice pushed manufacturing labor out of the United States to less regulated, lower-cost areas in trade for lower-cost goods at home. Globalization is a well-documented force of history; however, its impact on the city-building trades is a research and development task tossed like a ball to the city-builders, the designer, planner, architect, and engineer and they can’t catch.
Yes, individual projects represent extraordinary exhibits of design and technical expertise, but they are caves in the storm of urbanization history as it spreads the poisonous mass of human endeavor “as construction” across the surface of the earth.
Cities cover the earth’s prime locations, and yet they remain little more than a vague notion. As a stimulant to further discussion on this topic, I refer readers to “How cities took over the world” (here). The project experience of the A&E firms expressed by those in the graphic (below) along with as many other contributors would care to recommend is needed. The Guardian (here) offers readers and extensive review of the earth’s urban reality. A video illustrates (here) the explosion of cities in the last two seconds of a three-minute presentation covering 4,000 years of urban development, or 9,000 if you want to go Neolithic.
The growth of architecture and engineering as a professional force surpasses all others in city-building, yet it remains an undistinguished expression of political power. Management companies such as McKinsey & Company noticed this as a productivity problem in 2017 (here). Its city-forming capacities and influence are self-suppressed in preference for praise as an art. Over the last four thousand years from Alexandria to the Erie Canal, the practice has turned away from recognizing how it shapes the world as a political force in preference to its services for expressing the imaginations of capital. This behavior needs to stop.
The global A&E practice has developed in service to those whodesire to build cities at a development rate rightly criticized as endangering the well-being of life. The thousand-year arc of history in this context exhibits urban life brought to its knees many times in countless submissions to the destructive forces of black death, war, resource overreach, and the anticipatory ignorance of central governance. This behavior needs to stop.
The thread in this demand for discussion asks participants to examine this history with the presumption of a continuously urbanizing, global system, structurally and destructively embedded in or alongside another world that uses only what it needs, wastes nothing, and obtains its energy from sunlight. Looking forward and back, questions regarding the medium- and long-term must recognize the incompatibility of these two systems as currently designed. How can the destructive forces of each establish balance and at what cost to human life?
Preceding our few thousand years, millions of species have come and gone over the last four billion years. The genius of time in this context is the formation of well-informed and reflective humans, capable of explaining and understanding the universe well enough so as not to become its victim. The first question of history that points to this future of knowledge must be to discover an urban world that is generous with the earth with near-perfect information. The history of urban construction needs to change. Finally, can the powerful development expertise of actors such as those exhibited above, become more mindful of this challenge. What forces are needed to get more effective thinking and where necessary force corrective action?
Topic Two: Erase the Contract
Architects and engineers have defined a set of professional restrictions on themselves. They also accepted limits demanded by investors (public and private). As the classic phrasing in the contract documents describes, A&E work shall be limited work. A&E provides two services design and construction documents, or more directly, build design expertise reputations to “get the job” and “documents” that get a project built.
When a building is to be built, the process begins for the construction manager when there is an agreement between the owner and the architect followed by a separate agreement between an owner and the architect called the B132 agreement between the owner and a construction management adviser. This agreement follows the A232 that outlines the general conditions of the contract of construction. Following this step, the litigious nature established by these first two agreements sets into motion the possibility of many other contracts designed to avoid complaints.
The climate warming crisis has encouraged a process for implementing the concept of “sustainability” into every project as an exhibit (E 235). The process for change orders, and the steps necessary to acquire certifications for payment, new construction change directives, and ultimately a certificate of substantial completion with sets forth the final payment elements of the initial contract between owner and contractor.
After these two tasks (get the job and sign documents), A&E is without power and trapped in binding contracts of its own making. It can observe well-paid union workers in conflict with the non-union worker through strategic “divide-and-conquer” tactics in the accomplishment of profit. Profit, of course, is essential. It is only the term and structure for defining returns and accruals that are in question — the result involves the intervention with the use of public funds for supply-side subsidies and demand-side incentives of public policy.
Change in response to unmet human need is injected into the city-building process to lower the cost of money or support efforts to produce better and safer environments through a variety of zoning and construction regulations. The result is a maze of contractual requirements. Finally, A&E remains relevant in its examination of a long list of issues and concerns related to the use of building materials and construction practices to maintain public welfare and prevent litigation on a project-by-project basis. The knowledge drawn from the application of technology in planning, architecture, and engineering in city-building has the power to prove that humanity is not an infestation, but an instrument capable of understanding the full complexity of all the conditions in which a building is made, not as an object in space, but as an addition in a community where much more needs to be done and with whom new partners are needed in a very different type of contract.
Efforts to change the system from within have resulted in the introduction of technology and law to produce contracts such as presented by the Integrated Project Delivery introduced by the American Institute of Architects in the mid-2000s (AIA pdf here).
As a stimulant to further discussion on this topic, refer your readers to the implementation of IPD ( pdf here) that reviews a dozen projects in the United States. I also ask you to refer project experience of A&E firms expressed in the graphic (above) as it relates to the construction trade organizations exhibited in the graphic (below) along with as many other “workers organizations” as you would care to recommend with one additional component – add your focus on the expertise of the construction trades as exhibited by their union representation and by spending about three minutes with some people talking about their life-experience in construction.
I offer the following change tactically aimed at a far more significant change in the city-building contract than exhibited in the well-intentioned tinkering offered by the IPD program. I would include a demand to recapture a resource such as building information modeling systems (BIM) as a public responsibility. It is adopted widely and somewhat inappropriately by construction management firms in contract with owners and developers. It belongs elsewhere in a new partnership.
If significant improvements in system management toward a practice of architecture and engineering is to occur it must defer to the lives of people in priority over the property. In response to demands for resilience, it must meet the goals of sustainability in preference to weathering the next storm whether it be fire or rage. A new relationship between the construction trades, their unions, and A&E can produce the balance needed to move forward as a force for political change. Accepting this idea may be essential to eliminating the destructive forces of raw capital at work in the world.
An improved concept of change that gets well past the profitability of managing time is needed. The cold industrialization of construction awaits on the global factory floor. In this writer’s mind, a new alliance of architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) are the best means toward retaining the art and humanity of architecture with the precision of science and engineering sustained by the heart and soul of its human builders. Many of the contributions of technology to city-building offer exhilarating promise – the embodied energy in building materials could be sustained for centuries as recyclable, all of its surfaces would collect tactile and sun-energy, the movement of people and goods occurs seamlessly. When these changes can be made to recur there is proof of control. With these proofs, one other human problem requires careful examination in the United States because it is the most diverse society on earth.
The argument in this brief look at changing the city-building contract is one that must occur between design, the technology of architecture and engineering with the construction-trades and its workers. Without this change, the city-building professions will fail in their contract with humanity.
Topic Three: Change the Concept of Change
Open processes that value human dignity, fair wages, health,
and safety occur in countries with the capacity to make a democratic change. Over
the last fifty years, public regulation and litigation regarding the safety of
construction sites make them marginally protected. Elsewhere in the world, the
record shows construction labor as a struggle with death, and if not death,
Investors know creativity is in the major urban centers, and the time to capture it is now. When business and government leaders put options on the table that don’t create change, the policy is not to create change. The CEO’s from small to massive A&E firms recognize the prevailing narrative of a nation’s white, male, racial preeminence, and how it is represented in their businesses today. They should see it in the context of a rapidly changing American value system aimed at high levels of fairness that eliminate wrongs, thereby opening an exponential capacity for growth through innovation.
As the more responsible power holders take a good look at the nation as it is today, they will discover how to shift the subtle and corrosive ideology of gender and racial pre-eminence that is white and male toward greater inclusion. They will learn how it creates the invisibility of all others. The first step is to identify the privileges that have enabled past “rights” to continue for so long that they have become today’s “wrongs.” In the light of a society that seeks to improve its understanding of itself, the demand (while painful) for a “facts are friendly” approach to solving problems is paramount.
Nearly 40% of the U.S. population are people of color. Their lack of representation in many influential fields reveals obvious “white race preeminence” that remains unchallenged. Department of Labor (DOL) numbers to back that up are:
From 2009 to 2018, the percentage of black law partners up from 1.7% to 1.8%.
From 1985 to 2016, the proportion of black men in management at U.S. companies with 100 or more employees barely budged–from 3% to 3.2%.
People of color held about 16% of Fortune 500 board seats in 2018.
A 2018 survey of the 15 largest public fashion and apparel companies found that nonwhites held only 11% of board seats and that nearly three-quarters of company CEOs were white men.
In the top 200 film releases of 2017, minorities accounted for 7.8% of writers, 12.6% of directors, and 19.8% of lead roles.
As a stimulant to further discussion on this topic and resistance to it, I will refer readers to two discussions on the implementation of diversity (AIA pdf here, a research article here) that addresses a range of issues. The task of linking A&E to the Construction Trades experience offers lessons in racial and gender in both of their ranks.
At first glance, architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms have improved gender balance with a significant influence on education and training programs. The construction trade unions have improved racial access and trust in diversity with added strength in the transparency of pay equity and negotiations for health insurance services in their ranks. There is a strong win/win potential in developing this relationship through education.
An alliance of knowledge and choices in career ladders between the building trades and city-building professionals can produce any more levels of participation from designing a building to building one. The enrichment for a cross-disciplinary engagement in the challenges faced in city-building is infinite in its possibility. It is capable of crushing the intellectual silos in which the trades and professionals find themselves trapped.
Topic Four: Realign City-Building
Until recently, the history of the construction industry regarding change issues has been not to allow social change. The history of A&E, however, illustrates policies more responsive to demands for change. The focus on education serves greater gender-balance positioned to achieve equity; A&E policies are also eager to adapt to new technologies to their portfolio of problem-solving tools.
Few evaluation systems address social change and sustainability beyond the capacity of marketing to claim “steps.” Departments of Commerce (Census) and Labor produce measures for evaluating responses of business and industry to social demands. Agents can claim modest advances in broad areas such as social justice and point to specific areas such as sexual harassment. However, steps in preventing environmental damage do not quantify threats to future generations effectively. Vague, and in many cases, unverifiable measures are used on a project-by-project basis with impunity. Draw a line around the city. Inside unlimited growth is on offer if nothing damaging can go outside that line. With this alignment, there may be enough time to make it work. If not, I fear doom awaits full expression in the screams of the impoverished.
On the question of accountability, these issues concern any thinking person. The design professions and construction trades can take a more substantial leadership role in public policy. There are more questions, and please offer them, but the best of them to seek opinions as follows:
Please contribute facts,
names of places, numbers, sources, and resources to help this little think tank
community explore some ideas, and define the problems presented in each of the
following questions. Our focus is simple — no one is as smart as all of us.
Should the A&E community enter into alliances with the construction trades industry to make both more responsive to social and environmental challenges?
an alliance with the construction trades is not considered possible at this
time, what strategies might you offer or what purposes might this action serve?
Is it possible for you to envision the formation of a highly trained, architecture, engineering, and construction industry as a highly advanced technological force in the city-building world? If yes, what national and global structures would you deploy (real or imagined).
Knowing that the top annual billing rate for the world’s largest A&E firms falls short of a billion U.S. Dollars, consider your answer in terms of taking full development control.
Through legislation and changes in central governance policy, will it be necessary for A&E to develop the capacity to establish a controlling and deciding role in every expenditure related to urban preservation, re-development, and construction?
presumes an inability of nation-states and global regulatory bodies to
establish ground rules for managing the displacement of millions of people over
the next half-century.
The question imagines
the availability of substantial capital to resolve coastal and southern border
disruptions in new multi-national business partnerships designed to define
specific levels of design expertise rapidly when needed.
Will A&E lead in its capacity to design and plan environments that respond to the vast creativity embedded in the social and economic diversity unique to the United States?
representation of the multi-cultural, ethnic, and racial composition of the
American population is considered a valuable asset. Can A&E in the United
States respond effectively in resolving issues?
Will AEC envision new ways of life that focus on the humanity embedded in our shared realities that produce new forms of comfort in life and health in living with the knowledge that we sustain the joy and laughter of all those who wait in the deep future?
Asking for your theory of change in this closing question asks you to reflect on all previous answers with the idea that some elements of hope for the leadership in the profession will become possible, if not in your heart, then in your imagination
The challenge is to combine design skill and construction knowledge and progressive nature of labor unions, architecture, and engineering to create the opportunity to save us all, or save anyone who looks into the eyes of a six-year-old to know that we had better try hard and start now.