Jonathan Rowe

Recent Articles

The Greening of Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart’s new green-washed image is deflecting attention from the drag the company continues to inflict on workers’ wages and communities’ quality of life.

W hen you get off Highway 101 at Exit 484A, you immediately fall into headachy traffic on access roads not designed for this crush. It is the kind of dysfunction that Wal-Mart would never tolerate in its own internal operations but that big-box stores breed in the world they increasingly define. This Wal-Mart is in Rohnert Park, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. I’d been hearing about Wal-Mart’s efforts to mend its ways, offering energy efficiency, zero waste, organic cotton, and even organic food. It all seemed so unlikely—a little like walking into Fox News’ offices and finding a wing devoted to The American Prospect —that I wanted to see for myself. (My son, who is 8, was more interested in the Wal-Mart-exclusive Nerf gun.) Not much has changed since our last visit several years ago, visibly at least. There are some T-shirts made with organic cotton; I buy one to send a market message. The display of compact fluorescent bulbs is impressive. Beyond that, the new...

Every Baby a Trust Fund Baby

E state taxes are a problem that most Americans would like to have. Not many do. To qualify, one has to have a nice piece of change--at least $1.3 million for a married couple and, taking loopholes into account, more like $5 million. At present fewer than 2 percent of Americans achieve that kind of affluence. Some 40 percent die with no assets at all to leave behind for the kids and grandkids. That's the problem today: too little wealth at the bottom and in the middle, and not too much burden on the wealth at the very top. The fortunes of the Rockefellers and Fords have survived through generations, despite the estate tax. New fortunes are arising at a staggering pace even though the estate tax looms. But the wealth of most Americans has not increased in a corresponding manner. On the contrary, for the lower 40 percent, net assets have declined by some 75 percent over the past two decades. The estate tax doesn't threaten wealth in America...

Rebuilding the Nonmarket Economy

L ast March, The New York Times carried the story of John Knigery of Portland, Oregon. The eighty-two-year-old victim of Alzheimer's disease was found abandoned near the men's room of a dog-racing track in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. A picture showed him in a wheelchair, clutching a teddy bear, as attendants loaded him onto an airplane for the flight back to Portland and whatever arrangements awaited him there. To seniors, John Kingery's story is their worst nightmare; to baby-boomer adults, it is a dread picture of a future not as distant as it once seemed. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians there are over 70,000 cases a year of this "granny dumping"--and many more to come, if current trends continue. The plight of people like John Kingery has become a kind of ideological Rorschach. To those on the left, it suggests Reagan budget cuts and the decline of social services. To the right, it suggests a society so benumbed by government programs that people neglect family...

Imagesbusters, the Sequel

Free Market Violence Jonathan Rowe I was surprised that Todd Gitlin chose to scold congressional Democrats for trying to tackle TV violence ("Imagebusters: The Hollow Crusade Against TV Violence," Winter 1994). His insights regarding the media are astute, as usual. But his arguments against congressional action are mostly beside the point, and his superior and disparaging tone is not helpful. Gitlin dismisses concern about TV violence as a middle-class neurosis, a revival of the "iconophobia" that arose early in the century with the arrival of motion pictures. He ridicules senators addressing this issue as inferior intellects who aren't up to facing real issues like gun control. Well, so what if the people who raised the issue early in the century happened to be middle class? The question is whether they were onto something, which they were. Similarly, what difference does it make that some advocates of action on TV violence are not strong on gun control? Regrettably, Gitlin gets so...

Up From the Bedside

As hospital care has become prohibitively expensive, home health care has swelled into a $7 billion industry, generating a wave of corporate investment. Growth has been so rapid that the industry has even attracted interest from foreign companies. Yet the field also has spawned alternatives to the dominant corporate model, including cooperatives that aim to provide economic opportunity to the poor as well as personal care to the infirm. Traditionally, of course, home care was the responsibility of a family member. If none could do the job, the family brought in a visiting nurse or an aide from a local agency, which was typically run under charitable and religious auspices. The character of home care, however, has changed enormously. The industry has not only burgeoned in size. It has also become more technical, as much of the growth has come from the shift of complex medical services from the hospital and clinic to the home. But there is still a "low-tech, high touch" end to the...