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Jeb on Hillary. Two old families feeling a little new right about now?

Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush shared a stage in September. Jeb Bush awarded Clinton the 2013 Liberty Metal (awarded by the National Constitution Center, which Bush chairs) at the event, honoring her commitment to civic engagement, particularly with women and girls. Apparently he took some grief for it, mortal enemies (rather than civic partners) that we’ve become. Here’s his comment at the time:

“While Secretary Clinton and I disagree on many issues, we certainly agree on the importance of civic engagement.”

This week former Governor Bush was interviewed by ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl about the experience:

Jonathan Karl: “What was that conversation like?”

Jeb Bush: “It was very friendly. Treating people fairly and with civility is not a bad thing. It would be good for our country if political leaders actually took that to heart.”

Tuesday night (register now): Could you survive a month in poverty? A Virtual Experience of Life on the Edge

UWBB Poverty Simulation_Oct22

The program is free and presented by the United Way of the Big Bend and the Village Square.Register online here.

The Great Gatsby curve: Working rich giving rise to the next generation of born rich and accelerating decrease in social mobility

Join us next Tuesday night for American Dream Lost?

plutocratsAs society’s grow more unequal, social mobility decreases – which, in turn, yields more economic inequality.

From Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats:

Membership in today’s “book of gold” [referring to the Venetian Book of Gold listing Venetian nobility and the ossified and stratified society it represented - ultimately undermining the economic success that created their nobility to begin with] is a degree from an elite university and those are increasingly the province of the global super-elite. Statistics have shown that graduating from college is more closely linked to having wealthy parents than it is to high test scores in high school.

Class matters more than going to class.

This intergenerational form of rent-seeking is the hardest to oppose… who can blame the 1% for seeking for their children what the 99% seeks to.

Congressman Barney Frank on financial reform

The argument that financial institutions do not need new rules to help them avoid the irresponsible actions that led to the crisis of 2008 is at least 2 billion dollars harder to make today. — Congressman Barney Frank

“Capitalism lacks a strong lobby.” Huh?

Today is the last day for early bird seats to American Dream Lost where we’ll talk about “rising economic inequality” as an American asteroid.

rent seekingFrom Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats:

“Capitalism lacks a strong lobby. That assertion might appear strange in light of the billions of dollars that firms spend lobbying Congress in America, but that is exactly the point. Most lobbying seeks to tilt the playing field in one direction or another – not to level it. Most lobbying are pro-business – in that it seeks to support the interest of existing businesses – not pro market in the sense of fostering truly free or open competition. Open competition forces established firms to prove their competence again and again. Strong successful market players, therefore, use their muscle to restrict such competition and to strength their possessions. As a result, serious tensions emerge between a pro-market agenda and a pro-business one.”

When Americans turn their nose up at some less attractive aspects of capitalism, it’s likely that they’re often really objecting to what’s referred to as “rent-seeking” behavior by individuals and firms seeking an unfair advantage in the marketplace more than they are at a vibrant competition that is fundamental to free market principles. It’s a distinction worth lingering on, given that agreement would be so much more broad that rent-seeking is both antithetical to fairness, likely in part driving the increasing economic inequality between the haves and the have-nots, and not representative of a vibrant capitalism supported by conservatives. We all agree we don’t like people getting something for nothing…

Illustration credit.

Joshua Brown: “Dear Jamie Dimon”

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Join us next Tuesday for “Dinner at the Square” on the topic of rising economic inequality. Get info here (tomorrow is last day for early bird pricing).

Here Joshua Brown, a New York investment advisor, writes compellingly about the heart of America’s fury after the 2008 meltdown (without the normal tribal 1/2 view) in his blog “The Reformed Broker”:

Not only do we not “hate the rich” as you and other em-bubbled plutocrats have postulated, in point of fact, we love them… We love the success stories in our midst and it is a distinctly American trait to believe that we can all follow in the footsteps of the elite, even though so few of us ever actually do.

So, no, we don’t hate the rich. What we hate are the predators.

What we hate are the people who we view as having found their success as a consequence of the damage their activities have done to our country. What we hate are those who take and give nothing back in the form of innovation, convenience, entertainment or scientific progress. We hate those who’ve exploited political relationships and stupidity to rake in even more of the nation’s wealth while simultaneously driving the potential for success further away from the grasp of everyone else…

America hates unjustified privilege, it hates an unfair playing field and crony capitalism without the threat of bankruptcy, it hates privatized gains and socialized losses, it hates rule changes that benefit the few at the expense of the many and it hates people who have been bailed out and don’t display even the slightest bit of remorse or humbleness in the presence of so much suffering in the aftermath.

Read the entire post here.

News Release: Village Square Launches New Season “The Asteroids Club”

Programs to examine six American “asteroids” that threaten our future

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – October 8, 2013 – Imagine there is a giant asteroid heading to earth, expected to destroy life as we know it. We’d stop the incessant partisan bickering and do everything within our power to deflect the asteroid, right? Like in the movies?

During its 2013-14 Dinner at the Square season, The Village Square examines six American “asteroids” headed directly at us – each a problem that will only grow bigger and harder to “deflect” the longer we ignore it. Stuck inside our feuding partisan tribes, we’ve failed to find common cause against common threats – preferring instead to argue in the public debate about whose asteroid is real; all while the threats continue to build.

This year’s season of programming – which will also include a look at “asteroids” Florida must deal with – is a joint project of The Village Square and Dr. Jonathan Haidt of NYU’s Stern School of Business and author of “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” The Village Square’s unique model of civic engagement continues to draw national attention, recently named by Senator Olympia Snowe as one of eight organizations in America seeking to grow political common ground (the only one hometown-based).

The first program of the season – “American Dream Lost?” – will be held on Tuesday, October 15, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown. This discussion will take on the liberal “asteroid” of rising economic inequality and the conservative “asteroid” of breakdown of the family – both data-supported problems that are threatening to damage the fabric of American society. In a time of unparalleled creation of wealth, the spoils of the American dream are increasingly going to the top 1%. At the same time, the family has taken a hit – with 40% of births now occurring outside of marriage. These two trends are highly correlated and worth joint effort.

Panelists include Kay Hymowitz of New York City’s Manhattan Institute and author of “Marriage and Caste in America,” and Dr. Kathryn Tillman of the FSU Center for Demography and Population Health. Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum and Richard Albertson of Live the Life, a faith-based organization devoted to strengthening marriages and families, will also join the conversation.

In association with this program, The Village Square and the United Way of the Big Bend are partnering to host “A Virtual Experience of Life on the Edge” on Tuesday, October 22, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church. This event is a unique, interactive activity that allows people to experience the day-to-day realities of those living in poverty and provides an opportunity for us to discuss how our community can work together to address the problem. Pre-register for this free event online at www.uwbb.org.

“The Asteroids Club” season will continue through the school year with other asteroids, including entitlement spending, climate change, money in politics and moral behavior. Season tickets are available through October 15. For more information, visit www.tothevillagesquare.org, call 590-6646 or email info@tothevillagesquare.org. A limited number of scholarship tickets is available. To learn more about the Asteroids Club project go to www.asteroidsclub.org.


New York Times: Two Classes, Divided by “I Do”

If you haven’t read this New York Times article about the intersection of the two American “asteroids” we’re talking about on Tuesday, October 15th – rising economic inequality and falling marriage rates/rising out-of-wedlock births – it’s time to read it now.

And we hope you’ll join us on Tuesday, October 15th (one week from today) for “American Dream Lost.”

NY Times: Two Classes, Divided by

Chrystia Freeland on America’s founding ethic of equality (and asteroid #1)

plutocratsRising Economic Inequality is tearing at the fabric of American society. The problem is getting worse the longer we ignore it, making it one of the American “asteroids” we’re going to take on this coming year in our season “Join the Asteroids Club” – a state of mind where we agree that we need to work together across the partisan divide on common threats we face. Find information on the season HERE and on the first dinner of the season on October 15th, American Dream Lost, HERE.

Here’s a take on our founding generation’s view on the uniqueness of America’s economic equality in their day, from Chrystia Freeland’s “Plutocrats.”

“The America of the national foundation story, the country as it was at the time of the American Revolution, was one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet. That was the proud declaration of the founders. In a letter from Monticello…to Dr. Thomas Cooper… Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“We have no paupers. The great mass of our population is of laborers. Our rich that can live without labor, either manual or professional – being few and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families and from the demand from their labor are able to exact from the rich and the competent such prices that allow them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families. The wealthy on the other hand and those at their ease, know nothing of what the Europeans call “luxury.” They have only somewhat more of the comforts and decency of life than those who furnish them. Can any condition of society by more desirable than this?”

Contrasting American with Britain:

“Now let us compute by numbers the sum of happiness of the two countries – In England, happiness is the lot of the aristocracy only. The proportion they bear to the laborers and paupers – you know better than I do. If they are 4 in every hundred, then the happiness of the country to its misery as 1 in 25. In the United States, it is as of 8 millions to zero or as all to none.”

Faith, Food, Friday: Strangers at the Door (a little reading material)

fff-logoDr. Bill Shiell of First Baptist, moderating Friday’s program “Strangers at the Door: A Conversation on Immigration,” has shared an article to prompt discussion with the God Squad. We thought we’d share it with you too:

“Christians equally committed to God’s word may reasonably arrive at different conclusions on specific aspects of [immigration] issues and their resolution. However, this much is certain: God, in His Word, consistently shows His loving concern for “the stranger in our midst” and directs His people to do the same…”

Read the whole article from Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University online HERE.

(Remember that tomorrow is the last day for early bird registration rates for this Friday’s program. Get more information and RSVP here.)

Scott Turow Imagining the Future Global Superclass (that may not be that far away…)

“Somebody ought to sit down and think about this because your corporate class are soon going to be a stateless superclass – people who live for deals, and golf dates, and care a lot more about where you got your MBA than the country you were raised in. It’s the Middle Ages all over again – these little unaffiliated Dutchies and fiefdoms flying their own flags and ready to take in any vassal who is willing to pledge their life to the manor. Everybody busy patting themselves on the back because the reds went into the dumper are going to wonder who won when Coca-Cola applies for a seat in the U.N.”

Join us on Tuesday, October 15th for “American Dream Lost.”


Scott Turow, Pleading Guilty (from Plutocrats, by Chrystia Freeland)

Warren Buffet on class warfare

american-dream-logo-map-500“There’s class warfare all right. But it’s my class – the rich class – that’s making war. And we’re winning.” — Warren Buffet.

(Agree or disagree, you should join us as we discuss rising economic inequality and family breakdown – our first two “asteroids” of this year’s dinner season on Tuesday, October 15th in American Dream Lost?)



For Immediate Release
October 3, 2013

Local clergy and congregations join The Village Square in hosting lunch series

(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – October 3, 2013 – On Friday October 11, a diverse group of local clergy – affectionately known as “The God Squad” – will begin a third year of talking about the topics your mother warned you to never discuss in polite company: politics and religion.

The series began in 2011 in the hope that neighbors breaking bread together could begin to heal the civic division that has so paralyzed our nation, our states and even our hometowns. Seventeen meals later, everyone is still speaking to each other.

People from all faith communities – or those not a part of any faith community – are all invited to participate in these improbable conversations.

The series is hosted by local nonprofit “The Village Square,” dedicated to building community across the partisan divide in order to improve the quality of the civic conversation in America. Organized in Tallahassee in 2006, The Village Square now has a second location in St. Petersburg and has enjoyed national attention as a unique model for civic engagement.

“The God Squad” includes Rev. Dave Killeen of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Pastor Darrick McGhee of Bible Based Church, Rev. Betsy Ouellette of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel and Dr. Bill Shiell of First Baptist Church.

For its first topic this season, “Faith, Food, Friday” takes a look at the divisive issue of immigration – now languishing in Congress – from a fresh perspective in “Strangers at the Door: A Conversation on Immigration.” Joining them will be guest panelist Mark Schlakman of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. The program is on Friday, October 11 from noon to 1 pm at First Baptist Church (108 W. College Avenue) with lunch available beginning at 11:30. Dr. Bill Shiell of First Baptist Church will moderate.

Other topics for the year include “After the Trayvon Martin Case,” “Faith and Capitalism,” “Restorative Justice: Rethinking the Role of Forgiveness,” “When Religion Becomes Violent,” “Gender and Faith,” and “Character in America.” The location varies each program and is posted online.

All Faith, Food, Friday forums are free and open to the public. Lunch is available for $8 if you RSVP by the Tuesday ahead of the program and $10 with a late reservation or at the door – all lunches are paid cash or check at the door. You may also bring a brown bag lunch. For a menu, more information or to reserve your seat, go online to http://wiki.tothevillagesquare.org/x/e4Df, call 264-8785 or email fff@tothevillagesquare.org.