By Harold Henderson

“Many firms laud the analytical prowess of our [UC graduate school of business] alums, but criticize their lack of client or group skills and their inability to adapt well to people-oriented positions,” writes Mason Reay in Chicago Business (February 6). Maybe the corporate reporters attended the B-school’s formal, recently held at the Field Museum, which according to Reay included incidents involving “stolen alcohol, rampant cigarette and cigar smoking, broken bottles and bar glasses in the main hall’s fountain, more glass-throwing contests on the front steps, marijuana smoking in the bathrooms and on the elevator, cigarette and cigar burns on the second floor balcony railings, and tales of individuals ‘becoming one’ near certain exhibits.”

As we would like others to see us. “Chicago is leading the way on every major issue facing urban America,” Dennis Britton, who heads the Community News Project being set up for the Democratic National Convention this summer, is quoted as saying in a recent news release from the Community Media Workshop: “housing, education, public safety, job creation, brownfield development and inner-city investment.” Well, Silver Shovel covers the last two, anyway.

Those post-Iron Curtain blues. A Polish conference goer, quoted by Carolyn Pereira of the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago in its spring newsletter: “What does democracy mean to an inhabitant of a small town or village in my country? Schwarzenegger movies, pornography, unemployment–and not much else.”

The underworked American. Most people think they have less leisure time than before, but the best social-science evidence is that we have more than our parents and grandparents, notes Society (January/February). Both detailed time diaries and employer records show that individuals’ after-the-fact estimates of how much they work (on which Juliet Schor’s best-selling The Overworked American was largely based) are systematically biased upward: “Workers whose diaries show 40 hours per week of paid work estimate they worked 43 hours. Workers who actually worked 55 hours estimate 80 hours on the job. Perhaps it feels that way to the toiler. But it’s not true.”

“Suppose we had a ‘public automobile system,'” writes Harper College economist Dennis Brennen in a Prairie State Initiative press release–“the government provided every family with a ‘free’ Peoplewagon, call it a PW. If you wanted something better, you could buy it–a Buick for $22,000, a Lincoln for $40,000, etc. Peoplewagon manufacturers might start out producing quality cars, but they would have little incentive to improve their designs or keep costs low, because they would have a captive market. Since PWs would be ‘free’ to every family, they could be $22,000 worse than Buicks and people would still take them. It wouldn’t be surprising if Peoplewagons deteriorated in quality….For the most part, only wealthy people would buy Buicks. Most would accept the inferior PWs, just as most people today accept inferior public schools. It’s just too expensive to switch.”

“In 1993, Polish immigrants made up the largest ethnic group migrating to Illinois, at 10,651,” writes Brian Lee in Illinois Issues (January). “Mexicans made up the second largest group at 8,911. Indian (3,991) and Chinese (3,170) immigrants were next on the list. There were 923 Vietnamese immigrants and 743 Irish immigrants.”

“Creating the kind of society in which abortions are less frequent is something neither pro-life nor pro-choice advocates can do by themselves,” writes Todd David Whitmore of Notre Dame in the Chicago-based Christian Century (January 3-10). “Many Catholics know that providing alternatives to pregnant women is necessary if their pro-life stance is to have any integrity….If the aim of pro-choice advocates is to provide the widest possible array of choices so as to empower women to exercise their moral agency, then pro-choice organizations and their members are obligated to provide alternatives to women in situations of unintended pregnancy.” In theory, he concludes, there is a common ground between the two camps that does not involve compromise of fundamental principles.

Chicago lost fewer people between 1990 and 1995 than at any other time since 1960, according to the Chicago Reporter (January). How come? “The city ‘may have just bottomed out,’ said Ashraf Manji, president of the Asian-American Institute. ‘Everybody who wanted to leave may have already left.'”

Would a flat tax be more progressive in practice than the current IRS code? U. of I. law professor Ronald Rotunda says so in a university news release: “The current progressive income-tax code, which levies higher tax rates on the rich than on the poor, only makes tax shelters more attractive to wealthy taxpayers, who can easily afford to hire lawyers and accountants to shelter their income.” He cites IRS data from 1981, the last time the tax structure was flattened, when Ronald Reagan reduced the top bracket rate from 50 to 28 percent: the wealthiest 1 percent’s share of all federal taxes paid rose from 17.9 percent in 1981 to 25.6 percent in 1990, while the share of all federal taxes paid by the bottom half dropped from 7.4 percent in 1981 to 5.7 percent in 1990.

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Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.