Economisting Blog

Time for a #PeoplesBailout and to #CancelDebt

Wrote some words about this over at Data For Progress

“To get through this crisis, we need more than just stimulus checks to households—we need consumer debt forgiveness for a real stimulus and recovery. As the chant from Occupy Wall Street went: “We got sold out, banks got bailed out.”

The Trump administration continues to insist on a recovery focused on bailing out large corporations and other businesses, while workers bearing the brunt of the crisis are faced with relying on a small, one-time stimulus to make ends meet, and to pay their debts.

But if the economy is in crisis, why not just cancel or forgive these debts instead of siphoning off of stimulus checks? “… –> Read More on the Data For Progress Blog.

COVID-19 Blogging: Days 8, 9, & 10

Back to work! Well, at least that’s the goal. Honestly, it has been so difficult to concentrate lately. But this week, our remote learning experiment starts up and I still need to  make some academic progress on this dissertation, so work it is.

Dissertating

Given all of the changes that the pandemic has brought on, it seemed clearer now more than ever that a key function schools serve is as sites of care. My dissertation however focuses on them as sites of carcerality. So, I am going to frame things as this contradiction: care or carcerality? This framing also overlaps with what we know about the larger carceral state, in that part of its function has been, to some extent, substituting incarceration for care.

Remote Learning

Week 1 is a go. I have no idea what to expect. I am maintaining concern for my students. Just thinking about the recent announcement that the Fed expects an unemployment rate approaching 30%, I can’t help but think many of my students may be dealing with job loss (either theirs or their family/group), alongside potentially being ill, and dealing with the general anxiety of everything right now. I am holding an open Office Hours Chat via Zoom later this week and hope to hear from some of them. They are also going to watch Capitalism Hits the Fan, and I’m curious to see their thoughts.

Humaning  

Trying to maintain some normal with walks, runs, bike rides, tennis, Zoom chats/parties, and cooking. I also need to build a new bookshelf and plan to rearrange my office. Being addicted to watching the news all evening means not much bandwidth for movies or tv or books really.

COVID-19 Blogging Days 6 and 7

Teaching

Today I am setting up our first week on Moodle for remote learning. Not sure what to expect in terms of students’ capacities right now, but I am here for them.

Dissertating 

I am having quite a hard time with this. I must say, the Twitterverse is feeling a bit toxic on the moment- some folks are having a surge in productivity. As an economist, this situation means our work is desperately needed so that we can actually deal with the crisis at hand (the economic one). But, as someone trying to finishing this PhD, I feel overwhelmed with so many thoughts about the state of things at the moment and it’s getting in the way of my concentration. I was looking forward to concentrating on my research following the job market too.

Economisting 

Again, overwhelming. So much to think about. What is the best way out of this? How much? Will is happen? How do we organize? How do we create new institutions coming out of this rupture while keeping our distance? What is the strategy? Will there be academia next year? Too many questions.

I am hoping to see Center for Popular Economics begin thinking about planning our virtual Summer Institute as well as perhaps a reader or zine about the crisis that demystifies the various policy approaches and analyzes the root of the problem (material life organized by a capitalist mode of product, for profit not people).

Humaning 

This seems like the priority right now. The past two days included some lovely Zoom chats that really were cathartic. Keeping a distance outside while running and biking still, but it is nice to see my neighbors keeping well. I am looking into seeing if my local community is organizing any mutual aid, I worry quite a bit about some of my older neighbors and folks less equip to deal with this situation.

COVID-19 Blogging Days 4 and 5

Teaching

I set up my online remote learning plan for the remainder of the semester. Econ 197S Remote Learning Syllabus that is intended to still cover our content, but also be flexible given the situation. My students are sad and anxious, but also have many questions about processing the economy around them rupturing.

Dissertating 

Realizing that my dissertation timeline has been interrupted, I am coming to terms with the idea that this is okay and now is not a time to get upset about that. I unfortunately also realize that despite my IRB paperwork going through, actually getting access to the restricted use data I ordered and being able to use it on campus is highly unlikely. That said, this is why we all plan our back up essays! It looks like my dissertation will now include an essay questioning school discipline from a political economy perspective in the context of racial carceral capitalism, as well as an essay looking at the impact of the Texas practice of “ticketing” students and subsequent roll back of this policy (did it in fact reduce incarceration? in-school arrests? discipline overall?).

Economisting

I’m pretty overwhelmed with processing everything. Acutely, thinking about needing the following:

  • moratorium of rent and mortgage payments
  • student debt cancellation
  • medicare for all, nationalize all hospitals and healthcare
  • abolition of prisons and jails, not doing so is cruel and unusual
  • cash in people’s pockets yesterday
  • paid sick leave for all
  • more labor protections of all kinds
  • anything else to increase workers’ bargaining power
  • potentially grants to small (very small) local businesses
  • policies that do not retrench capitalist power dynamics, in general (this is where UBI is tricky)
  • while we’re out it, Green New Deal or Green Third Reconstruction, because without polluting humans milling about, the Earth is looking a lot happier these days

Long run, this moment of rupture is so unprecedented and we know that that means when we look back at human history: potential for equally unprecedented system and institutional change. Which we it goes is up to us,  but I think we are all realizing we are part of a global collective. Finally.

Humaning 

I am going to try out a Zoom virtual birthday party today ( a first for celebrating in general, nevermind during a pandemic). I have also been making sure to text each of my friends everyday (with no pressure to respond). I went for a nice long walk around town and campus yesterday. As long as it is safe, I will keep walking, long distance running, and biking each day, which I always do anyway. I will however deeply miss rock climbing. I hope to get into a routine enough where weekends and evenings can be “fun” reading, movies, games, and so on. Holding a lot of emotional space for everyone I know and don’t know and the world in general, so I am looking forward to trying  my first telehealth therapy appointment today.

Oh, and yesterday I baked some bread and made a tomato, farro, white bean, and spinach soup. Today I am going to bake a cake and maybe make some tofu, lentil, and spinach bao.

COVID-19 Blogging Day 3

Day 3 of our self-imposed quarantine was almost normal. Did some work, went for a run (is this okay or verboten?!), had a work phone call, started to put together the remote learning “syllabus”. I am thinking to just call it “learn-as-you-can/want” or something. If students want some structure, grades, feedback, and so on, I’ll do that, especially if it helps with their mental health. If not, well, that’s fine too.

Reading 

Planning to start The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Watching

Doomsday Preppers *shrug emoji*

Writing/Researching

Still not quite back to this. I am hoping today to make a plan for going forward. I have a feeling I will not be able to access restricted-use data even though my IRB paperwork finally wrapped up, so I will make a plan for finishing my work with the data that I have.

 

Remote Learning: Some thoughts

After a lot of confusion, UMass Amherst switched to online remote learning for the remainder of the semester following Spring Break this week.

First and foremost, I am holding a lot of emotional space for my students. The last time I saw them, they were quite scared, anxious, uncertain, angry, and most of all, sad. The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, and it’s important to really allow ourselves to understand that emotionally. My students’ lives were upheavaled in just a few days, with many unsure of where they are returning back to, some expressing concern about home life and safety. The last time we met, we discussed both our acute concerns about the University, logistics, and where everyone will go, as well as our macro concerns about our communities, the future, politics, the economy, and the world as a whole. That is a lot to carry. So I will accommodate the heavy burden we are all carrying with flexibility, while also still providing the materials and structure, as many students may appreciate some structure during this time.

Screen Shot 2020-03-16 at 8.54.59 AMThat said, I felt the pedagogically appropriate thing to do in this situation was to first send them a survey about the transition to remote learning. I sent my students a Google Form in an email where I explained that I wanted to see where they are at right now, and that the survey was not required and they only had to answer questions if they wanted to (all of them were optional). Each question also had an open ended response option. They can share nothing or as little as they would like, or share detailed thoughts.

My remote learning survey consists of two parts:

1.) Well-being and Internet Accessibility Check-in

  • How are you doing?
  • Do you have your travel plans set and a safe place to stay? Yes, maybe, still figuring it out, no, or open ended response.
  • Do you think in your expected or current situation you will have at least an hour to a few hours each week to spend on classwork? Yes, no, maybe, not sure yet, or open ended response.
  • Do you have stable internet access? Or do you have to make special arrangements? Yes, maybe, open ended response (or no response).

2.) Remote learning preferences, expectations, and suggestions

  • I had students rank their preferences about: discussion forums, live video lectures, recorded video lectures, recorded audio lectures, live Q&A video chats/office hours, live Q&A text chat/office hours, free videos/film content, news-based readings and discussion, peer review assignments, short writing assignments, and other suggestions they may have
  • I also had students rank preferences about topics for our course (on debt): 2008 Financial Crisis, government debt and deficits, corporate debt, or other suggested topics
  • I asked them for suggestions for videos/films and other content we can draw on

As for the grades issue, I told everyone not to worry about grades (I say that anyway). But, really, we’re beyond grades now. If you want feedback and structure, I’m happy to do my best to provide that. If you have other priorities, so be it.

I also liked the guidance of this post “Please do a bad job of putting your courses online“. I agree with most of it, especially asynchronous work and the points on accessibility. I think as we go forward we all will be uniquely balancing per each classroom being flexible given the scale of the current situation and still providing space, structure, routine, and “normalcy” for our students who need it. How about that for highlighting the care function of professing?

I try to maintain a very participatory and democratic classroom, always reminding my students that this is THEIR course. I think they appreciate that and so far have expressed concerns about their anxiety levels as well as their living situations, but also a desire to continue learning and to use our remote learning course as a space to discuss and analyze current events. I feel for them, but I think something unique may bloom in this weird situation. 🌹

COVID-19 Blogging Days 1 & 2

Figured I might as well document this “social distancing” experiment on my professional blog. So far, this is a very anxious experience. I will write a separate post on my approach to remote learning for the remaining portion of the semester. But, for now, here is what we are reading and watching:

Reading 

Finished Jackie Wang’s Carceral Capitalismthis is fantastic, albeit a bit all over the place, but extremely thought provoking. I especially appreciate the treatment of white supremacy as its own structured interlocking alongside capitalism and other axes of oppression/exploitation/expropriation

Started Golden Gulag 

Apropro the situation and thinking about biopower/necropolitics and “states of exception”, just picked up Agamben’s Homo Sacer 

Watching

Contagion (LOL/sob)- content warning; a little too on the nose right now

The Weather Underground (2003 Documentary)- this was fantastic and very eye opening to think about the work of this group in terms of solidarity, as well as some of the issues that led to their break up

Internet and Economisting

Check out two Twitter chats I did recently:

1.) The Jain Family Institute had a great chat on neoliberalism and other topics with #JFIChat on Twitter

2.) We at Center for Popular Economics demystified some of the Fed’s recent actions using #WTFed