Welcome to the Sociology 345: Contemporary American Society Course Website

Welcome to the course website for Sociology 345: Contemporary American Society, taught by Dr. Joshua Kjerulf Dubrow, at The Ohio State University, Spring Quarter 2011.  In this website you can find more about the course, the course syllabus with links to some readings, selected lecture notes, and links of interest.


Americans Celebrate Death of Osama bin Laden

Spontaneous celebrations across America as President Obama announces the death of Osama bin Laden:

Americans celebrated early Monday in a show of patriotism against the man who committed his life to attacking U.S. citizens, while those directly affected by Osama bin Laden’s terrorist plots quietly reflected on the closure finally gained from his death.

In front of the White House, chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” filled the night air, and the quickly growing group spontaneously broke into an off-key rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I was in D.C. during 9/11. It’s hard to believe, 10 years later, it’s over,” said Mason Wright, 33, who recalled his days as a student at American University, watching on TV as a second plane hit the World Trade Center in 2001.

“It’s terrible to sit here and celebrate someone’s death, but to the thousands of lives that were lost — it’s finally come to an end,” he added.

Alan Comar, 29, clutched his girlfriend as he watched hundreds clad in red, white and blue gather in front of the White House.

“There’s very few of those got-to-be-there moments,” said the Washington resident, who worked as a contractor in Afghanistan. “This is one of them.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Politics, Taxes and Corporations in America

The literature on taxes is long, contentious, and over the heads of most of us.  Here is a provocative piece by noted investigative journalists Barlett and Steele on taxes and corporations.  Be sure to click on the link to see the charts and graphs.

Eric Cantor, who has represented a section of Richmond, Va., in Congress since 2001 and now is the House majority leader, would like to craft a permanent U.S. tax system that caters exclusively to those at the top.  So, too, Michele Bachmann, the Republican representative from Minnesota, a onetime tax lawyer who hopes to make a run for the White House. Likewise, Tim Pawlenty, the former two-term Republican governor of Minnesota, who also sees himself sitting in the Oval Office. Needless to say, none state their proposals like that.  But that’s the way their numbers and provisions add up.

Like others in Congress and the media, Cantor, Bachmann and Pawlenty insist that American businesses are paying too much in corporate income tax. They claim the onerous tax burden is killing jobs and forcing companies to move abroad. To reverse the nation’s fortunes, they say, all Washington need do is slash the corporate tax rate, thereby reducing the amount of taxes these businesses are forced to pay. What’s scary is a growing number of citizens believe them.

That means a forecast made years ago by William J. Casey, a wily Republican from another era who liked to dabble in the intelligence world’s black arts inside and outside the country, and who helped craft the election of Ronald Reagan, is coming true. After taking office, President Reagan installed Casey as the head of the CIA in 1981. Following his first staff meeting at the agency, Casey was quoted as saying:

“We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

One of the more egregious falsehoods being peddled by the corporate tax cutters is that companies doing business in the United States are taxed at an exorbitant rate. Not so. While the United States has one of the highest statutory rates on the books at 35 percent, the only fair way to measure what companies actually pay is their effective rate — what they ultimately pay after deductions, credits and assorted writeoffs. By that yardstick, companies in the United States consistently pay taxes at rates lower than corporations in Japan and many nations in Europe.

Lest you have any doubt that the overtaxed American corporation is anything but a fairy tale, consider this:

During the 1950s, the decade in which more people joined the middle class than at any time in history — before or since — corporations paid 49 percent of their profits in taxes. Last year, it was about half that rate, a decidedly more modest 26 percent. In 2010, corporate tax collections totaled $191 billion — down 8 percent from $207 billion as recently as 2000.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cash-Strapped Towns Sell Advertising on Sides of School Buses

This Yellow Space for Rent

Cash-hungry states and municipalities, in pursuit of even the smallest amounts of revenue, have begun to exploit one market that they have exclusive control over: their own property.  With the help of a few eager marketing consultants, many governments are peddling the rights to place advertisements in public school cafeterias, on the sides of yellow school buses, in prison holding areas and in the waiting rooms of welfare offices and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The revenue generated by these ads is just a drop in the bucket for states and counties with deficits in the millions or billions of dollars. But supporters say every penny helps.  Still, critics question whether the modest sums are worth further exposing citizens — especially children — to even more commercial pitches.

Read the rest of this entry »