November 9th, 2009

tired

Inequality as Policy

Here is a thoughtful essay about how we got into this mess.



Inequality as Policy
The United States Since 1979
John Schmitt
CEPR
October 2009
http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/inequality-policy-2009-10.pdf

Introduction

Since the end of the 1970s, the United States has seen a
dramatic increase in economic inequality. While the
United States has long been among the most unequal of
the world's rich economies, the economic and social
upheaval that began in the 1970s was a striking
departure from the movement toward greater equality that
began in the Great Depression, continued through World
War II, and was a central feature of the first 30 years
of the postwar period. Despite the magnitude of the rise
in inequality, the political discourse in the United
States refers only obliquely to these developments. The
public debate generally acknowledges neither the scale
of the increase in inequality nor, except in the most
superficial way, the causes of this sudden and sustained
turn of events.

This short essay seeks to provide an alternative view of
the postwar period in the United States, particularly of
the last three decades. My argument is that the high and
rising inequality in the United States is the direct
result of a set of policies designed first and foremost
to increase inequality. These policies, in turn, have
their roots in a significant shift in political power
against workers and in favor of their employers, a shift
that began in the 1970s and continues through today.

The first section of the paper briefly documents the
size of the rise in U.S. inequality and puts this change
into historical context. The second section sketches an
explanation for rising inequality, one that differs from
the deeply rooted, but poorly articulated vision that
lurks just below the surface of polite political
discourse in the United States. The final section
focuses on an important part of inequality in the United
States that does not receive the attention it deserves.

Rise of Inequality

As economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez have
documented meticulously, for most of the 20th century,
economic inequality in the United States was falling or
flat.1 (See Figure 1.) The last 30 years of increasing
economic concentration are the exception, not the rule,
of the last century of economic development in the
United States.

From a peak just before the 1929 stock market crash
through the early 1950s, wage and income inequality,
broadly measured, were declining. From the early 1950s
through the late 1970s, inequality was flat, or even
falling slightly. Since the late 1970s, however,
inequality has skyrocketed, climbing back to levels last
seen in the 1920s. In 1979, for example, the top one
percent of all U.S. taxpayers received about 8 percent
of national income; by 2007, the top one percent
received over 18 percent. If we include income from
capital gains in the calculation, the increase in
inequality is even sharper, with the top one percent
capturing 10 percent of all income in 1979, but over 23
percent in 2007.

FIGURE 1: Share of Total Income, Top 1% of U.S. Income
Earners Source: Piketty and Saez (2009).

The Piketty and Saez data are only the simplest (and
among the most dramatic) ways to demonstrate the rise in
economic inequality in the United States over the last
thirty years. A full discussion of the many dimensions
of increasing polarization across (and within) education
levels, gender, race, and region are well documented in
The State of Working America, produced every other year
by the Economic Policy Institute.2 The Piketty and Saez
data, however, are sufficient to show an enormous
increase in economic concentration that is unprecedented
in modern U.S. history, roughly double in size and
duration of the run-up in inequality in the 1920s.

Inequality as Policy: Changing Power Relations

Early on, many conservative analysts in the United
States went to great lengths to deny the increase in
inequality, a particularly difficult task given that a
host of survey and administrative data sets covering
wages, compensation, incomes, and even net worth all
showed sharp increases in inequality. From the
late-1980s, however, the mainstream of the economics
profession had turned its attention instead to
explaining the rising inequality. The bulk of the
profession fairly quickly settled on two likely
suspects: "skills-biased technical change" and, to a
lesser degree, "globalization."

According to the first explanation, the diffusion of
computers and related technology in the early 1980s
steadily increased the demand for skilled workers
relative to less-skilled workers, driving up the wages
and incomes of more-educated workers and depressing the
wages and incomes of lesseducated workers. From a
political perspective, the skills-biased technical
change view had several convenient features. At face
value, it appeared to be broadly consistent with the
data (even though economists on the left, such as David
Howell and Lawrence Mishel, and more mainstream
economists including David Card, John DiNardo, Alan
Manning, and others have presented strong critiques3).

At least as importantly, however, the technological
explanation removed policy, politics, and power from the
discussion of inequality, by attributing rising economic
concentration to "technological progress," a force that
could be resisted only at our peril. The skills-biased
technical change explanation also put significant limits
on the terms of policy debates: the problems of the
three-fourths of the U.S. workforce without a university
degree were either the result of the poor personal
decision not to pursue enough education, or, at most, a
sign that, as a society, we needed to invest more in
education.

The second standard, though less favored, explanation
for rising inequality was the elusive idea of
"globalization." In the most common view, globalization
is supposed to have lowered the earnings of less-
educated workers by putting them in direct competition
with low-wage workers around the world. This competition
put pressure on wages through international trade in
goods and services; through the relocation or threat of
relocation of production facilities to overseas
locations; through competition with immigrants in local
labor markets; and through other channels.4
Globalization is the less favored explanation in the
standard political discourse not because it does not
offer what is at face value a coherent explanation of
the rise in inequality, but because, by acknowledging
the social costs of the increased integration of
markets, the globalization explanation threatens to
derail an important economic project of the elite.


Economists and politicians in the United States spent
much of the 1980s and 1990s arguing that the expansion
of trade was the only path to national prosperity. In
this context, blaming widening inequality on the same
process of globalization that was supposed to be making
us richer became quite awkward. (As an aside, I note
that globalization has proved itself to be a flexible
political tool in the U.S. and European debates. On the
one hand, it seems, U.S. and European workers are told
that their future prosperity depends on more
globalization. On the other hand, they are also told
that globalization means that our societies can no
longer afford a generous welfare state.)

But the main problem with globalization as an
explanation for rising inequality is that the typical
ways in which the discussion is framed obscure the
underlying process through which globalization actually
acts on inequality. The standard framing presents
globalization, like technological process, as an
exogenous force, something that happens to us. In
reality, globalization is a complex process of
integrating capital, product, and labor markets, where
almost every characteristic of those newly integrated
markets is the subject of, or should be the subject of,
political and regulatory debate.

Contrary to the standard framing, which presents
globalization as something that no nation can escape or
even attempt to shape, we can choose the terms under
which we integrate capital, product, and labor markets
across countries. Over the last 30 years we have indeed
"chosen" a particular form of globalization in the
United States - a form that benefits corporations and
their owners at the expense of workers and their
communities. If we had chosen globalization on different
terms, however, economic integration would not have
required rising inequality. Another globalization is
possible.

In opposition to these two standard explanations for the
recent rise in inequality, I want to offer an
alternative view, one that explains inequality as a
function of power, sustained by politics, and
implemented as policy. In this alternative view, it is
not technological progress nor the inevitable march of
globalization, but rather the sharp shift in the
strength of capital and employers relative to workers
that explains the increasing concentration of wages,
income, and wealth over the last three decades.

The decline in inequality from the end of the 1920s
through the end of the 1970s - evident in the Piketty
and Saez graph - was a function of a series of social
movements over that same period that worked to reduce
economic and social inequality. The 1930s saw the
ascendancy of the U.S. labor movement, which went from a
small force scattered across the national geography and
industrial structure to an institution representing over
one-third of U.S. private-sector workers by the mid-
1950s. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s
pressed for political, social, and economic equality for
blacks. The women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s
fought for social and economic equality for women.

The labor movement, the civil rights movement, and the
women's movement separately, but especially together,
changed the way U.S. corporations did business. Wages
and benefits rose for all workers, union and non-union.
Employers were legally and socially prohibited from
paying minority and women workers less than white men
for the same work. Together with the environmental and
consumer movements of the 1960s and 1970s, which sought
to constrain U.S. businesses engaged in endangering the
environment and consumers, these social movements had
the effect of increasing incomes for those at the bottom
and lowering incomes for those at the top (by raising
the cost of doing business).

Throughout the entire period, employers resisted each of
these movements (labor, civil rights, feminist,
environmental, and consumer) but employers especially
resisted the corresponding legislation that accompanied
each of these efforts. The economic elite, while
eventually comfortable with the social aims of all of
these movements, almost uniformly opposed the
accompanying legislation, including: making union
organizing easier; guaranteeing workers' health and
safety; prohibiting discrimination against racial
minorities and women in labor markets and in other
markets such as housing and credit; protecting the
nation's air and water; and ensuring the safety of
consumer products. From the 1930s through the 1970s,
capital generally fought a losing battle, able to shape
and contain the specific policies that grew out of the
various social movements, but ultimately unable to
prevent the enactment and enforcement of a host of
policies that worked strongly against employers'
immediate economic interests.

By the end of the 1970s, however, employer opposition
coalesced and the economic disruption caused by two oil
crises in the 1970s gave capital and employers a
political opening. Even while Jimmy Carter, a Democrat,
was in the White House, a subtle but important shift in
U.S. politics occurred - a shift away from the core
constituency of the Democratic party (labor, women,
racial minorities, and environmentalists) - and toward
employer interests.5 By the time Carter lost the
presidency to Ronald Reagan in 1980, the corporate
backlash against almost fifty years of social progress
was in full swing.6

The backlash was sold as a response to the economic
crisis of the 1970s and the emphasis was overwhelmingly
on improving the efficiency of the U.S. economy, which
was described (and is still described today by many on
the right) as sclerotic, overly unionized, and overly
regulated. Each of the major policy initiatives of the
last three decades claimed to offer important efficiency
advantages. The long decline in the inflation-adjusted
value of the minimum wage was supposed to correct a
distortion in the low-wage labor market.

The deregulation (more accurately, re-regulation) of the
airline, trucking, railway, financial, and
telecommunications industries was supposed to lower
consumer prices in those markets. The liberalization of
foreign trade through a plethora of bilateral and
multilateral trade agreements was similarly supposed to
lower consumer prices on imported goods. The
privatization of many federal, state, and local
government functions - from school bus drivers to the
administration of welfare policy and even much of the
U.S. war in Iraq and Afghanistan - was supposed to lower
the cost of government. The steady, policy-enabled,
deterioration of unionization in the private sector -
from over one-third of workers in the 1950s to about
eight percent today - was supposed to improve the
competitiveness of U.S. firms.

These policies, sold as ways to enhance national
efficiency, however, also had another common thread.
They all worked to lower the bargaining power of workers
relative to their employers. In many cases, the alleged
efficiency gains have not materialized.7 In every case,
however, the negative impact on workers has been obvious
and substantial. The inflation-adjusted value of the
minimum wage is now about 30 percent lower than it was
at its peak in the 1960s. Workers in deregulated
industries -airlines and trucking, most obviously - have
seen their wages and benefits stagnate and fall. Even
many mainstream economists acknowledge an important role
for corporate-oriented international trade and
commercial agreements in depressing the wages of less-
educated workers, who have been forced to compete
directly on world markets with workers often making only
a small fraction of U.S. manufacturing wages.
Privatization has been a windfall for the companies who
win government contracts, while their main efficiency
gains hinge on their ability to pay nonunionized,
private-sector workers less than more unionized public-
sector employees. The huge decline in unionization in
the private sector has decimated the U.S. working class,
which depends on the union wages and benefit premium to
secure a middle-class standard of living.8 foreshadowed
the shifts within the Democratic Party that gave birth
to the Democratic Leadership Council in 1985 and the
Clinton presidency in 1992.

Taken together, these policies - a low and falling
minimum wage; the de- or re-regulation of major
industries; the corporate-directed liberalization of
international capital, product, and labor markets; the
privatization of many government services; the decline
in unionization; and other closely related policies -
are the proximate cause of the rise in inequality. Of
course, the underlying cause is a shift at the end of
the 1970s in the balance of economic and political power
following almost five decades of ascendancy of labor and
other social movements. I am not simply arguing that the
explosion of inequality was a side-effect of these
policies. I am arguing, rather, that the explosion of
inequality - what is, effectively, the upward
redistribution of the large majority of the benefits of
economic growth since the late 1970s - was the purpose
of these policies. The purported efficiency gains, which
were realized in some cases but not in others, were
merely a political distraction.

Beyond Wages and Income

So far, I've focused on the rise of inequality and the
explanations for it. The measures I've referred to are
based almost exclusively on the distributions of wages,
incomes, and wealth. But, these distributions, which are
- correctly - the centerpiece of any analysis of
inequality, also miss an important part of the problem
facing U.S. workers, their families, and their
communities. Wages for large swaths of workers,
particularly for non-college-educated workers who make
up about three-fourths of the U.S. workforce, have
trailed far behind growth in productivity over the last
thirty years,9 and, for many groups of workers, wages
have actually stagnated or even fallen in inflation-
adjusted terms.10 While raising wages for workers at the
middle and bottom is important, increasing wages will
not be enough. Restoring real wage growth to the two or
even three percent per-year rates experienced during the
first thirty years of the postwar period would certainly
help. But the main problems that U.S. workers face
cannot be solved simply with faster real wage growth.

In my experience, European workers, even European
economists familiar with the U.S. economic system, have
trouble appreciating just how unprotected U.S. workers
are; and it is not just workers in the low-wage labor
market that are unprotected11 - even relatively well-off
U.S. professionals work in a legal and social
environment that almost no worker in western Europe
would have to tolerate.

One key issue is job security. In the United States,
with rare exceptions, workers are what our legal code
refers to as "at-will employees" - that is, employees
work at the will of the employer, with no legal claim to
their job or to severance pay in the case of layoff.12
To be clear, in the overwhelming majority of cases, U.S.
employers can fire a worker without reason or advanced
notice and without any legal obligation to provide
severance pay. The major exceptions to this arrangement
are the 13 percent of the workforce that is unionized
and a small share of high-end workers such as company
officers who negotiate individual contracts with their
employers. One remnant of the civil rights and women's
movement is that employers cannot fire workers for
reasons of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or certain
other characteristics; but an employer can fire a worker
without notice for almost any other reason: for arriving
late to work, for refusing to work overtime, for arguing
with the boss about a schedule change, or essentially
any reason, reasonable or not, that does not involve
discrimination. The "employment at will" doctrine
creates a profound structural imbalance of power between
the overwhelmingly non-unionized workforce and their
employers, and is a central cause of the problems facing
the low-wage workers featured in Roger Weisberg's superb
documentary film "Waging a Living."

When workers do lose their jobs, the social safety net
has many holes. Historically, only about 40 percent of
unemployed workers receive unemployment insurance
benefits and these are stingy by international
standards.13

The large majority of U.S. workers also depend on their
job (or their spouse's job) for health insurance. With
the typical employer-provided health insurance plan
costing about $5,000 per year for individual coverage
and about $13,000 per year for family coverage,14 higher
wages alone will not go far in providing quality health
insurance, particularly for lower- and middle-income
workers. U.S. workers also suffer from a severe time
squeeze, which is exacerbated by the lack of any legally
required paid time off. U.S. law, for example, does not
mandate any form of paid time off for any purpose. As a
result, almost one-fourth of U.S. workers have no paid
vacation or paid holidays, and the average U.S. worker
has only nine days of paid vacation and six days of paid
public holidays per year, with many having less than the
average.15 Nor does U.S. law require employers to
provide paid parental leave.16 In fact, the U.S. law
that requires employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid
parental leave has exemptions for employer-size and job
tenure that effectively remove a large share of the U.S.
workforce from coverage.17 U.S. workers are not even
legally entitled to paid (or unpaid) sick days.18 As a
result, over 40 percent of U.S. private-sector workers
have no paid sick days, and, given the "employment at
will" doctrine, are at risk of losing their jobs if they
miss work when they are sick. Higher wages alone would
do little to give workers the time they seek to handle
their many non-work responsibilities.

All of these non-wage issues - the lack of legal job
protections, the lack of a safety net for most of the
unemployed, the strong dependence of workers on their
employers for health insurance, the lack of paid time
off, and others - are major challenges for workers at
almost all levels of wage distribution. But these
problems are particularly acute for low-wage workers,
who are not just the worst paid, but also the least
likely to have union-representation, the least likely to
have employerprovided health insurance (or insurance of
any kind), and the least likely to have any form of paid
time off.19

Conclusion

In the standard neoclassical economics framework, low
wages are simply a symptom of low levels of skill. Wage
levels, however, are also a function of unionization
rates; the level of the minimum wage; the entire
regulatory framework governing the terms and conditions
of employment, from job security legislation to paid
time off; the size and scope of the public sector; the
degree of competition in national and international
product markets; and other fundamentally political
issues, all of which have little or nothing to do with
workers' skills. The sharp and sustained increase in
economic inequality in the United States over the last
30 years is not a reflection of a national preference
for inequality (discussed more blandly as
"flexibility"), and not the continuation of an
inexorable increase in inequality from 1776 to the
present. The last 30 years, in fact, mark a significant
departure from a five-decade trend toward greater
economic and social equality. What changed was not the
demand for skilled workers, but the balance of power
between workers and their employers.

1 See Emmanuel Saez's homepage
http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/ and
http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/TabFig2007.xls for
further details. For a comprehensive review of U.S.
economic inequality, see Lawrence Mishel, Jared
Bernstein, and Heidi Shierholz, The State of Working
America 2008-2009, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University
Press, 2008 and http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/

2 Ibid. The wage data summarized in The State of Working
America series, for example, show a sharp increase
between 1979 and 2007 in the earnings of high-wage
workers (those at the 90th percentile of the wage
distribution) and lowwage workers (those at the 10th
percentile).

3 See, for example, Mishel, Bernstein, and Shierholz
(2009); David Howell, "Theory-Driven Facts and the
Growth in Earnings Inequality," Review of Radical
Political Economics, vol. 31, no. 1 (October 1999), pp.
54-86; David Card and John DiNardo, "Skill Biased
Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some
Problems and Puzzles," National Bureau of Economic
Research Working Paper No. 8779 (February 2002); Maarten
Goos and Alan Manning, "Lousy and Lovely Jobs: The
Rising Polarization of Work in Britain," Review of
Economics and Statistics, vol. 89, no. 1 (February
2007), pp.118-133.

4 A complete discussion of the impact of globalization
on economic inequality is beyond the scope of this
essay. For an excellent overview, see Josh Bivens,
Everybody Wins, Except for Most of Us: What Economics
Teaches About Globalization, Washington, DC: Economic
Policy Institute, 2008.

5 Jimmy Carter was, in many respects, the first New
Democrat president. His push for deregulation, his
opposition to union-backed labor law reform, and his
appointment of Paul Volcker to head the Federal Reserve
Board

6 For historical accounts, see Samuel Bowles, David M.
Gordon, and Thomas E. Weisskopf, Beyond the Wasteland: A
Democratic Alternative to Economic Decline, New York:
Doubleday, 1984 and Dean Baker, The United States Since
1980, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. For a
global perspective on these same issues, see Vicente
Navarro, "The Worldwide Class Struggle," Monthly Review,
vol. 58, no. 4 (September 2006), pp. 18-33.

7 The restructuring of the U.S. economy generally failed
in its drive for efficiency and economic and
productivity growth did not return to the earlier
postwar pace. See, for example, Dean Baker and David
Rosnick, "`Usable Productivity' Growth in the United
States: An International Comparison, 1980-2005," Center
for Economic and Policy Research Briefing Paper, June
2007.
http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/productivity_2007_06.pdf

8 For an analysis of factors behind the falling rate of
private-sector unionization in the United States, see
John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer, "Dropping the Ax: Illegal
Firings During Union Election Campaigns, 1951-2007,"
Center for Economic and Policy Research Briefing Paper,
March 2009.
http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/dropping-the-ax-update-2009-03.pdf

9 See Dean Baker, "Behind the Gap between Productivity
and Wage Growth," Center for Economic and Policy
Research Briefing Paper, February 2007.
http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/0702_productivity.pdf

10 For a detailed discussion of wage trends in
the United States since the mid-1970s, see Mishel,
Bernstein, and Shierholz (2009).

11 See, for example, the comparison of low-wage work in
the Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the
United Kingdom, and the United States, in Jerome Gautie
and John Schmitt (eds.), Low-Wage Work in the Wealthy
World, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, (2009,
forthcoming).

12 The International Labor Organization has published an
excellent overview of the relevant U.S. labor law here:
http://www.ilo.int/public/english/dialogue/ifpdial/info/termination/countries/usa.htm

13 Before the current recession, the share of unemployed
workers who received unemployment insurance benefits in
the 2000s varied between 35 and 45 percent (Robert
Greenstein and Chad Stone, "Addressing Longstanding Gaps
in Unemployment Insurance Coverage," Center for Budget
and Policy Priorities, August 2007.
http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=517

14 Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research &
Educational Trust, 2009 Employer Health Benefits Survey,
p. 14. http://ehbs.kff.org/pdf/2009/7936.pdf

15 See Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt, "No-Vacation
Nation," Center for Economic and Policy Research
Briefing Paper, May 2007.
http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/2007-05-no-vacation-nation.pdf

16 See Rebecca Ray, Janet Gornick, and John Schmitt,
"Parental Leave Policies in 21 Countries Assessing
Generosity and Gender Equality," Center for Economic and
Policy Research Briefing Paper, June 2009 (revised).
http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/parental_2008_09.pdf

17 See Heather Boushey and John Schmitt, "Job Tenure and
Firm Size Provisions Exclude Many Young Parents from
Family and Medical Leave," Center for Economic and
Policy Research Issue Brief, June 2007.
http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/firmsize_2008_02.pdf

18 See Jody Heymann, Hye Jin Rho, John Schmitt, and
Alison Earle, "Contagion Nation: A Comparison of Paid
Sick Day Policies in 22 Countries," Center for Economic
and Policy Research Briefing Paper, May 2009.
http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/paid-sick-days-2009-05.pdf

19 See John Schmitt, Margy Waller, Shawn Fremstad, and
Ben Zipperer "Unions and Upward Mobility for Low-wage
Workers," WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society,
vol. 11 (2008), no. 3 (September), pp. 337-348.
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/121398549/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

_____________________________________________

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Crowdfunded Fiction: "Today I Speak"

EDIT 11/16/09: This project has been closed due to lack of participation.

One of my goals for this year involves experimenting with fiction in cyberfunded creativity. I have a story to share with you, "Today I Speak." Recently I posted a poll and the audience voted to see the first installment today, followed by the others as fast as they are funded.

"Today I Speak" is science fiction revealing what some explorers find out in space. Its tone blends tragedy and hope. It is just under 1500 words total. I picked this story for this project because it just happens to be written in four parts, which suits it nicely to crowdfunding.

I'm posting the first installment below. Later installments will be posted based on donations received. I'm pricing this story at $50, which is just over $.03/word, semi-pro rate according to Duotrope's Digest. This is divided across the remaining installments: $17 = second installment, $17 = third installment, $16 = fourth installment. I will keep track of donors as I do for poetry. Here is a donation button for those who like PayPal, or you may contact me to discuss other options:






This is my test project for crowdfunded fiction. How well it goes is primarily up to you (and tangentially me, depending on how well you like my story). If I don't make my target amount of donations, I'm less likely to try this again. If I make my target, I will consider this project a success and be more inclined to try it again. If I make more than my target, I will consider this project a big success and be considerably more likely do more crowdfunded fiction. In that case, I'll probably want to discuss possibilities with you-all. Feedback is also welcome; if you're delighted to see fiction, or if you'd rather stick with poetry, let me know. If you've been supporting my poetry, by all means feel free to chip in here if you also like fiction -- but I'm hoping to attract some new donors who might like fiction but not poetry, so if that's you, sing out.
Getitoff

New Verses in "The Transformations of Terror"

The generally sponsored poetry poll has directed another $5 toward funding "The Transformations of Terror." To see the two new verses, visit the original page.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. The rate is $.50 per line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements.

84 lines, Buy It Now = $42
Amount donated = $32.50
Amount remaining to fund fully = $9.50
Amount needed to fund next verse = $4.50
neutral

Poem: "Carved in Stone"

This poem came out of the November 3, 2009 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from tonithegreat and sponsored out of general donations thanks to the poll. Petroglyphs appear around the world and have many different meanings and purposes.


Carved in Stone



People spend hours
pecking out petroglyphs in the desert,
leaving them on the high red rocks
as signposts saying,
“This way to water!” and
“This way to enlightenment.”

Grumbling, the wind
comes with a fistful of sand
to erase them.
Crowdfunding butterfly ship

Epic Update: "The Transformations of Terror," "Warning Sine," and "Choralia"

There are currently three poems being microfunded, two epics and a $20 long poem. Here is where they stand now:

"The Transformations of Terror"
Two new verses have been posted today, after the generally sponsored poetry poll directed $5 toward this poem.
84 lines, Buy It Now = $42
Amount donated = $32.50
Amount remaining to fund fully = $9.50
Amount needed to fund next verse = $4.50


"Warning Sine"
50 lines, Buy It Now = $20
Amount donated = $3
Amount remaining to fund fully = $17
Amount needed to fund next verse = $1.50


"Choralia"
78 lines, Buy It Now = $39
Amount donated = $25
Amount remaining to fund fully = $14
Amount needed to fund next verse = $.50


These microfunded poems are being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. My usual rate for microfunded poems is $.50 per line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements.
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Pimp-a-Friend:

Today is Pimp-A-Friend day. LiveJournal is a wonderful place to connect with interesting people. Feature one of your Friends, with a brief description of what makes their journal worth reading, and share the joy. Readers are encouraged to visit the featured journal and/or reply to this message with recommendations of their favorite Friends.


markdeniz is a writer and editor mainly in the speculative field. This is the guy who edited the horror anthology Dead Souls in which my short story "Goldenthread" appears. He blogs about books, film, music, writing, and many other topics. If you're a writer or reader of speculative fiction, you'll probably like his blog.
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The Berlin Wall: 20 Years Later

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. I remember being in high school and watching the newscasts of people attacking the wall with crowbars and hacking off chunks of it. Now very little is left and the remnants have become a historical curiosity.

Last November, I wrote "Bringing Down the Berlin Wall" during a Poetry Fishbowl; it was sponsored and posted online.
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E-Books for the Blind?

Recently this post appeared on the Broad Universe mailing list. The author wishes to hear from blind or otherwise vision-impaired people who use e-books, so as to compare e-books to audiobooks as a resource. I offered to repost this call for input here, since I've got some audience members with vision problems. If you know someone who might be interested in this, please feel free to direct them here. I hope that enough data reaches Kelly to make that article feasible; it could be very useful for e-book writers/publishers as well as vision-impaired people.


E-books for the Blind?
Posted by: "kellyaharmon@sff.net" kellyaharmon@sff.net Cold_Ethyl
Fri Nov 6, 2009 7:28 am (PST)


Hi All

Are you blind, or have low vision? I'm wondering about your take on e-books (as
opposed to audio). Do you find a better selection? Is the E-book available
before audio? Do you find yourself purchasing more e-books than audio these days?

I've just returned from a 508 Conference and it inspired me to write this blog
post: http://kellyaharmon.com/?p=1046.

(I'd actually like to explore this as an article...but I've no clue who might be
interested in such a thing. Any ideas out there?)
Thanks!

Kelly