Census And Sensibility

The release this week of Westport’s census data — showing, among other things, that just 1.2% of our town identifies as “black or African American” — got me thinking.

While that percentage has long been paltry — it translates to 305 men, women and children, up just 13 from 2000 — Westport does have a history of involvement in the broad civil rights issues of the day.  Whenever that day was.

During the abolitionist movement, houses served as stops on the Underground Railroad.  At least one — on Weston Road, across from the present-day Methodist Church — still stands.  A once-hidden room — accessible from the outside — attests to its role in hiding runaway slaves.  (Though Connecticut was a free state, fugitives could still be captured and returned.)

Abraham Lincoln allegedly visited here during the Civil War.

That home was part of Morris Ketchum’s sprawling Hockanum Hill estate.  He frequently hosted Salmon P. Chase, as Abraham Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary sought funding for the Civil War.

Though no official record exists, Lincoln allegedly stayed at Hockanum Hill while president too.  The estate — on Cross Highway, near the foot of Roseville Road — offered an out-of-the-way respite on secret financing trips north.  The current deed refers to the “Lincoln room,” and a letter supposedly exists in which the president thanked Ketchum for his hospitality.

A century later, in the early days of the modern civil rights movement, Herman and Gladys Steinkraus lived on South Compo.  He was president of both Bridgeport Brass and the US Chamber of Commerce.  The couple were avid supporters of the United Nations, and often invited African ambassadors to Westport.  It was the 1st time some had ever been inside an American home.  Not all the Steinkraus’ neighbors were pleased.

Around that time, Ernestine White was a beloved music teacher at Bedford Junior High School.  A pupil invited her to his bar mitzvah.  A few tongues wagged — but the invitation was in keeping with the tenor of the times.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King definitely came to Westport.

Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron T. Rubenstein, was deeply involved in the civil rights struggle.  Rev. Martin Luther King spoke at the temple in 1964.  A month later, Rubenstein and King were both arrested in the south, at a nonviolent march.  Rubenstein and others were instrumental in organizing Freedom Rides from Westport, challenging laws that enforced segregation.

Tracy Sugarman was one of several Westporters to participate in the Mississippi Freedom Summer.  He knew the murdered civil rights workers Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney, and developed deep friendships with leaders like Julian Bond and Fannie Lou Hamer.  Sugarman hosted them, and many others, in his Westport home.

The 1960s were a time of civil rights ferment, and many Westporters were active in the cause.  Both the Intercommunity Camp — bringing together youngsters from Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport — and the school district’s Project Concern, serving dozens of Bridgeport elementary, junior high and high school students, were direct results of local activism.

The team that is TEAM Westport

For nearly a decade TEAM Westport — the first selectman’s committee charged with achieving and celebrating multiculturalism — has worked to make this a more welcoming place for all minorities.  African Americans have taken a leading role.  TEAM Westport has organized trips to the slave ship replica Amistad; led school panels, talkbacks at the Westport Country Playhouse, and community conversations; partnered with schools, religious organizations and the library, and worked in dozens of other ways, large and small, to reinforce awareness of diversity issues and concerns.

Of course there have been less visible, lower-key events too.  In 1960, Sammy Davis Jr. married Mia Britt.  At the time, 31 states outlawed interracial marriage.  Connecticut was not one of them — and, legend has it, the couple honeymooned at a home off Wilton Road.

These are just a few of the connections Westport has made, over many years, with civil rights issues.  We’re not a racial melting pot — but neither are we immune from the world outside our borders.  It was Westport’s involvement, in fact, that brought many families here in the 1950s and ’60s, when they could have chosen many other places to live.

Has Westport changed since then?  Are these issues still important, and are Westporters as involved?  If so, how?  If not, why — and what’s taken their place?  Click “Comments,” to share your diverse (and diversity) thoughts.

81 responses to “Census And Sensibility

  1. – The good news: you are correct that our town does have a history of awareness of multicultural issues.
    – The bad news: the fear and mistrust often expressed in comments in other townwide media (newspapers, blogs, etc.) betrays a continued lack of personal familiarity with anyone from different racial or religious backgrounds.

  2. That should actually be May Britt, not Mia Britt

  3. Westport trys hard but we have so much farther to go. The scholars of our
    ABC program are a gift to Westport not the other way around. We have an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. Westport always means well but
    we need to stop padding ourselves on the back and recognize and deal with
    issues that we are not always comfortable with. We are human and we should be curious enough to want to learn more. Diversity, both in race and religon, should be our strength as a town, state, country, and world.
    Diversity should not be feared it should be celebrated.

  4. The implicit criticism of the Westport community for being either intolerant or unaware is not warranted and far off the mark. There are imperfections in our weltanschauung, but racial intolerance and willful ignorance of the plight of the less fortunate are not the greatest deficiencies. Could the community be more enlightened, of course, but let’s not lose sight of the larger picture. If the dimensions of our tolerance were to be expanded, I would look to make a more robust effort to include a diversity of ideas under that umbrella. There is no justification for complacency in these matters, but let’s not fail to recognize what has been accomplished.

  5. Linda Gramatky Smith

    Your blog, as always, brought back so many memories for me. One of my very best friends growing up was Jane Smith, who lived on Crescent Road near Roseville and her father owned one of the town’s garbage pick up services, called “Smitty” by everyone who remembers that wonderful man. I just found some great photos of Jane and some classmates trick-or-treating.

    And your readers will love to know that fantastic Tracy Sugarman watercolors (sketches of people) are hanging all down the hall at the Senior Center, lent by the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection. Don’t miss these treasures while they are up on the walls!

    I’ve remembered Ernestine White over the years (1) because she was such a good music teacher (and I must have had her the half year that both Long Lots Jr. High and Bedford Jr. High shared half days at what is now Kings Highway School while Staples was being built) and (2) because one of the most embarrassing moments of my life occurred when I raised my hand to ask Miss White a question, and out of my mouth popped, “Miss Black …”. She was so gracious and didn’t correct me, but I was mortified to have made the mistake.

    I think Sammy Davis Jr’s wife was written May, but it was pronounced “Mai” [i.e “my”].

    And of course Herman and Gladys Steinkraus’s daughter carried on their legacy with the United Nations here in town (think “JUNe Day” and more) and the flags flying on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge over the Saugatuck River on the Post Road remember her.

    Let’s not sit on our laurels, but keep moving forward to have Westport the wonderfully diverse town it CAN be.

  6. Derek DeVries

    The Schilltus (sp) house on Cross Hwy just two houses from my parents, Peter and katinka DeVries’es house was also used to hide slaves. Mrs. Schilltus used to show my friends and me where slaves were hidden up the chimney in thier living room and the bullet holes also from the war. That house, if it is still there would be the white one just on the curve before you go down the hill to Sturges hwy.

  7. The Dude Abides

    Westport has not changed in regard to Blacks in the almost 60 years I have been associated with this town. They are assimilated into our culture and any broader issue of equality is lost in a sea of whiteness. While the President of the class of Staples ’64 was Black, he also ended up homeless. I think Principal Dodig’s recent edict on this blog said it very well. Staples may be the “safest place in America” because of the lack of minorities, not because of the pale represenation. It has been my experience that in “rainbow” schools or towns, there is often disharmony. While this, obvioulsy, creates problems, the issue of race is center focus and many times this awareness is beneficial to all. Sometimes not. Here, with few exceptions, they like to talk the talk but rarely walk the walk to coin an old cliche. Start busing in a few bus loads of Blacks from Bridgeport to Staples or to work in the downtown stores every day and you will see how “liberal” Westporters really are?

    • anonymous II

      Trouble in paradise; tsk, tsk. If you note, virtually all who post here frame the issues as matters of race, but reasonably bright people like Sowell and McWhorter see the issues as more a function of culture. No need to let new ideas creep in, the old mindset serves the biases of the community just fine.

      • The Dude Abides

        I am not being judgemental and Sowell, at least, is correct.
        I just don’t like the pretentiousness or charade that this town
        welcomes diversity. It is nearly all White for a reason.

        • anonymous II

          Yes, but what is the reason? How do we discover it? Speculation tends to reflect inherent prejudices. McWhorter is an Obama supporter, and almost as good as Sowell on the issue.

          • The Dude Abides

            If you read Sowell at length, the underlying reason is that our culture is racist. The acceptability of a certain race or religion to a region is dependent on numerous factors but “feeling part of the culture” is a large part. It is one reason Jews found Westport and not Darien in the 60’s. The single most important factor here is one of economics: most Blacks can not afford to live here. But that is not the reason why most of the affluent Black New York Giants live in Greenwich or New Jersey vice here. I find McWhorter attempting to rationalize the race issue in favor of some form of culturiological determination which I find bogus.

          • anonymous II

            I think Sowell made a quite different case in ” Black Rednecks and White Liberals .” In fact, he argues for the primacy of culture over race in determining socio-economic outcomes. As to other issues you raise, the Giants play in NJ. Why not live in NJ or at least a place in CT that is closest to NJ? I do not think that McWhorter is trying to rationalize the race issue at all. He presents a very good argument in “Losing the Race” that the significance of certain variables changes over time. Pretending that it is 1954 or 1964 when looking for solutions to socio-economic problems is not helpful and is in fact counterproductive.

          • The Dude Abides

            Valid points. But take a look at the suburbs of Atlanta where affluent Black citizens have set up their own suburbs, devoid of many whites. Their towns flourish with small black businesses (a victim of integration) have returned. Such example justifies Sowell but contradicts McWhorter.

          • anonymous II

            The circumstances you describe are perfectly consistent with McWhorter’s argument with respect to “Separatism.”

          • The Dude Abides

            Perhaps but McWhorter implies that the various races cling to one another because they have no other choice i.e others do not want to intermingle with them. With the Atlanta example, it is the choice of the affluent Blacks to live separately. On a sidenote, there has been much criticism of such Black suburbs because activists feel they are deserting the issues of the inner city and the plight of the less fortunate Blacks.

          • anonymous II

            McWhorter sees separatism, anti-intellectualism, and the embrace of the permanent status as victims as the primary drivers of dysfunctional behavior. As to the “clinging”, Sowell argues that if you want to be accepted into a society, you should behave as if you do; embrace the values of that society. If you choose not to do so, then don’t be surprised if you are not accepted.

          • The Dude Abides

            McWhorter would not live in Westport although he is an actor but far too smart for the uppidity Green Farms crowd. Sowell is one of Milty’s boys and applies economics to everything. With the current return on investment here on homes, he would head elsewhere, maybe even Harlem.

          • The Dude Abides

            Of course, like watching a Mikey Moore movie but had some interesting “bites” in reactions of the fat wallets. Henderson of Columbia and Deputy under Paulson looked like friggin’ idiots.
            161 million to the CEO of Merrill when he left? Coming full circle, I think he was Black.
            Dutch, Bubba, W and Ears all took it on the chin. No mercy.

          • Dude: Bank deregulation started under Carter. Once Reg Q came down, the S&L’s followed. Once the CRA became the law, the sub-prime crisis became inevitable. I don’t have much interest in entertaining the arguments of people who do not have the wit to recognize that without sub-prime mortgages, there would have been no sub-prime mortage crisis. These same people lack the intelligence to ask “Why were there sub-prime mortages?” Sowell does a great job on the sub-prime crisis because unlike the typical journalist he asks the right questions. On the other hand, as a long-time business partner observed many years ago, you can bemoan the ignorance of others, or you can exploit it. If the guy sitting next to you at the hold-em table thinks the probability of filling an inside straight on the river is 50%, should you disabuse him, or try and take his money. I think you have a moral obligation to take his money. So it is with so many who comment on the market. They are advertising their ignorance, and making it easier to identify the sucker at the table.

          • The Dude Abides

            Whew, not sure of that philosophy. P.T. Barnum? Chicken and the egg issue again: if subprime mortgages and their derivatives are tighting scrutinized (’43 gutted SEC), then we don’t have 6 million foreclosures and an economic collapse. In your scenario (and now history), the rich took advantage of a “full house” and not only suckered the dumb borrowers but suckered the government into bailing them out to cover their own losses. In my world, that is unconsionable. If you want to play the game, then you pay your losses. The investment banks played it from both ends. Nasty to me.

          • Not quite; in my world it was the government who put in place the conditions necessary for both the S&L crisis ( Reg Q) and the sub-prime mortgage crisis (CRA). The game is against the government; beat Jimmy Carter, for example. If you could not make money by playing against him, you should hang it up. Once again, if there were no S&L’s, Reg Q, there would have been no S&L “crisis”. If the were no sub-prime mortages,CRA, there would be no sub-prime mortgage “crisis.” Regulations are the problem and not the solution. Why were those regs put in place? Finreg is yet another example of how people of limited intelligence are trying to manage events over which they have no control.

            The people who sought the most advantage were the politicians who put in place Reg Q and the CRA. Not to mention the political hacks at Fannie and Freddie who used both entities as ATM’s for the Democrat party. The Fannie and Freddie bailouts are costing the taxpayer more than any other bailout. In addition, the people who took the NINJA mortgages were seeking huge returns on their investments, just as were the idiot savants on Wall Street.

            There were ample warnings for both the S&L crisis and the sub-prime mortgage crisis. No one wanted the party to end. BTW on another note; the Eron collapse was there in black and white for those who cared to look ,well before it all hit the fan. Stupidity generates consquences.

          • The Dude Abides

            Still the chicken and the egg. If the S&L’s had not been deregulated in 1982 or even Reg Q beforehand, would there have been a crisis?
            If the government had not refused to regulate derivatives, under Paulson, would the sub-prime gotten worse? The underlying theme of both of our arguments is that if there had not been deregulation, problems would not have ensued. You blame the government for deregulating and I blame Corporate America for taking advantage of the deregulation. But basis premise is that without regulation, things run amuck.

          • There is no chicken and the egg issue. If there were no S&L’s there would have been no S&L crisis. Regulations created the S&L industry. If there were no sub-prime mortages there would have been no sub-prime mortgage crisis. The government required that there be sub-prime mortgages. The interesting question is why did the government interefere with the markets to create both S&L’s and sub-prime mortgages. If there were no interference there would have been no crisis in either case. The deregulation of which you speak happened after the regulations which laid the ground work for the crisis in each case were put in place.

          • The Dude Abides

            Well I agree that the S&L’s were doing fine until the deregulation and as I have said, not familiar with Reg Q. In the recent crisis, the feds did not enforce the regulations and looked the other way on the derivatives. So basically, now the consensus, with or without regulations, the market will determine the outcome. Both were bubbles created by the market place that burst. Can we agree on that? The government is merely a pebble on a moving train.

          • The Dude Abides

            Perhaps you are right that the government encouraged the subprime market but Wall Street packaged them up and then insured them with credit defaults. That was purely Wall Street and lack of regulation with derivatives. You follow Samuelson at all? Advocating that seniors do not really need Social Security by and large (most making $75,000) and don’t need it. Whew, the gray panthers are gonna stroke out!!

          • Dude; In 1935 FDR proposed a social security program that would have included tax deductible contributions, and ownership of individual accounts. Congress took a decent idea and turned it into a bankrupt Ponzi scheme. The old folks are going to demand their SS payments and they vote in higher proportions than do 18 year-olds who will eventually get little or no benefits from SS or Medicare. So look for the retirement age to gradually reach 70 for those under 50, and for their benefits to be reduced. Medicare is a hollow promise that cannot be funded in its present form; Obamacare will only worsen the financial condition of Medicare. Bernanke’s printing press will not bail out either SS or Medicare.

          • The Dude Abides

            I concur. The boomers (70 million strong) are going to bankrupt both systems so we will take a hickey. I am okay without so may not even take either. But plenty of poor old folks out there too. You know maybe they ought to turn this Madoff Pickard loose on the monies that Wall Street took into some of these shady credit default swaps and fund either the state governments or Social Security. This guy is a pit bull on Madoff assets. He probably could round up ten or so billion from the fat cats sitting up in Nantucket on their huge boats.

          • The Dude Abides

            Yes, but how do you know that Merrill’s CEO was playing by the rules? And indirectly, his severance was paid by TARP funds. Therefore, the boys and girls (very few) clubs of Corporate America know the rules of government and bend, break and steal their intent. Being a Red Sox fan, I wholeheartily agree on Jeter.

          • If Uncle Sap did not want TARP funds top go to Merrill’s CEO, Uncle could have stopped the payout. If the rules were less convoluted and there were fewere of them, we could all understand them. Have you looked at the Federal Code lately? If you owned a Senator or two, you could get some rules written to favor you.

          • The Dude Abides

            Money is the problem with our represenatives, no question. I have long advocated public funded elections. And you are right that the all federal regulations are too confusing as well as too long. I think the Tax Code is 19,000 pages long. There are solutions but either no one has the balls to do anything about it or there is just too much money involved that control. I am getting to the point of being just fed up with the whole mess.

          • anonymous II

            Public funding of elections would represent a conflict of interest of the highest order. Who gets funded? How much? Who decides? Public funding of elections would virtually rule out any significant challenges to the two major parties. Almost as bad an idea as public funding of NPR.

          • The Dude Abides

            I disagree. Money would be allotted to those who wanted to run regardless of party from the public trough (your term). This would include primaries. I think it would encourage third party candidates and in fact, perhaps wake up the electorate on a more educated vote. The more that run, the less money each receives. If each individual state required a plurality for just two candidates for the general election, so be it. If not, three or four could run. They would all receive a specified about of public funds. I think it would eliminate the fat cats, the unions and lobbyists from the equation.

          • anonymous II

            Let’s all run and get some of that OPM. The problem isn’t money, it is misplaced power. If the typical member of the political class had less power, there would be less they could sell. BTW what would prevent candidates from running using private funds?

          • The Dude Abides

            They have power because their vote is for sale. Thus, the need for the lobbyists. When you have 400 individuals in this country with wealth equal to 150 million of the rest of us, you have a divide that equates to power. One goes hand in hand. State election committees have 5 million for a Senate race. They pay the advertisements/travel etc. for the candidates. You wanna go door to door, fine. You wanna bore us with negative ads on television, you got a budget. Easy sneezy.

          • anonymous II

            The wealth distribution number is erroneous, but it does serve to inflame. Sort of like the Super Bowl spousal abuse myth. Once the lefty press gets a lie they like, they won’t let it go. The politicians are bought because they have something to sell. If they could not use their power to do favors, they would have nothing to sell. As for the funding of elections, you will not have a legal leg to stand on trying to stop a Perot , or Trump, or RFK if they want to spend their own money to fund a campaign. If there were no Senate Banking Committee, Dodd would not own a house in Ireland. Now that there is a Dodd-Frank there is so much more to sell. Every law is a source of income for politicians.

          • The Dude Abides

            It would probaby require an amendment to keep the Donalds at bay. True. While the 400=15 million might be inflated, you must agree that the disparity is becoming alarming (unless you are one of the 400?). Krugman argues that the GOP deficit cutting will permanetly keep an unemployed-underclass. Say you?
            Interesting that you specify the Dodd-Frank bill as Barney was just on the boob tube defending it. Not completely familiar but for that big banks will no longer survive if they go under. The level of capitalization is obviously the key but I think it is a good move. Talk about power to the politicians. Look at the power Paulson had in regard to who would survive in ’08. BTW, Frank argues that the military budget is the biggest foreign aid tool to Western Europe who is cutting their military budgets and can’t see to muster the miniscule power to handle the K-man in Libya.

          • anonymous II

            The reply was misplaced. See below.

        • anonymous II

          Sowell is with the Hoover Institute. He lives in Palo Alto and does not travel much. He was a roommate of a friend of mine while at Harvard, when he was a communist. McWhorter wrote “Losing the Race” while he was a profesor of linguistics at Berkeley. McWhorter is with the Hudson Institute. Real Estate in CT is not likely to be a good investment for a long time, if ever. CT has one of the slowest rates of population growth of any state.

          • The Dude Abides

            Check out “Inside Job.” Suggests that your flock of academic economists may just have some conflict of interests in their assessments of let’s say . . . Iceland.

          • anonymous II

            Those would be ad hominem arguments wouldn’t they?

          • The Dude Abides

            Sowell seems like a pretty cool dudette. Not so much with McW.
            2014 market will return here but never the same. See ya New Yorkers. Misplaced my response. Movie is a Mikey Moore facsimile.
            Like to see the Fat Cats squirm (+ above)

          • The Dude Abides

            Well, I agree with that. You fail, you go under along with your executives and shareholders without bailout, without government interference. However, when the CEO of Merrill Lynch takes it down and then gets 161 million in severance pay from his board of directors, things revert to the mindset of the good old boys club. If the government stays out, the club needs to clean up their act as well.
            And I am not sure that it going to happen. 400 individuals in this country have as much wealth as 150,000,000? Things are out of wack and I think the club is manipulating the market as well as many aspects of the economy.

          • The wealth statistics are not very accurate. But then so what? The boys and girls in the club play the game the way the government sets it up. As long at tax dollars are not paid to failed CEO’s I don’t really care what their compnesation is. Do you care that Jeter gets paid $13 million per year to hit .270? I don’t. I gave up my season tickets, and if I don’t like the CEO compensation, I sell the stock. And I am sure you know that compensation increased rapidily after Slick lowered the max tax deductible comp. to $1 million cash; an unintended consequence.

        • Without the government there would have been no bubble. The government subsidized the demand for real estate and it is doing so still. The S&L industry was a manifestation of the government’s efforts to subsidize the cost of real estate. Sub-prime mortgages were another part of the effort to subsidize the cost of real estate. Each time the government tries to distort prices, a disequilibrium follows. Wall Street and the banking industry have been for the last 75 years or so among the most regulated industries in the country. More regulations will lead only to more market chaos. As to the charge of looking the other way, perhaps, but what would you expect the government to do? Is there any industry in which the government regulators know as much as the participants? Based on my experiences, the regulators are constantly in the position of playing catch up ball. Innovations run ahead of regulations. Stigler was right, regulations cost more than they are worth, for any number or reasons.

          • The Dude Abides

            Then you are advocating no regulation whatsover? My experience with the SEC and even the Treasury (FDIC/RTC) is they don’t know squat and react when things are in the toilet. My view is different. I see the government as a stop gap to the cowboy antics of not only Wall Street but also any other aspect of business. Without OSHA, they would have guys hanging from their pants painting high rises.
            And if the capitalists did not get so greedy in the 90’s, the bubble would not have been created. When the investment bankers stopped being partnerships (and using their own money), they started betting on everything and creating a bubble that could only burst. What did Hoover say the problem with capitalism was? The capitalists!

          • There are different forms of regulations, but regulations with the express purpose of distorting market prices, Reg Q and the CRA, are destined to create catastrophic collpases of the market. The data are quite clear, the government is the primary source of market instability. The transformation of the Wall Street firms from partnerships to public entities is a different phenomenon. If the firms did not go public, they would not have access the capital necessary to compete on a global basis. The transformation, did not change the regulations that covered the firms. But, without sub-prime mortgages there would have been no sub-prime mortgage crisis. The government created the sub-prime mortgage market. The actions of the Wall Street firms were second order causes of the melt down.

          • The Dude Abides

            So how is another bubble prevented??? You have already forecasted a bust with student loans which I certainly see why. But does the industry have to self-regulate, the government stay out and/or the market run its course??

          • If the government continues to bail out those who make poor decisions, poor decisions will become more common. The consequences of poor decisons must not be ameliorated by the government; let the firms (GM, Goldman, Citi) go under. BTW did you notive the sharp decline in applications to law schools? High costs lower rewards. Eventually people figure out the economics without Uncle’s help.

        • anonymous II

          The redistribution of wealth is a trend that began about the same time as the War on Poverty, the ramp up of inflation, and the globalization of markets. (In the new world not everyone gets a trophy. So much for the Race to Nowhere.) The measurement of wealth and income is biased to show increased concentrations of both. Krugman once wrote that Enron was the new corporate paradigm. He hasn’t made a right call in 20 years. He should stick to international trade which is his area of expertise. Slick ended welfare as we know it. Remember? If you reward people for not working, the number of people not working will increase ceteris paribus. Barney is an amusing liar and thief. The people of Massachusetts can be proud. He had no idea of the prostitution ring being run out of his apartment, but he is wise enough to run the US banking system. Finreg will have exactly the opposite consequence as that which you see. It will increase concentration in the banking industry and make too big to fail the rule and not the exception. Finreg was all that the big banks could hope for. As to defense spending; if we brought ALL of our forces home, as we should, defense spending could be reduced substantially. Why doesn’t Barney ask Obama about that possibility?

          • The Dude Abides

            The disparity may have been increasing over the past decades but how, in conjunction with your stipulation, did the middle class rise to dominance following World WarII? I have not read the Dodd-Frank bill but the bobbleheads have agreed that if the big banks fail, every body is shit out of luck excluding the insured depositors. Doubtful that will happen as you are right that there are fewer banks now than before. Barney does advocate the reduction in the military funds and troops, especially to France, Germany and England. We have helped them rise from nothing after WWII and time for them to step up in Libya and elsewhere. However, US F-15’s on a carrier and in Italy as we speak.

          • anonymous II

            After makets became global, you had to earn your trophy. When markets were closed, it was necessary to use only US workers to produce goods. Once US workers were forced to compete with workers on a global basis, the game was over. A typical US worker with a shovel is no more productive than any other worker anywhere in the world with a shovel. But a US worker with a backhoe and the smarts to use it is more productive that virtually any worker with a shovel. Since the end of WW II US economic policy has not been as friendly towards capital formation as it might have been. If you want to resurrect the middle class, you need to improve the capital to labor ratio. Not going to happen; bye-bye US middle class.

          • The Dude Abides

            The United States is still the largest manufactuer in the world. There has to be some way that the individual states can become more attractive to Corporate America and the worker more productive. It not, your prediction may ring true. Why do you say that the government here has not been friendly to captial formation?

          • The tax rates on savings and investment do not encourage either savings or investment. In addition, the effort to redistribute income away from those with a higher marginal propensity to save and towards those with a higher marginal propensity to consume reduces overall savings ceteris paribus. Taxing capital gains is yet another impediment to capital formation. In short, the primary thrust of fiscal and social policies has been to favor consumption over investment. The middle class has paid the price for these foolish policies. You can trace the flow of capital investments between and among the 50 states. Once upon a time, my partners and I published the data for our clients. On balance, the individual states cannot overcome the dysfunctional nature of the federal tax code

          • The Dude Abides

            Well then do you favor a national sales tax or a flat tax? It seems the taxes are relatively low compared with other countries as well as past history here. But do the rich really invest? They seem to save it or invest it safely where it does not institute growth. It is the middle class and lower middle class that spend it. You are the expert: give me five ways they could turn this economy around within five years?? Thanks for the backup on the NYTimes today and the Addams story of late. I guess you just got to make some waves to wake up people??

          • The rich do invest and as long as they save, they increase the amount of funds available for investment. The more people who buy stocks or bonds, the higher will be their price and the lower the cost of capital All other things being equal, a lower cost of capital should stimulate investment. That is not always the case, but it is generally the case.
            I would prefer a flat tax with a negative income tax. If the rate were 20% on all income at every level, given the current definitions of income, a tax at that rate would replace current revenues. The negative tax would be a reverse means test; if your income falls blow a certain level, Uncle sends you a check. Milton Friedman made an excellent argument for the negative income tax. Along with that negative tax, I would eliminate programs like food stamps which help farmers more than poor people. At another level, poor people should be allowed to determine the composition of goods and services that maximizes their welfare without having Uncle tell them how much to spend on food or whatever.

            I would eliminate the minimum wage. With a negative income tax it becomes redundant. A mimimum wage raises the cost of labor,which reduces the demand for labor and encourages the substitution of capital for labor. Summers was honest enough to point out that the demand for labor is not price inelastic, so an increase in the minimum wage lowers employment ceteris paribus. He was shown the door for that sort of heresy.

            I would lower the capital gains tax rate to zero and lower the tax on interest earned to zero as well. The overall tax rate on capital in the US discourages capital investment. Any one who claim to represent the economic interests of the middle class should want to increase the supply of capital relative to labor; economics 101.

            Finally, I would demand that the Fed have only one objective; price stability.

            As to the maudlin ramblings about the crusading reporters, they must be kidding. BTW in my church they read the names of every soldier who died in combat that week. It frames the tragedy much better than a combat photo-op by a person who would not know the “truth” if it smacked them in the head. This dust up in Libya has all the makings of a slippery slope.

          • The Dude Abides

            Interesting and thanks for the input. Was it not Friedman who recommended that welfare receptients receive what they really need: money. The government could not stand to outright give them cash. The only argument I would have against the flat tax (and I am hardly the same mind expertise as you) is that it still alows the drug dealer or the evader to go without paying. Why not just implement a national sales tax? The drug dealer buy a Mercedes, he pays a tax that otherwise would go unpaid. Since we are saving the country, Barney suggested the other night that Social Security is okay Mediaid is nearing disaster. How do you straighen out this mess. Do you favor a balanced budget amendment?? Lasty, I simply detest war and to think two smart kids go over their to play their photoshoot game is ridiculous. The coverage it got on the blog (with few comments you will note) finally pushed my buttons. But you right, it is economics. The starving African with a cleft lip sells. Misdirected.

          • A national sales tax that replaces the current income tax would get my vote. Friedman did say that the reason poor people are poor is because they have no money. So why not give them money? The welfare establishment and the welfare pimps would not hear of that suggestion. SS can be fixed, raise the retirement age and increase contributions, but lest Barney forget, those actions represent a reduction in benefits. Medicaid and Medicare are not going to survive in their current forms. It is a matter of math and not politics. I would prefer an amendment that limits the government budget to a percentage of GDP (except in times of declared war). Such a provision would provide the politicians with an incentive to grow GDP instead of raisng taxes to fund their favorite pork barrel projects. The problem is not the deficit, but the rate of growth of government spending. Re: the photojournalists; Westport kids can do no wrong. They are all the best and the brightest and they all deserve trophies.

          • The Dude Abides

            Of course, the accounting lobby and tax attorneys would probably vomit on the sales tax or flat tax. Forbes gave it a serious promotion years back but he was sort of a dufus and nobody was listening. Plus he inherited all his money. If Medicare and Medicaid can be fixed, what is the solution? Another move toward socialization? Or we old folks destined to be on our own?? I might just give a whirl as healthy and no need for SS. Why not just do away with the pork barrel and limited the spending. I can understand its relation to GDP but a bill is so now overladen with amendments for special projects that it does not even resemble the original bill. The problem with most Westport kids are their parents. They are alpha males, in large part, who have great expectations for themselves and children. These expectations wear on the kids who often can not compete with Daddy (or in some cases Mommy) and either drop out or figure playing the part in mediocrity is better than “disappointment.” This game has been played for 60 years in this town and BOE just smiles and increases their budget to placate the dreams. Dodig is a great cheerleader in that regard. My understanding that his predecessor was not and she was quick to go.

          • As strange as it may seem, Teddy Kennedy had a good idea once upon a time. The government should offer a form of major medical insurance. It was a means tested approach for cost sharing medical expenses. You pay your own medical expenses, with or without private insurance, and when your out of pocket expenses reach a certain level (to be determined based upon income) you and Uncle will share the expenses from that point on. Now both the level at which Uncle begins to participate and the rate, are matters for discussion. I don’t favor having the govenment subsidize the demand for healthcare, but this approach seems much more reasonable than the current approach which drives up the cost of healthcare without improving levels of service. The lament that the poor cannot afford healthcare is mostly rubbish. The poor in the US are quite well off when compared to the poor in the EU. The US poor make more money, live in nicer homes, have more stuff (TV’s, computers, cell phones, cable service, cars, and whatnot) than poor people in the EU. For those few who truly don’t have enough money to afford medical care, we enact a negative income tax. It all fits together. Eveyone will pay something and everyone will have access to medical care. Unfortunately, powerful special interests would be aligned against such a plan. Now, if we can combine this approach with a vouher system for schooling, we can regain our economic footing. The public school moonies forget that the GI Bill’s approach to providing schooling was a form of voucher system. It worked quite well.

            As for the other issue, I agree with most of what you wrote. I would add that based on my experiences as a little league coach, the mothers of these children are not far behind the fathers in the effort to push their offspring to obtain what is rightfully theirs; without putting in the requite effort however. What I can’t fathom is how these supposedly bright people can be so uncritical when evaluating the performance of elected officials and appointed bureaucrats.

          • The Dude Abides

            When was this with Teddy? I actually interned for him during the early 70’s in the midst of Watergate. He was still learning to drive unfortunately at this point. It would make sense but the chronically ill would still bankrupt the system unless a greater proportion of us stay healthier (which by the way has no system of incentive from health care). I have explained the consensus of the “Frontline” (I know you don’t necessarily don’t approve of public broadcasting but it is the only information source I have w/out commericals). They surveyed the health system in Switzerland, England, Germany, Japan and Taiwan. The bottom line was that: (1) every one in the country has to be in the pool;
            (2) The health insurance carriers have to be non-profit (the Swiss fought this but are making money regardless) and (3) the government has to set the cost for the various procedures. Have not micro-examined it but the low costs are actually hurting Japan and Taiwan (94 bucks for a MRI). The public education has become a joke. They are more concerned with making students conform to their standard of conduct and certain instilled values than teaching them anything. 1 out of 5 charter schools are under some kind of investigation although I have heard than some in New Haven are out performing Staples. In New Orleans, they go 11 months a year and 8.5 hours a day. Staples does just enough to get 95% or so in college and everybody is happy. Whether they are missing out on a Bill Gates or scientific genius in all this cattle drive, who knows. A Black friend argues that logistics will kill any voucher system??? Our parents wanted us to do better than their generation (although my father couldn’t wait to criticize my ass) and most cases that came true. Now, not so much and I think it is frustrating for the A-type Mommies/Daddies of Westport. Their kids are going to end up at Tier III schools without a prayer for a ride to Division I athletic program (which is on the high upon the top of their list) They should know this by 9th grade but refuse to do it. The trophies to everyone just makes defeat more paltable.
            You didn’t coach the Marauders by any chance??

          • No, I did not coach the Marauders. The English healthcare system is broken beyond repair. The Germans are in the process of “re-evaluating” their healtcare system, they can’t afford it.What does it matter if it costs $94 for an MRI, if there are no MRI machines or the wait is 4 months? Having the government set the prices will drive providers out of the industry. It is happening now. Revisit the concierge discussion. Health insurance is a terrible investment for the healthy. The only solution is to have individuals assume responsibility for their own healthcare. In every country you mentioned healthcare is rationed by government bureaucrats. In most countries where there is government run healthcare, there is less healthcare and not more than there is in countries without government run healthcare. The last time I was in Londom some older guy dies while waiting for an angioplasty while a young woman had her hymen restored at taxpayer expense. Big stink in the papers. If Obamacare comes to pass, healthcare will move offshore just as did American jobs. The examples are numerous. There is no toothfairy, and there is no such thing as a free lunch.

            Public schools are engaged in enculturation not education. The primary function of the public school system is to act as a wealth transfer mechanism. Wealth is transfered from the taxpayer to the employees and vendors. There are no metrics to measure outcomes, thus all sorts of claims of excellence are made without one speck of empirical evidence. No matter, the sheeple are content.

          • The Dude Abides

            If the only answer to the health care issue, whether it be the general health of the nation or the cost thereof, is left to the individual, only the rich will be able to afford health care. The for-profit insurance carriers are providing insurance at a 19% overhead administrative cost (compared with 8 per cent for Medicare). There billing system is archaic and premium cost prohibitive for most individuals who are either self-employed or without company benefits. Our cleaning woman’s son had to wait a year to get a hernia because he could not afford it or find a job that provided benefits. He wrapped his stomach with an ace bandage and made it through 90 days of “waiting period” on a crap job to have the surgery. No hospital would touch him. I find this sickening (excuse the pun) for a country as rich as ours to not provide medical coverage to everyone. It is an issue of morality to me. The War in Iraq (3 trillion dollars gone) could have extended Medicare to everyone in this country. My solution is to get people healthy, first. Knowledge is not enough. Penalities for overweight people or smokers or boozers should be severe. Meanwhile the government expands Medicare to include everyone. I am sure you will argue that this is economically infeasible but without wars or an inflated military budget, I believe it can be done. As for education, I honestly believe that the government has done more harm than good with “No Child Left Behind.” My mother started Head Start in this town and her first complaint was that they needed to start with 3 year olds not five year olds. With your philosophy in the back of my mind, I think the open market of private schools via the voucher system should prevail. Perhaps even private colleges could lead the way in creating their own preparatory schools?

          • One of the primary reasons healthcare costs are so high is because the marginal costs to most consumers is zero, thus the demand is higher than it would be if each comsumer paid the actual costs. The situation exists because of government intervention into the market for healhcare. First, healthcare benefits are not taxed, so third party payers are the rule. The beneficiary does not see the actual cost of the services. Second, programs like medicare creat the same effect. The beneficiary does no see the actual cost of the service, so demand is higher than it would be had the benficiary paid the actual costs. In addition, coverage requirements, and costs are regulated by every state. No insurance company can offer an policy in CT without the approval of the state insurance commission. What is covered, has expanded as a direct result of political pressure from special interest groups. It is no longer just basic medicine. As a result costs increase. Additionally, every American wants his MRI now, not in 4 months as is the case in Canada.

          • The public school system in the US is broken beyond repair. The healthcare system is similarly broken beyond repair. The governing class has no incentive to improve either system. In the future, the services offered in the public sector will deteriorate further; the rich will opt out and move to private healthcare and private schools, at a greater rate than they are currently. The poor and the middle class, especially the middle-class, will suffer the most as a result of the government’s mismanagement of both sectors.

          • The Dude Abides

            I tend to agree with you on the forecast. I think individuals are changing in regard to health care as they are becoming more aware of the costs. This may a first step. I have VA care and I often negotiate with local doctors if I have a small ailment that does not warrant a trip to West Haven. I have been surprised at the cost savings when I tell them it will be cash and ask how much will it cost me? They are very amenable to such arrangements. As I have said many times before on this blog, I do believe we are returning to a society of the aristrocratic rich (perhaps an oxymoron in many instances) with the higher echelon enjoying a very good life with the rest actually working poor. I forgot the statistics as to how many people in this country now live from pay check to pay check. In many minds, it is their own fault. And maybe it is the nature of man as seen by Darwin. The smart live well. Less smart, not so much. I certainly see it in education. We waste so much time on the mediocre kid who has to go to college and then ends up with the magic 7 words as his vocabulary: “Do you want ketchup with those fries?” And trust me, I am not being judgemental. I have worked some of those jobs in my lifetime. Perhaps you should write a book about your projections on what direction America is going and why???

          • If anyone would read the book, there would be no need to write it. Everyone believes in free ice cream. The people who will suffer the most will be those who have supported the programs, policies, and politicians that have brought about the suffering. There are consequences that follow from acting in a foolish manner.

          • The Dude Abides

            I am not sure “support” is the right word. Most don’t know or don’t care. They trust their government to do the best for them. Look at the perception of Reagan. Jeez, the guy should have been impeached for Iran-Contra and he is beloved by the GOP and Ears.
            Your words are setting the tone for a riot in the streets. Be careful that your ideology is not spread on FACEBOOK. The 20 somethings I talk to are not happy. No jobs, big student loans and the big dream busted.

          • It is not likely Ronnie would have been impeached. No one wants a test of the War Powers Act, and all he needed to do was issue a letter saying the transaction was in the national interest. If FDR was not impeached, it is hard to see why president would ever be impeached. There will be blood in the streets, and there has been before, remember the 1960’s? When there is no more ice cream the natives will become irate.

    • Derek DeVries

      Speaking of phantom liberalness like the dude does, I remember when Ashford and Simpson moved in across the street from, once again, Peter and Katinka DeVries. Forget the fact that they wrote songs for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel and boatloads of other Motown artists, they were black. The town was in a tizzy and don’t bother trying to play down that fact. I used to wave to Nick in his green mercedes as he was pulling out of that driveway. He always waved to me and our family when we saw him. One of the nicest guys I ever met.
      Of course, that guy had cash and didn’t need the white infrastructure (christian) of Westport to get a house. If s..t was worth something, black people would be born with no a..hole. (rim shot, cymbal crash)

  8. Estelle Margolis

    I’m not sure anyone in town (except Tracy Sugarman) knows about the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. I was there for a year in 1947. We were the only school for workers education and it was totally integrated. Both white and black workers came to Highlander to learn how to organize unions. Mrs. Roosevelt was on our board, Pete Seeger played at our Friday night square dances, Rosa Parks was at one of the workshops and the seeds of the voter registation drive were planted there.

    When I was there we had rednecks driving by in open pick up trucks shooting at the building.

    I realize that was 64 years ago and we still haven’t integrated our schools or our towns. Shame!


  9. via http://www.teamwestport.org/index.aspx?NID=20 (scroll down)

    “The presence of blacks in Westport has a long history, dating back to the 1930s when a ramshackle tenement at 22-1/2 Main Street was inhabited by blacks who worked in the homes of white, middle-class Westport residents. Tragically, the squalid tenement was destroyed by fire in 1950 and the black tenants were forced to leave town.”

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  11. I grew up in the Westport of the 1960s admiring the good work of Tracy Sugarman, members of the Honey family and others who demonstrated with deeds their commitment to the struggle for civil rights. I remember thinking how lonely it must of have been for teachers such as Ernestine White and Cliff Barton in such a white sea. I also remember the black kids I went to school with and played on Staples teams with, like Gail, Barry and Kenny Johnson, Sam and Loretta Pair, Cal and Charlie Reynolds and Charlie Joyner. Was it difficult for them socially? They rarely, if ever, said so. Whatever burdens they bore they carried gracefully. I also recall the 80s movie, “Soul Man,” written and directed by my Staples classmate, Steve Minor, which reportedly reflected Steve’s view of his high school experience, one which seemd to be devoid of any black schoolmates. My perepective since those years, however, has taken on a dramatically different hue, literally. My wife of 28 years is African American, as are our teenaged daughters. My wife and I moved from Manhattan to CT in the mid-1980s with the idea that we’d raise our future family in Westport. At the last minute we changed our minds and moved instead to Norwalk, thinking, probably reflexively, that Norwalk would be more inclusive for our kids, when they arrived, than life in Westport. Ultimately, we chose the Riverdale section of the Bronx, a very mixed middle class community, as our permanent home in 1990. Our girls have had a good life there as have we. There’s been no nonsense and their friends encompass every possible color and background, which is what we wanted for them. Would a Westport experience have been as rich and rewarding? Possibly, albeit in different ways. In any case, Westport should be proud of its civil rights history and the attempts through the years to bring those busloads of kids the Dude mentioned from elsewhere into the community. In contemplating all of the above, though, I am always brought back to a revealing remark made by Charlie Joyner to me and some of his Staples football teammates during a recent Westport reunion. Charlie came to Westport from North Carolina as an “exchange student” in 1964 at the height of the civil rights era. He was a huge social, athletic, artistic and academic success during his Staples years, attending Iowa State on a football scholarship, North Carolina A&T and grad school at UNC. Today’s he’s a tenured professor in North Carolina State’s College of Art & Design and a notable artist in his own right. When we were recalling the circumstances of his ’64 arrival as an exchange student, he said, with a laugh, “You know, back in Smithfield, they’re still waiting to see the other half of that exchange.”

  12. Dorothy Wolfe

    I think TEAM Westport may still exist, since a friend from the Unitarian Church, where I’ve been a member since 1978, is Catherine Omyemelukwe, who I think works with that group. She is married to Clem, a businessman from Nigeria who is black , and she is a Mt. Holyoke grad like me.
    Your article reminds me of Byron Rubenstein, my Rabbi at Temple Israel many years ago, and Sue his wife–both very kind to me when my husband Dick died at age 47, in 1970. We had come to Temple Israel in 1969, and Byron, like me, loved poetry.
    For several years I taught “Business Engl;ish” (plus poetry when I could insert it ) to a diverse group of people in Norwalk–very diverse, all colors and ages and several national origins, as part of a job-training program in the 70’s…a period not unlike today. I still see a couple of those people.
    In Westport, I hosted in summer youngsters from NYC in the Fresh-Air program; I asked for boys who had no father (after Dick’s death) and both my Bill and Ethan played with them at the beach, etc…..the boys happened to be black.
    Today Ethan is married to a beautiful young women who also happens to be black. They enjoy the variety of life in Brooklyn. “Open” attitudes sometimes can just “grow” unselfconsciously, it seems to me, out of personal experience.

  13. Dick Lowenstein

    A good place to continue this conversation on race is in Boston, where the Museum of Science is showing a touring exhibit, “Race: Are We So Different?” It’s only there until May 15 and then continues its national tour (http://www.understandingrace.org/about/tour.html) I saw it two weeks ago and found it not only informative but moving, too. Try to see it.

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  15. “diversity redux”? Why focus only on Blacks? Doesn’t Asians and Hispanics dramatic growth say otherwise?

    Maybe the better way to explain this is economic homogenization than the loss of racial diversity.