Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/2/17”

From Emily, a marvelous Comment of the Day so full of wisdom and good advice that it stands on its own:

I’m not from flyover country, but I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, red counties that include the poorest counties in the state (the lower shore has Baltimore City beat.) My family of three hovers around the federal poverty line.

However, my husband and I were both raised middle class. And while there are no major economic differences between us and our friends and neighbors, there are a lot of differences in the choices we make, which allow us to use the same amount of money to give our daughter opportunities that other parents in our economic class are unaware of or neglect.

This, more than money, is what affects the opportunities that my daughter has access to (as well as the ones my husband and I have access to.)

Despite the economic hardship, I’m a stay at home mom, which allows me to be dedicated full time to my daughter’s developmental delays. I could go to work and make *slightly* more money for us, after childcare expenses, but that would be a very different level of care for my daughter, and it turns out she needs it. The expert we’ve consulted is almost certain she’ll catch up, and has indicated me being home with her is an important part of that certainty.

I mentioned above that my daughter does have a tablet, a $30 one from Amazon. I found that tablet because I got a $20 Amazon giftcard for Christmas, and I was saving it for something special. I had to dig in the library’s website to find the link to borrow ebooks, but I figured there must be something like that.

We have internet, despite having no long distance for our phone (and no cellphone service where we live.) My husband and I manage to pick up extra money doing work online, despite neither of us having college degrees. This is part of what allows us to get by while still having plenty of time for our daughter.

These are just examples of things *we’ve* figured out. Everyone’s situation is different, especially among the poor. The thing that most people don’t seem to see is that down here social capital (the network of friends and family you have and what they’re willing to help you with,) knowing how to allocate resources carefully, and understanding how to navigate the various systems — both private and government — are more important to the kind of life you have than income, and those are highly individual things.

Some people are better off getting their social capital through church, some through family. Home internet might be a good investment, or power tools, or a second car. Some people are great with coupons, some people haunt Goodwill every day and yard sales every week, some people buy online when the prices are right. Some people take advantage of the employment agencies, some people figure out that they can get computer certified with a lot of study and a minor investment, and some people find the retail stores that pay well and have good benefits (department stores and hardware stores, by the way.)

But a lot of people, unfortunately, ignore most or all of these options, or don’t use them to their advantage.

If you want kids to have options in life, what they need are parents who understand these things. More resources are only going to help the people who know how to use them, and an unfortunate number of my friends and neighbors don’t know how to decide which ones they need or how to use them effectively.

That’s the real problem that I see here, anyway.

 

117 Comments

Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Love, The Internet

117 responses to “Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/2/17”

  1. Well stated.

    Especially your emphasis on parents understanding and being in a better position to best evaluate their children’s needs. Government programs general fail miserably in the ability tailor to an individual need.

    Interestingly, there are government programs that seek to maximize choice for parents has the general benefit of being a government program, which Leftists love, and maximizing individual liberty, which Righties love. But Leftists don’t seem to like it…

  2. Wayne

    The nice thing about these people is they avoid getting deeply in debt unlike many Americans who max out their credit cards buying stuff they really don’t need. Maybe they can even put some money away for retirement so they don’t become dependent on the damn government. Unfortunately most millennials don’t believe in self reliance but instead entitlement.

  3. deery

    I think that was a lovely comment, though I disagree with some of it.

    These are just examples of things *we’ve* figured out. Everyone’s situation is different, especially among the poor. The thing that most people don’t seem to see is that down here social capital (the network of friends and family you have and what they’re willing to help you with,) knowing how to allocate resources carefully, and understanding how to navigate the various systems — both private and government — are more important to the kind of life you have than income, and those are highly individual things.

    Social capital can certainly broken down to an individual level, but it almost inexorably follows certain patterns linked with income, race, and class. Most people, especially those living on the edge, don’t have the time or resources to research their options that are out there. They simply pick up on what others around them are doing. That’s the power and ease of culture.

    The original poster “happened ” to be gifted an Amazon card to enable her daughter to buy a tablet. So she had 1. People in her circle who had enough spare income to give her a gift. 2. Who knew what Amazon was 3. Who knew that OP also knew what Amazon was and had an Amazon account 4. And who had enough spare income for home internet and/or data service to sustain tablet use. We take such things for granted as we idly post on our Internet forums, but there are wide swaths of people, here even in the United States, that such things are foreign concepts. And that is quite a hole to be able to dig oneself out of.

    It’s a charming, beguiling myth that everyone can start from the same starting point, even with the same resources. I do agree with OP that part of it will come down to education and having people learn how to properly utilize resources. But that’s only one small facet of the problem.

    • Mrs. Q

      “Most people, especially those living on the edge, don’t have the time or resources to research their options that are out there.”

      Who are you speaking for? Is this your personal experience or are you assuming to know every low income citizen is somehow magically incapable of being resourceful?

      • deery

        I have been very poor Ms. Q at one point in my life, so I have personal knowledge. I also have an aware of the broader societal barriers, so I have academic familiarity with the subject matter as well.

        And please don’t move the goal posts. I never said “every.” But at the poverty levels we are talking about, most time and resources are heavily devoted to keeping their heads above water, and being tired from the efforts of doing that. That’s of those with the potential mental resources to in theory take advantage of what the OP outlined above. A significant portion of those don’t even have that to draw upon.

        • Mrs. Q

          Deery you’re right you said most…not all or every. That being said, writing “most” still presumes that you are an expert on “most” low income peoples motivations, since you identified “most” of this group as unable to research opportunities for themselves.

          Academic knowledge can be useful provided the information is unbiased & not coming from a kind of “white savior” ethos. My time as a woman’s studies major gave me a lot of ideas about how “most” people are as well.

          Like you I’ve experienced times with less. My mom was single & worked & went to school. She also spent time finding programs for things like my going to summer camp or other activities on scholarship. She was exhausted with chronic illness, had no monetary help or child support and very little time. But she did it. She wasn’t willing to sit back & be a victim. She always fought for our family.

          I believe when something really matters, like your children & family, a person is capable of mining their inner resources no matter what. That’s what grit is about. To say most poor don’t have the capacity to attempt to thrive due to barriers is in my humble opinion…bullocks. Grit comes not from the removal of barriers and struggle…but because of them, whether one is tired or not.

          Deery you strike me as someone who is a fighter & has grit. I really appreciate that, even if I heartily disagree with your assertions “most” of the time.

          • deery

            Mrs. Q, your mom was still miles above the levels we are talking about here. She was able to provide for you on just one job. You guys lived in a location that had such things as affordable summer camps. She had (post high school) education, and presumably an IQ high enough to handle that education. But that isn’t the reality for a lot of people. Many are juggling 2-3 part time jobs, catching public transportation to go from one to the other, with sub-optimal IQs. They love their children deeply. They want what’s best for them too. But such things are difficult to manage even for middle class people, without the immediate worries about where the rent money might be coming from, or the next meal. I’m not comfortable sitting back and calling them lazy and passive just because they aren’t able to overcome the structural obstacles that are set in their path. Most work every bit as hard, if not harder, than most of the middle class and upper class people I know.

            I enjoy discussing things with you as well Mrs. Q. I like a good discussion on the issues without a lot of invective and mud slinging.

            • Mrs. Q

              It’s hard in this form of communication not to sling mud so I appreciate your civility.

              I think we both agree that poor folks vary & their approaches to self sufficiency are equally various.

              We probably disagree on how many low income are incapable mentally of self sufficiency. But yes, some folks for whatever reason, have a difficult time finding resources. However if the primary reason is fatigue, as you indicated initially, I don’t buy it.

              Definitely agree assuming the poor are lazy is total crap. Most low income folks I’ve been around (including a lot of time on reservations in the past & currently) are not lazy.

              Last thing I’ll note- my mom had no car when I was a kid. In fact we didn’t even have a washer/dryer. If you’ve ever washed clothes by hand day after day you know it’s draining. But yes she was & is smart & deter. She’s why I have a soft spot for fighters & why I disagree with the generalized stance that the poor can’t help themselves.

    • You have, amazingly, taken the situation of a woman who obviously has limited means, and made her as unsympathetic as a 1%er is to liberals. I, on the other hand, choose to see someone who took a gift intended for themself, and used it to push, onto their child, intellectual curriosity and exposure to options to a world beyond their own nose…something that 80% of parents would not have chosen to do, thereby missing a golden opportunity to get their kid on a path to a successful future. Potato, potahto, I guess…

      However, I take exception to your suggestion that people living on the edge don’t have time or resources to educate themselves to the options around them. I work 4 jobs, and run a small business. I LIVE “never having enough time”, every day. And yet, I make time to be on here. In college, I was poorer than poor, working 3 jobs, while taking FT classes as a senior, yet always was curious enough about the world around me to want to know more about it. And Emily, who by her own admission, comes from limited means, still found a way to be here, learning, contributing, and expanding her own options, and presumably) those of her husband’s and daughters.

      And, Emily, forgive me for assuming/speaking for you/mansplaining, but I know in my case, and I’m guessing in yours as well, we had parents that pushed us to be curious, to read and expand our vocabulary horizons, to work hard, and understand/maximize our options. So, that even when, later in life, time and money become limited assets, intellectual curiosity and option seeking still remained priorities. IMO, that what it comes down to…not limited time/means, but limited exposure to proactive, positive, parenting.

      It sounds like all of the obstacles that you rattled off all share something in common….they’re all easily blamed on someone else. In the world you occupy, is there ever a misfortune faced by someone impoverished, that came as a result of their own doing? Or, everything bad ALWAYS 100% the fault of someone else, either directly, or generationally?

      • Bingo, every generation seeks to improve the lot of its follow on generation. Individually speaking, that means every parent, who seeks that goal, chooses to sacrifice on maximizing their own immediate gratification in order to push their own children to an increased future gratification. What that means across the board within a whole generation means that a poor parent, may produce a child with greater likelihood of being *less poor* and certainly on the road towards greater ‘success’ than the the parent had…even if that child doesn’t end up absolutely fantastic wealthy or successful.

        What that also means, is parents who don’t give a crap about sacrificing a little now to marginally increase the likelihood of success of their children, are creating consequences that I’m not sure the rest of society can mitigate with any success. Because the issue isn’t merely the passing on a accumulated material goods. It’s the passing on of a set of values…one of the key values being sacrifice a little *now*, for a larger payoff *later*.

        I don’t think there is any principle that says every kid born in any particular generation must be ensured they have exactly the same likelihood that they may end a millionaire as the next kid. I think there is a principle that society cannot actively seek to halt any particular kid from trying, though.

        Is rags to riches possible? Yes.

        Is rags to riches more likely when someone’s rags are little nicer off than another’s? Yes.

        Is that unfair from an *inalienable rights* point of view? No.

        Though we strive for success from a fairly individual approach, our cumulative efforts at improvement (through each generation) ultimately increases the likelihood that everyone’s improvement is a little bit better than generations past, there is an aspect of “we’re all in this together doing the best we can with what we have”…

        But I’m not sure it does us any good to be angry at the people who may individually start off with a few more material comforts than us and also end up with more material comforts than us, nor to punish them in the hopes that, somehow, by appropriating their material goods for ourselves, we can replace the hole created when we don’t pass down the value systems that are even more necessary for overall advancement; value systems that are most effectively passed from parent to child.

        • Addenda:

          I think it does us much better as a community to be content, as parents, knowing that, even if our child doesn’t end up a wild financial success like some ‘privileged’ kids do, that, if we have successfully passed on the good values that incrementally get society towards greater success and they demonstrate their own efforts at that advancement and passing on of values.

          We should be ever vigilant against a wide range of pop-cultural messages antithetical to that values-based contentment.

          I think it does our greater community even better, if we take the extra initiative, on an individual basis, to establish and deepen relationships with any local children who may come from a background that is NOT immersing them in those values. And, couched with full respect and dignity for the parents of those children, do everything with in ethical limits, to pass on those values to them as well.

      • deery

        And, Emily, forgive me for assuming/speaking for you/mansplaining, but I know in my case, and I’m guessing in yours as well, we had parents that pushed us to be curious, to read and expand our vocabulary horizons, to work hard, and understand/maximize our options. So, that even when, later in life, time and money become limited assets, intellectual curiosity and option seeking still remained priorities. IMO, that what it comes down to…not limited time/means, but limited exposure to proactive, positive, parenting.

        It sounds like all of the obstacles that you rattled off all share something in common….they’re all easily blamed on someone else. In the world you occupy, is there ever a misfortune faced by someone impoverished, that came as a result of their own doing? Or, everything bad ALWAYS 100% the fault of someone else, either directly, or generationally?

        Huh. So on one hand you acknowledge the huge generational effects that a person might benefit from. But on the other hand, you dismiss any acknowledgement that people might have equally, if not bigger, generational effects that might be deficits. That’s an interesting, but not uncommon position to take, cognitive dissonance be damned.

        What if your parents did not encourage your learning? What if their parents did not finish school? What if their parents before them did not even know how to read? And their parents before them were explicitly forbidden to read? You can’t begin to grapple with solving a problem rushing and tripping to pat oneself on the back and calling other people lazy. There are lazy and uncaring people out there. But something is a widespread problem, it is usually worth the time to slow down and examine things in depth, with an unbiased, critical eye to see if there are inherent structural things at play. And if there, then taking the time to see what, if anything, can be done. Shouts of “lazy” tend to be about chest beating, reinforcing existing inequality, and an excuse to feel good about throwing up our hands and doing nothing.

        OP, by her own words, did not come from limited means, but a middle class background. Right now she has limited means, but still has all the past resources and experiences from her middle class upbringing.

        • “What if your parents did not encourage your learning? What if their parents did not finish school? What if their parents before them did not even know how to read? And their parents before them were explicitly forbidden to read?”

          Your line of hypothetical questions, each pushing back a single generation in step, is literally how society advances…each generation seeking to increase the likelihood of success of the next (as long as the passing-on generation isn’t hyper-selfish).

          So the answer to your 1st question (What if your parents did not encourage your learning?): Encourage your own children to actively pursue learning, along side hard work and initiative.

          I don’t think the answer is to substitute that lack of a learning-oriented lifestyle with someone else’s material goods.

          I don’t see an argument that because my parents didn’t give me the absolutely best set of values that my children should be compensated by other people who were given those values…

          I would think that if I discovered my parent’s didn’t give me the a good set of values to pass on…or didn’t give me a *full* set of values to pass on, that it is my duty as a parent now, to gather as many of those values, though late in the game, and pass them on to my kids, so that they can start out in an noticeably better point in life.

          • “So the answer to your 1st question (What if your parents did not encourage your learning?): Encourage your own children to actively pursue learning, along side hard work and initiative.”

            Damn right. It IS possible to break a negative cycle of influence, though it is hard. And if it IS possible, and in the best interest of those involved that the cycle be broken, why not push and encourage behavior that will contribute to breaking the cycle, rather than enabling it, or looking for a quick, easy, fix, with no evidence that the quick fix will have any long lasting benefits?

            Aren’t liberals supposed to be the ones that care about helping poor people change their outcomes for the better?

        • Please, pretty please, show me where I “dismiss any acknowledgement” that people might have equally, if not bigger, generational effects that might be deficits….because I did no such thing. What I DID do, was ask: “is there ever a misfortune faced by someone impoverished, that came as a result of their own doing? Or, everything bad ALWAYS 100% the fault of someone else, either directly, or generationally?”

          I dismissing nothing. I’m attempting to find YOUR line. At what point are people responsible for their own decisions, regardless of their upbringing.

          Presumably, you have a healthy standard behavior for yourself, and the people you know and associate with. If (hypothetically), you had low expectations set by your parents for you, presumably, you would still have high enough standards for yourself to understand that you need to set reasonably high expectations for your children, even if (in this hypothetical), your parents didn’t. And, at least through our experiences on this forum, you know me to be a fairly educated person as well, and presumably would not accept “But my parents set low expectations for me, and look how I turned out” as a rationale for me to do the same to my kids. In this situation, you would hold yourself, and I, responsible for our own decisions, regardless of our upbringing.

          But why?

          Why (presumably) would you rightfully call out detrimental behavior and poor reasoning in yourself, or in me, but use behavior passed along generationally as a crutch for the oppressed? Why would you, for instance, use the “What if your parents…and their parents…” hypothetical with me, without actually knowing if that situation applied to me or not? Because you ASSUMED it didn’t. You had a certain level of expectation for me, based on our discourse online, that in that hypothetical you described, one that could apply to many impoverished people, likely did not apply to me, so those things were crutches that others can use but I wouldn’t need. (for the record, half the things you listed do apply: only 1 out of my 4 grand parents finished school, neither of my parents earned a degree, rumor is that my great grandfather didnt know how to read, and considering my family originated in the south, my great-great grandparents probably werent allowed to learn to read.)

          The point is, I believe you hold lower expectations for certain people, based on how you perceive them. You think me to be relatively smart, so those roadblocks likely didn’t apply, and the standards for me are high. But, someone whom you’re confident did face those roadblocks, the standards are a bit lower. And Im trying to identify, how low.

          If admit to doing something illegal or unethical, on this blog, you presumably would call me out for it, without consideration of my generational past. Im trying to figure out, do you lower the bar for others to a point, where, everything can be blamed away on someone else. So no, I did not dismiss anything.

          Also, you seem hung up rushing to lecture me on rushing to call other people lazy…but, failed to realize that, much like I didnt dismiss any acknowledgment, I also did not call anyone lazy. At. Any. Point. In. My. Post.

          If you’re referring to my “pushed us…to work hard”, it’s because yes, there are parents, rich, middle, and poor, who do not push their kids. That doesn’t mean the parent is lazy, and I never implied that. Some want their kids to enjoy their youth (a little too much). Some think their kids are above working hard. Some want their kids to have a “better” childhood then they had. Some just don’t give a s***. None of that implies the parent is “lazy”.

          I believe you are correct, and i was wrong about Emily coming from limited means. I think I was conflating Emily with Mrs. Q. Mea Culpa.

      • Emily

        “And, Emily, forgive me for assuming/speaking for you/mansplaining, but I know in my case, and I’m guessing in yours as well, we had parents that pushed us to be curious, to read and expand our vocabulary horizons, to work hard, and understand/maximize our options. So, that even when, later in life, time and money become limited assets, intellectual curiosity and option seeking still remained priorities. IMO, that what it comes down to…not limited time/means, but limited exposure to proactive, positive, parenting.”

        I totally agree on the conclusion, and the first part is certainly true in my case, but I think it goes in another direction, too: expectations. There are a ton of little things that my parents (once again, I was middle class) raised me to see as normal, which make life significantly easier, and which a lot of people around me ignore. Having a bank account, for example. Yes, fees can rob you blind if you don’t have much money in the bank (like me) if you’re not careful. But check cashing places and the debt cards that employers are increasingly using will rob you blind whether you’re careful or not. Since I can’t imagine not having a bank account, I’m careful to have the right account and do the minimum transactions and (almost) never overdraw, which it turns out is the *only* way to not get robbed blind when you’re poor.

        There’re a million other things, too. If my license is expired, the only place I’m driving on it is the DMV. But I know people who have driven for years on expired licenses and end up with insane court costs when they get caught. Yes, it’s hard to scrape together the money to renew your license, but it’s way harder to get hit with hundreds of dollars in fines.

        And I do know people (of all races) who were raised in poverty with these kinds of expectations, and if they’re still close with their family they’re usually doing well for themselves. You *don’t* have to have money to have middle class *values,* but those middle class values make a difference in how much money you have and how much you can do with it.

        And, among those middle class values is the importance of providing opportunities for your kids, of encouraging education as a personal value, and teaching them to work towards whatever they want from life.

        • deery

          There’re a million other things, too. If my license is expired, the only place I’m driving on it is the DMV. But I know people who have driven for years on expired licenses and end up with insane court costs when they get caught. Yes, it’s hard to scrape together the money to renew your license, but it’s way harder to get hit with hundreds of dollars in fines.

          I think when I hear people say things like, “Well, it’s hard to pay those fines right then and there, but just do it, because the alternative is to pay more fines later down the road,” that this is quite sensible, common-sense advice. I also think that the advice giver has never known true actual poverty. The kind where that car might be the only method to get to a job you desperately need to put food on the table for your kids. But to pay that fine also means that your kids don’t have dinner for that week, or the lights get turned off, or another fine/fee doesn’t get paid. So you put off paying that fine. And things snowball from there. And really poor people are not somehow just foregoing bank accounts. They don’t have them because they can’t get them. Their credit is crap. And if they got them, they don’t normally keep them for very long, because they don’t have emergency funds. When the inevitable emergency happens, they will overdraw, and they won’t have the means to pay it back. Or even if they do, if it keeps happening the bank will close the account anyway. And off to the check cashing place they go, because they have to. As someone else noted, it is quite expensive to be poor. Poverty boxes you in a concentric circle of really bad options, none of which are ideal, and many of which are quite brutal.

          Most private-sector employers offer no sick days, and many will fire a person who misses a day of work, even to stay home with a sick child. A nonfunctioning car can also mean lost pay and sudden expenses. A broken headlight invites a ticket, plus a fine greater than the cost of a new headlight, and possible court costs. If a creditor decides to get nasty, a court summons may be issued, often leading to an arrest warrant. No amount of training in financial literacy can prepare someone for such exigencies—or make up for an income that is impossibly low to start with. Instead of treating low-wage mothers as the struggling heroines they are, our political culture still tends to view them as miscreants and contributors to the “cycle of poverty.”

          If anything, the criminalization of poverty has accelerated since the recession, with growing numbers of states drug testing applicants for temporary assistance, imposing steep fines for school truancy, and imprisoning people for debt. Such measures constitute a cruel inversion of the Johnson-era principle that it is the responsibility of government to extend a helping hand to the poor. Sadly, this has become the means by which the wealthiest country in the world manages to remain complacent in the face of alarmingly high levels of poverty: by continuing to blame poverty not on the economy or inadequate social supports, but on the poor themselves.

          https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/it-is-expensive-to-be-poor/282979/

          • Emily

            Deery, I know these people. My husband and I have worked these jobs in the past. I really love it when academics tell me about them.

            Almost every job you work full time offers paid sick leave, and the part time jobs almost always offer schedule flexibility: you call the other people on staff and try to switch shifts. (The rule is almost always “cover your shift,” I’ve never heard of someplace where they care who’s covering it as long as they also work there.) You can usually find someone. Same thing when your car doesn’t work, but you also ask for rides and try to get your shifts arranged so you can get them.

            And while you’re working those jobs, you look for better ones. Walmart is better than picking watermelons (not a racist thing, that’s just a common day labor job around here,) Target and Starbucks and mall stores are better than Walmart. Lowes and Home Depot and Macy’s are the goal. Loading trucks for UPS sucks, but they pay great, and driving delivery is a good job with decent hours. McDonald’s pay sucks, but if you can show up you’ll be manager in a few months.

            The people who have trouble, who are most affected by these things, are the people who other poor people are *sick* of helping. And that’s almost always because they’ve been rude or wasted things they were given. They went ahead and got an Xbox instead of saving up for a better apartment, or whine to the people helping them about how no one will help them. Those examples aren’t hypothetical, BTW, they’re people my social circle will no longer help.

            And yes, on *very rare* occasions all the stars align in a shitty way, and someone everyone would love to help ends up in a real jam because no one can help them out. And what happens then is, even if people couldn’t keep them from falling in the hole, they help them dig out. I’ve seen managers say “I’m sorry I had to fire you, but I know a guy looking for help within walking distance of your place. Get in touch.” You know to call that person first for shifts you can’t make. You buy them lunch, or offer to take their kids to the playground.

            But every time I hear about someone who lost their job because their car broke down or who absolutely can not stay home when they’re sick, I itch to ask their parents, friends, coworkers and managers: “You *couldn’t* help Connie, or you *didn’t want* to help Connie?”

            …because I know Connie, and I’m sure not helping her. Maybe she needs some academics for friends, they seem a lot more sympathetic.

            • deery

              Almost every job you work full time offers paid sick leave…

              When you say things like “Almost every job you work full time offers paid sick leave,” once again, I’m forced to think you don’t know the really poor. I’ve been poor. Really poor. I still know poor people. And no, “most” don’t have access to paid sick leave. Many full time jobs don’t offer sick leave. And other jobs are deliberately kept part time precisely to avoid offering people full time benefits like sick leave. So for many people the reality is, you don’t show up to work, you don’t get paid. More than a day or two of missing work, and you are gone. That’s my personal, non-academic experience with poverty. And the “academic” statistics back up my personal experience. A full 40% of people don’t have paid sick leave.
              https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/wonk/wp/2015/01/15/more-than-a-third-of-american-workers-dont-get-sick-leave-and-theyre-making-the-rest-of-us-ill/

              • Emily

                You’re totally right about keeping people part time, and that’s what almost always happens. But other than waiting tables and other tip or commission dependant jobs, I think you’re wrong. Walmart and McDonalds, the go to examples of crappy jobs, will give you sick leave if you’re full time (which you won’t be.)

                Which is exactly what all the rest of the words I typed beyond that were about.

    • Emily

      “Social capital can certainly broken down to an individual level, but it almost inexorably follows certain patterns linked with income, race, and class. Most people, especially those living on the edge, don’t have the time or resources to research their options that are out there. They simply pick up on what others around them are doing. That’s the power and ease of culture.”

      Social capital does follow patterns linked with race, especially, and also often location. Indian families, for example, have HUGE amounts of social capital, with their communities and extended families being willing to offer one another just about anything. Black churches are another major source of social capital in many ways, and people who stay involved in them generally have a much easier time than those who leave. If anything, in my experience in a rural area, social capital is an area a lot of poor white people have trouble with. I was lucky in that my family’s cultural roots are from a large italian family where social capital was a major part of how they got ahead (my mother grew up living with her grandparents, who remained close with her many great-aunts and uncles, all of whom were willing to help each other’s kids and grandkids however they could.) So I purposely stayed in close proximity to my family, and I’m careful to maintain those relationships however I can.

      The problem most people I know have with social capital is kind of related to respectability politics. In order to have it and maintain it, you often have to conform to the standards of a group that’s in a better or different position than you (which often means an older generation; even among the poorest people around here, people’s parents or grandparents generally have more time, money, or resources, *relatively speaking.*) If you want your parents to watch your kids, you have to conform to their values and sit with your mother at Sunday dinner. If you want a church that’s willing to loan you money to get your car fixed, you have to go to church and be a respectable member. You can’t blow off your neighbor who loans you his lawn mower because he voted for Trump.

      Of course there are options: if your family is truly abusive, you can find it in church (or synagog, or at the hindu temple, or wherever.) If you’re an atheist, you can make friends with your neighbors.

      But many people I know of all races don’t recognize those things as resources, or value how important they are in both little ways (like getting Christmas presents) and huge ways (like having someone who can give you a ride to work so you can keep your job when your car breaks down.)

      And it is, of course, a matter of luck what social capital is able to provide for you, but as you noted a lot of people around me are struggling to keep their heads above water, and in our cases *everything* helps.

      No one starts from the same starting point, but what I feel like you don’t understand is that very nearly every individual has something they can bring to the table, *if* they recognize it and use it correctly.

      • Keep this up and you’ll get a double header.

        Well done here as well.

      • deery

        And it is, of course, a matter of luck what social capital is able to provide for you, but as you noted a lot of people around me are struggling to keep their heads above water, and in our cases *everything* helps.

        No one starts from the same starting point, but what I feel like you don’t understand is that very nearly every individual has something they can bring to the table, *if* they recognize it and use it correctly.

        Oh, I understand very well. It’s just that far too often, that “something” that people can bring to the table just isn’t anywhere near enough. In my experience, and as noted by academics in the field, the poor rely much more on kinship and religious institutions much more than those of the middle class and above to get through day to day stuff, because they have to.

        But “social capital” both giveth, and taketh away. You might get the $500 you need to pay your rent from your Aunt Suzy. But you also might be expected to lend out that $1k you squirreled away to finally move to a decent apartment in an area with decent schools, and give it to Cousin Patty who needs after her car broke down. The network of expectations can quite easily keep one mired down as well. That’s the tricky part, trying to navigate that.

        Black people are the most religious and churchgoing racial group in America. It isn’t enough, not when the need is so great and so widespread. Those institutions can help at the margins for limited numbers of people, but can’t mitigate structural inequalities on that level.

        For those interested, the book “All Our Kin” examines the black urban poor and their social capital. It is an older book, but a lot of the insights still stand. There is a method to the madness. No, it would make absolutely no sense for middle class people, or people who actually have access to middle class social capital to replicate it. But for those who lack such things, it makes sense in terms of survivability and livability. https://www.amazon.com/All-Our-Kin-Strategies-Community/dp/0061319821

        • Emily

          “For those interested, the book “All Our Kin” examines the black urban poor and their social capital.”

          One thing I want to point out, which may be a place we’re talking past each other, is that my experience is with rural poverty, which is a different beast in a lot of ways. Cost of living is low, but unemployment is high; it’s hard to get one job, but if you can hold down two you’re going to be well off by local standards. Land is cheap, but transportation is a necessity, and the little public transportation there is is haphazard and unhelpful. There’s less concentration of poverty, a person with no job is more likely to have neighbors who are middle class than someone in Baltimore City, but they don’t have access to people like tourists or commuters who might have a lot more money. Land is cheap, and it’s not that uncommon for poor people to own their own homes whether through longterm saving or inheritance, but they’re often miles away from a culture of computers and cell phones (as mentioned, areas down here don’t even have cell phone coverage.)

          I’m not speaking for poor people everywhere, except that I object to portraying us as a monolith of people who need help. Not all people in poverty are lazy, unmotivated, stupid, ungrateful, jerks, or have bought into toxic cultures… but some of them are, and they do *tend* to be the worst off. Middle class people are all of those things as well, but they have more wiggle room. Poverty is less forgiving of flaws just like it’s less forgiving of mistakes.

          That’s my experience, and it’s just common sense if you think about it.

          • deery

            I think that was a good, important clarification/addendum. My experience and interest is is with suburban and urban poverty. True rural poverty seems more like Sparty’s wheelhouse to speak upon as well.

  4. Neil Dorr

    I’m confused about which item this comment is in response to?

    • Other Bill

      It’s part of the extensive thread resulting from Charles’s use of the term “fly-over country” while expounding upon the part of the U.S. and its inhabitants he’s so fond of.

      Emily was simply making the point that navigating modern society is complicated and requires basic skills like frugality and judgment more than government programs and hand-outs.

  5. James M.

    In the end, everything comes down to what you expect for yourself. If you think you need help to do anything, you will not try to succeed like someone who believes their own effort can bring them success.

    When I was in college, a lady addressed my Spanish class after having spent six months in the “workers’ paradise” that was Nicaragua of the late 1980s. She had stayed in a village that had greatly suffered a decade earlier, with bullet holes riddling the walls and broken windows. While it was clear that the Nicaraguan authorities had “put on a show” for her benefit, I couldn’t help thinking that if my house had bullet holes and broken windows, my wife would demand I fix them as soon as I could. The folk of the village were largely unemployed or underemployed (which we were told was due to US sanctions against the Sandinistas), so they had no money to spare. I asked why they couldn’t make adobe to patch their walls, and got a blank stare in response.

    Some people are convinced that they’re helpless. It’s a demeaning way to live.

    • deery

      …so they had no money to spare. I asked why they couldn’t make adobe to patch their walls, and got a blank stare in response.

      I can kinda see the reason for the blank stares. Assuming that they have the know-how to make adobe (which is a fairly complicated process, and doesn’t mean slapping some mud on there) and the spare time, in between avoiding the death squads and ensuring that your family isn’t starving to death, the aesthetics of your house is probably way down on the list of priorities.

      Plus, do you really want to be sticking out as the house or village that *isnt* riddled with bullets? That is probably going to raise a lot of unpleasant questions and reactions as well. Just some thoughts to chew on.

      • Other Bill

        My God, deery, how do you even get out of bed in the morning? Why even make the effort? I mean, life’s not fair and everything sucks so why make any effort?

        • deery

          Yes. I know understanding that other people aren’t wholesale crazy, and that they are normally reacting rationally to the circumstances they are under requires a lot of effort, but it’s worth it if you actually want to understand what’s going on. But hey, knee-jerk condemnation in an effort to feel morally superior is fun too!

          • Other Bill

            Baloney and virtue signalling. People have to want to make their lives better. Not all people do. My wife and I were in Mexico in January on a tour. We visited a Yacqui village. Very interesting. The town square was about a few acres of open space around the church and the graveyard slowly expanding around the church. The acres of dusty open space were nearly literally paved with crushed, used, plastic soda bottles, mostly large ones, strewn on the ground over, apparently, any number of years. Someone in the group asked the guide why no one ever picked up all the bottles. She said, “I guess they just don’t care about them.” People are different, deery. They’re not all oppressed and awaiting salvation from someone or something else. Ironic that “diversity” is such a shibboleth of the left, and yet the left assumes, deep down, everyone is just the same. This is simply wrong.

            • Chris

              If you asked me if I knew how to make adobe, I’d give you a blank stare too.

              • Other Bill

                Oh come on, Chris. If you lived in a country where the vernacular housing was adobe, you’d sure as hell know how to make it or know any number of people who could.

                • deery

                  Most housing stock in Nicaragua is not adobe, its primarily modern materials. There aren’t a lot of new adobe houses, those are from bygone eras. It’s about the same as going up north and advising people to “just throw up some igloos” if they complain about a housing shortage. It’s reliant on some outdated stereotypes, highly specialized knowledge, and not at all helpful to the problem at hand.

                  • Bullet holes can be plugged, even if temporarily. If your family suffers because the elements whistle through the holes, then stop up the holes. Grass works. Wood branches work. Plastic bottles are great scratch patch materials. They may not stay put, but you get the benefit while they are there, and raw materials are everywhere.

                    If there is a social reason to not do so, fine. Maybe the climate is such that the holes are not a problem: fine. But if it is helplessness per se, not fine.

            • deery

              You do realize that advising the “peasants” to go learn the skilled and ancient art of adobe making to patch their bullet-ridden walls was very much the “let them eat cake” of solutions to that particular problem. Why not just advise them to order from Amazon if we are going down that road?

              I don’t think I’m virtue signaling any more than people who are so very eager to proclaim other people lazy and shiftless, and themselves crafty and industrious.

              Some people see little point in trying to maintain a verdant lawn space in desert or subtropical environments. For others, they simptnot see the crushed bottles as the eyesore that you might see it as. And for others, picking up the bottles and dumping them somewhere might be too expensive a proposition to entertain. And for others, dumping bottles off at another location is merely shifting the problem, not alleviating it. But sure, lazy. That’s always a good answer for the “others” and their inexplicable thinking.

              • Other Bill

                You said lazy. I think “don’t give a shit” was more my take away. Or so significantly different that you ignore the difference at your peril. How do you craft a government program or policy to get individuals to give a shit? As I’ve said here before, the continued existence of the black underclass in America, despite three generations of the War on Poverty Era have driven social scientists and do-gooders literally INSANE. You’re knee-jerk bromides about the poor display all the symptoms. The War on Poverty has only exacerbated the problem.

                • Other Bill

                  So deery, you go on at great length about how terrible things are for the poor. What’s the solution? What will fix the problem of the poor? You’re president, both houses of congress and all nine members of the supreme court. What’s the solution? Lay it out.

      • James M.

        You have a good point that, in a society with capricious, oppressive authorities, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. The village’s houses did all look similar, without any exuberant color or decoration. “I’m just a humble villager in a humble house” could be their protective coloration.

        On the other hand, I doubt that the villagers lacked the know-how or ability to make adobe. Their decision not to fix up their houses or make something to sell was a product of an environment where such behavior was not only unrewarding, it was risky. The Sandinista authorities were a threat to anyone who contradicted the “I’m a helpless villager, loyal and dependent on my wonderful government”. After a while, that viewpoint was engraved into their souls, crushing independence or initiative.

        That’s my problem with claims that we can’t reasonably expect most poor people to use the meager tools at their disposal to “change their stars”: The observation that the deck is stacked against some people becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, a straightjacket that tells them “Don’t bother trying; there’s no point”.

        • Of course, this all begs the point that the USA has the wealthiest ‘poor’ in the world. The problems deery describes in the third world do not apply here. No one is going to kill a Baltimore family who chooses to move to rural Texas where opportunity is greater.

          Rural poor here in Texas have opportunity and economic choices. Most stay poor because they choose the xbox over a better apartment in a better part of town. A prime example: EVERY SINGLE one of these folks seem to have a smart phone. They may get cut off every so often, but they saved enough to buy the phone. They have cable TV, subsidized Internet, government provided land lines, and phones (my company provides these services, so we know how these people live: our techs are in their homes every day.) Guess which part of the bill they will pay first? The cable, of course. The others have governmental restrictions on how we can cut them off, and we eat that debt regularly. They eat out (junk food) regularly, usually on EBT cards: we see the trash build up around their houses.

          My family cannot afford that lifestyle: fast food is expensive and bad for you. We did not have smart phones until recently, and my son still uses my cast off smart phone, and will until it dies.

          Economic choices. I grew up very low middle class, but I am not there today. Our society is rich with examples of those who escaped poverty through hard work and economic self control, no matter the location that person started from, urban or rural. Discipline is necessary in life. Not everyone can do that, or wants to.

          • Chris

            Rural poor here in Texas have opportunity and economic choices. Most stay poor because they choose the xbox over a better apartment in a better part of town.

            I do not understand this comparison. Do you think an X-Box costs as much as getting a new apartment?

            A prime example: EVERY SINGLE one of these folks seem to have a smart phone.

            You know every single rural poor person in Texas? Amazing.

  6. Mark Putnam

    Emily,

    You rock!

    We hover just above the federal poverty level, family size 7. Educating the children from home. Living on the trailing-trailing-trailing edge of luxury.

    It’s a struggle and adventure.
    But well worth the family bond.

  7. Other Bill

    Thanks Emily. I appreciated you jumping in to help on responding to Charles’s fly over country pronouncement. You are absolutely correct: frugality is a tremendously underrated skill and mindset. And it’s one that I think can only be learned from our parents and grand parents and aunts and uncles when we are children. I just don’t see a government program that can instill it in people.

    I have a cousin who’s more than a little like deery. He was telling me he and I and all the cousins had benefited from having had smart parents whose genes we inherited. I agreed with him very heartily but then asked him what government program would remedy that situation? We went on to talk about something else.

    • Add humility, tact, and a health sense of shame (when one has wronged another) to the list of underrated mindsets!

      • Sue Dunim

        And Luck. That’s the most important.

        Not so much the good luck of having been born to billionaire parents, but the lack of serious bad luck.

        A family can be bankrupted by medical expenses for example. Just being picked up by the police in a case of mistaken identity can lead to job loss at best, imprisonment or bankrupting legal fees at worst.

        Even having a friend or relative in this situation can cause crippling financial woes to large numbers of people who have to help them out out of a sense of ethics.

        Some – like myself – can afford $100k to save a relative’s life, it just means we lose 10 years of savings, or 3 years of income. But there are many to whom even a $100 loss like that means both going homeless and hungry themselves, to save a life. As for $100k? May as well be $100 trillion.

        I’ve had some episodes of less than stellar luck. Losing 60% of my retirement savings in the GFC. A $90,000 medical bill copay.

        But… Nothing I can’t handle, touch wood. No sudden multi-million dollar hit that would leave me broke and homeless.

        Not everyone is so lucky.

        • Can you quantify that “bad luck”, then demonstrate how it absolutely was not related to the decisions of the receiver of said “luck” then demonstrate how people unrelated to that “bad luck” are responsible for its mitigation?

          Cuz to me, it sounds like you are building a huge mountain narrative of a societal debt out of less than a mole hill of a great sounding generally hypothetical sob story.

          No doubt the situations exist. And now doubt there are good acts that can mitigate them.

          But really…

          • Sue Dunim

            demonstrate how people unrelated to that “bad luck” are responsible for its mitigation?

            See relative densities of blood vs water. The first is thicker.

            I feel sorry for you. I don’t mean that as disrespectful, certainly not as an insult, but there is a yawning and irreconcilable gulf between our personal philosophies, and you are deserving of my compassion for what I see as your terrible disability.

            Am I my Brother’s keeper? Damn right I am. Both literally and figuratively. While I could justify that by Kantian philosophy, the Categorical Imperative, and Games Theory, in the end, it’s more practical to see it as axiomatic.

            Stupidity, idiocy, damn silly foolishness plays a huge part in keeping people poor, and making the stupidly wealthy into paupers. I’m loathe to judge though, or say that’s even usually the case, having seen my mother cry because after paying for my very expensive education, due to a bank error one day the cupboard was bare, in a literal sense. Seeing your child go hungry, even if for only two days, is psychologically damaging for any parent already with too much to cope with.

            I imagine a bank mistake that withdraws twice the amount you pay monthly for car insurance, of a phone bill, or land tax, is just a minor triviality to you as it would be for me. Fixed in a couple of weeks at most. Identity theft meaning your credit card statement gets hit for $1200 from a shop in Texas (happened to my partner 3 days ago)? No problem, get it reversed and a new card issued. Pay cash in the meantime, we always pay the cards off before the next billing cycle anyway to avoid paying any interest.

            But to many, many, many people who are battling… Such things mean eviction, jobloss, destitution. Many don’t have the “luxury” of a financial cushion, they live from month to month if not day to day. Can’t afford a freezer or to buy in bulk, so pay twice what I do. Miss a payment due to circumstances they could not foresee or control, and get slugged with penalties.

            It costs a lot to be poor. I couldn’t afford it, don’t earn nearly enough.

            The water pump on my 1987 vintage car packed up last week without warning. So of course I have the money set aside to fix it, I budget for things like that that are statistically if not individually predictable. I do that because I can. Many can’t. Not because they don’t see the need, but Because They Can’t.

            It does mean though that even a small amount from a friend or relative coming in when needed can get them out of that hole. So they can save a bit, and get that cushion, buy in bulk, get the expensive shoes that last 5 years not the cheap ones that fall apart after a month….. And pass it on when they’re in a position to help others. To whom exactly doesn’t matter so much, we’re all in this together. Preference to family is natural.

            I think maybe the difference between us is the company we keep. Or our life experiences.

            If there’s a Meals on Wheels program in your area, you might want to volunteer for it for a few months. Not so much for their benefit, but for your own. Think of it as an education program that costs you nothing other than a few hours of your time every week.

            You’ll see selfish assholes who are parasites. You’ll also see the desperate who even if they only have $10 to their name, will give $1 of it to their neighbour who only has 50c, because they need it.

            I’ve hobnobbed with the gentry over billion dollar deals. I’ve seen bribes of more than I will ever make in my life be passed over in brown paper bags. Not in my own country though, and I got out as soon as I could.

            Most of the selfish assholes who are parasites aren’t poor. The rain falls on the just, and on the unjust fella. But mainly on the just, as the unjust has nicked the just’s umbrella.

            • Sue Dunim

              This might also explain it. I’m atheist.
              http://www.newsweek.com/why-are-people-poor-lazy-646062

              What it doesn’t say, and should, is what the causes actually are. Facts matter. In my own experience, Luck accounts for maybe 40%, and makes things worse for another 30%. Some are just thick as a brick. Some are parasites. Most are neither.

            • Did this long grandstanding litany of virtue signals make you feel better?

              I’m not sure I said anywhere people ought not help each other out when they can. I do think I hinted that the helpee is not entitled, nor owed help from the helper. I also think my general notion is that the government is a less effective means of that aid than other sources.

              But until you actually know me and my life story, you can keep your “I’m my brother’s keeper (hint: I think you’re a wretched selfish jerk I’m just not gonna say it, oh lemme toss in some religious bigotry too)” crap to yourself.

              • Sue Dunim

                I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but your own life story is your own affair.

                If you wish to reveal it, by all means go ahead, but I’m not arrogant enough to demand that of you, not even rude enough to ask it of you.

                As for virtue signalling? If someone wants to follow my own philosophy, that’s great. I encourage that. If not, again, their own affair. I don’t like n it as virtuous, any more than I look on not putting puppies in blenders as virtuous. Must part of being a decent, fallible human being.

                I do get a kick out of helping people, sure, though prefer to do it quietly. It’s not a matter of who knows. *I* know, and although I’m not arrogant enough to demand your life history, I’m arrogant and egotistical enough to value my own opinion of me. But to keep a high opinion I have to actually walk the walk, talking the talk is immaterial.

                You have no reason to care one whit what I think of you. Maybe though you care what you think of yourself? From the insulting tone of your reply, I appear to have touched a nerve and hurt you. That wasn’t my intention, I screw up sometimes.

                I do think I hinted that the helpee is not entitled, nor owed help from the helper.

                Yes, that’s the difference in our philosophies. I’m of the “No man is an island” School. Help em all and let God sort em out. Start trying too hard to sort out who deserves help and who doesn’t and you end up doing nothing for anyone, while ignoring your own failings. Winnow out the obvious grifters, but give benefit of doubt to others as you give it to yourself.

                I also think my general notion is that the government is a less effective means of that aid than other sources.

                Government aid Ineffective? Yes. Wasteful? Absolutely. Less effective than “other sources”? In general no, not when the other sources area largely mythical. When they do exist, then I’d agree wholeheartedly. But you, for example, feel you’re under no obligation to help. Many think the way you do, hence the chimeric nature of “other sources”.

                • Chris

                  “Virtue signaling” is a meaningless phrase designed to shut down arguments.

                  And yes, the idea that private charity is so much more effective than government intervention at reducing poverty can easily be tested by looking at the time before massive government intervention into the area of poverty and the time after, and comparing results. As I’ve already shown, the theory fails this pretty simply test.

                  • It’s not a meaningless phrase when it was used to describe a literal list of arrogant self-congratulations as though recounting virtuous acts of charity as an individual is relevant to a discussion of government imposed ‘charity’.

                    So, nice try.

                  • “And yes, the idea that private charity is so much more effective than government intervention at reducing poverty can easily be tested by looking at the time before massive government intervention into the area of poverty and the time after, and comparing results. As I’ve already shown, the theory fails this pretty simply test.”

                    Oh, the theory doesn’t fail that simple test. As I’ve shown you down thread.

                • When one is called out for arrogant trumpeting of one’s own horn, the best solution is arrogantly trumpet one’s own horn. Well done, Sue. Well done.

                  “If you wish to reveal it, by all means go ahead, but I’m not arrogant enough to demand that of you, not even rude enough to ask it of you.”

                  No, I’m not going to tell you what I do for others. But I will laugh, heartily, when you don’t ‘arrogantly’ demand it of me, while arrogantly spewing your own high view of your life as though it some how undermines the assertion I made about obligations.

                  “I do get a kick out of helping people, sure, though prefer to do it quietly. It’s not a matter of who knows. *I* know, and although I’m not arrogant enough to demand your life history, I’m arrogant and egotistical enough to value my own opinion of me. But to keep a high opinion I have to actually walk the walk, talking the talk is immaterial.”

                  Quietly? I suppose the written word makes no clanging or gonging noise, so technically you are correct…

                  And from what I read, you certainly do talk the talk.

                  “From the insulting tone of your reply, I appear to have touched a nerve and hurt you. That wasn’t my intention, I screw up sometimes.”

                  Was there an insult in correctly identifying what you literally did as “virtue signalling” in order to stifle a discussion? I don’t think so.

                  “Yes, that’s the difference in our philosophies. I’m of the “No man is an island” School. Help em all and let God sort em out. Start trying too hard to sort out who deserves help and who doesn’t and you end up doing nothing for anyone, while ignoring your own failings. Winnow out the obvious grifters, but give benefit of doubt to others as you give it to yourself.”

                  I do enjoy immediate self-contradiction.

                  “I’m of the school, help em all….erm….but winnow out the obvious grifters…erm…”

                  Thanks for that.

                  And I don’t think you understand one wit that “I do think I hinted that the helpee is not entitled, nor owed help from the helper” compels a lack of help by anyone. And since the topic was governmentally coerced ‘help’, my comment does speak to that angle. But, I think deep down you know the flaws of your governmental solution and had to resort some sort of personally virtuous life story to switch tracks mid-discussion. Don’t worry, I saw through it.

                  “Government aid Ineffective? Yes. Wasteful? Absolutely. Less effective than “other sources”? In general no,”

                  Apparently, it would seem, government aid, takes about 70% of incoming taxes and distributes that to the bureaucrats in terms of salary and operating costs, and about 30% actually gets to the aid receivers, whereas something like the reverse is true of private charities. So, it would seem government aid primarily benefits the bureaucrats.

                  But that’s predictable.

                  “not when the other sources area largely mythical. When they do exist, then I’d agree wholeheartedly. “

                  Not apparently

                  You are free to argue about where philanthropy ends up, but either way, Americans give almost 400 billion to causes they otherwise are *not* obligated to do. And beyond that, surrender some 8 billion man-hours of volunteer work, which, assuming an approximate 2000 hour full-time work year, amounts to 4 million years of labor.

                  “But you, for example, feel you’re under no obligation to help. Many think the way you do, hence the chimeric nature of “other sources”.”

                  More of the baseless strawmanning we’ve all come to expect from you. Thanks Sue!

  8. Emily

    Sorry I’m so late with this! Thank you, Jack, I’m honored. I never thought I’d have time to write a COTD-worthy comment, so I’m glad I stayed up late the other night.

  9. Still Spartan

    I hate using these types of comments as indicative of anything other than one individual’s experience. I won’t repeat a lot of what has been said here, other than doubling down on the luck concept. And luck doesn’t just mean wealth, it means brains too.

    I was raised poor in a poor community — a very poor community. The difference between me and most of my friends is that I was born with brains. This didn’t make me better than my friends, it made me lucky. My parents did not have the capability of navigating me toward college and my hometown. I had to figure that out on my own. I was able to go on to bigger and better things, but most of my friends did not. Telling the poor that they just need to manage their finances better, or take advantage of certain government programs, figure out a way to work from home, in general be more responsible, etc. are ideas that are repugnant to me. The COTD person here obviously is a very intelligent person who can navigate her situation better than most. That’s amazing and I applaud her. But when I look at my friends from my home town — many of whom still work as waitresses, housekeepers,etc. and live in trailer parks, they aren’t poor because of lack of hard work. And trust me when I say that they work a lot harder than me — they are poor because they were not born with the same mind as me. I watched them struggle in school and I watch them struggle now as adults.

    • Other Bill

      All true, Sparty. But what’s the problem and what’s the cure? Everybody’s not as smart as everybody else. So what? Do your less smart peers from home have terrible lives? Is it the government’s obligation to take money from you so they can live on the east coast and eat at better restaurants? Some of your net worth should be transferred to them? The Constitution provides that all people’s lives are to be equally successful? Your IQ should be lowered to raise their’s? Isn’t your success a great case for the notion that this country isn’t such a bad place?

      • Still Spartan

        There will never be an absolute cure for poverty. But we do know that, rare exceptions aside, poverty breeds poverty. I think kids should be taught — beginning in elementary school — that the No. 1 indicator of poverty is too many children. This needs to be hammered into them. And, coming from a God-fearing community (and I am saying that with respect), that is not something that is being talked about at home, church, or school right now. Abstinence programs do not work. We need birth control everywhere (high schools, restaurants, gas stations, etc.), and yes, those condoms and pills should be free. It is far cheaper as a society to prevent unnecessary births then it is to provide for impoverished families.

        Also, as you may recall, I believe that we need to have tax incentives for people NOT to have children until they are 30 (or some age thereabouts). There are no penalties or social engineering involved, but I do believe that instead of a tax break, people should get “a thank you for not having children too young” tax bonus each year beginning at 18. At age 30, that benefit goes away but then you are entitled to a per child tax break.

        • Emily

          Totally with you on number of children, though maybe not exactly the method. It’s not just number of children (though that contributes) but the order of your life. I’ve heard that people in poverty who graduate high school (any high school) then get married then have children have a much better chance of success than people who do those things in any other order.

          And I totally agree that luck plays a role, *especially* in social mobility. I think it plays less of a role in things like providing options for your kids and surviving the bumps while being stable; you might still be poor and working your ass off but you find ways. Different ways for everyone, some require brains, some require physical strength and health, some require strong social or family bonds, but there are a lot of different paths to giving kids opportunities and putting them in a position to live up to their potential, and passing on those values if the kid’s potential doesn’t get them out of poverty so that the next generation might.

      • Still Spartan

        And yes, this country can be a great place — bust mostly for the lucky. That luck can take many forms, but most of it has to do with ability and/or finances.

        • This country (as originally established, and as it worked before social justice warriors took the stage) provides more opportunities to be “lucky” than most. Or to say it a different way. This country improves the odds that if you get lucky you can take advantage of it. Making your own luck is a great American tradition.

          • Other Bill

            Sparty, I think fewer kids is a good plan for most any couple. My wife and I certainly followed that plan and our kids have as well. As a side point, I wish we’d had another, a third, but that’s in retrospect.) But the idea of the government being involved in getting people to have fewer kids is total pie in the sky. On demand abortion is already considered genocide by black social justice warriors. Can you imagine telling Islamic people in Detroit they need to have fewer kids? Can you imagine all the poor and immigrant advocacy groups reacting to such a proposition? Or even the Catholic church? The Mormons? Hah! I agree, it’s a great strategy for being able to focus on the well being of a few kids and your spouse, but as an enforced or induced public policy, it’s not going to happen. And probably for some good reasons, but probably many bad ones as well.

            What’s your next prescription for the malady?

            • Other Bill

              And I think your approach might be boiled down to something along the lines of, “Jesus H. Christ people! Start making some better decisions when it comes to having sex and popping out babies!” Which is very apt but it’s verboten in the current climate in which victims are victims and are therefore systemically and by definition incapable of doing anything to change their lot.

            • Still Spartan

              I gave you the solution. People just need to do it. As for the government being involved, the only involvement comes in reimbursing states for their condom/pill purchases. I’ll exclude abortions. No different from other government expenditures. Our educators need to be taking the lead here — both private and public.

              If we don’t want to educate and provide free contraceptives, then the only other “solution” is to give everyone in this country a base salary (a very low one) that covers essential needs. That involves a lot more taxes though, and no one wants that. And, it’s not even a real solution as that cycle will just continue and grow.

          • deery

            The United States, compared to other Western countries, is not all that great when it comes to social mobility. In fact, it is downright dismal:
            The notion that anyone in America who is willing and able to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” can achieve significant upward mobility is deeply embedded in U.S. society. Conventional wisdom holds that class barriers in the United States are the lowest among the world’s advanced economies. Motivating this belief is the notion that there is a tradeoff between market regulation and mobility; advanced European economies are characterized by higher taxes, greater regulation, more union coverage, universal health care, a more comprehensive social contract, etc. Because some see these policies and institutions as impediments to mobility, mobility is believed to be greater in the United States.

            While faith in the American Dream is deep, evidence suggests that the United States lacks policies to ensure the opportunities that the dream envisions. According to the data, there is considerably more mobility in most other developed economies. The figure below, from The State of Working America, 12th Edition, measures the relationship between earnings of fathers and sons in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with similar incomes to the United States and for which data are available. An elasticity of zero would mean there is no relationship, and thus complete intergenerational mobility, with poor children just as likely as rich children to end up as rich adults. The higher the elasticity, the greater the influence of one’s birth circumstances on later life position.

            The relationship between father-son earnings is tighter in the United States than in most peer OECD countries, meaning U.S. mobility is among the lowest of major industrialized economies. The relatively low correlations between father-son earnings in Scandinavian countries provide a stark contradiction to the conventional wisdom. An elasticity of 0.47 found in the United States offers much less likelihood of moving up than an elasticity of 0.18 or less, as characterizes Finland, Norway, and Denmark.

            http://www.epi.org/publication/usa-lags-peer-countries-mobility/

            • wyogranny

              My statement was “This country (as originally established, and as it worked before social justice warriors took the stage) ”
              Now make the comparison from the time before progressives started to meddle with it, say from the beginning until the 1960’s

              • deery

                My statement was “This country (as originally established, and as it worked before social justice warriors took the stage) ”
                Now make the comparison from the time before progressives started to meddle with it, say from the beginning until the 1960’s.

                ? What fantasy time period was this? You mean for the first 100 years or so, when the US government was allowing people to own other people, and taking the fruits of their labor, with an entrenched racial slave caste, you think it was more socially mobile then?

                Or when people were so ruggedly self-reliant that the government literally just gave away land to selected people who wanted it? Or right before those pesky SJWs came along, when the government was basically creating the middle class as we think of it today, by giving away money for education, retirement, and housing to white people? Is it those halcyon days you are nostalgic for?

                Social mobility does not happen naturally. Of course. Money rentrenches itself, and it rapidly becomes a self-reinforcing mechanism without some considerable outside influence. There was never a time in the US when the government did not play a heavy hand in who became socially mobile, how much, and when. Those are just facts, without the historical amnesia.

                • Chris

                  Even a cursory glance at poverty rates prior to the 1960s would reveal higher poverty rates than we have now. Poverty has never reached pre-Great Society levels since its passage.

                  And yeah, “This country was so much better before the 1960s” is…not a great look, especially from people who deny white privilege exists.

                  • Other Bill

                    So how do you fix white privilege, Chris?

                    • Other Bill

                      Chris, at some point in my working career as a lawyer, I concluded the genius of the American economy is that the big dogs up at the top that run things let enough crumbs fall off the table that a normal schmo like myself can make a decent living, raise a family and provide for his retirement. It’s not a bad deal. You should take full advantage of it. I’d also suggest if you spend your life militating for a massive change to the system, you’ll end up angry and unhappy and spent by the time you’re in your sixties. It’s your choice.

                    • Chris

                      It’s bad.

                      But this morning, the Census Bureau reported that 14.5 percent of Americans were poor in 2013. This is essentially the same rate as in 1966, two years after the War on Poverty was announced. According to Census, the country has made no real progress against poverty for more than 40 years.

                      This is the very definition of cherry-picking, and it’s only the second paragraph. In order to determine whether “no real progress” has been made, we need to look at the years surrounding 1966, not just that year. The War on Poverty began in 1965; the largest drop in poverty in our nation’s history occurred between 1965 and 1969. Poverty has fluctuated a lot since then, but has never gone back to pre-1965 levels. In 2014 we were still recovering from a worldwide recession. Heritage’s comparison is fundamentally misleading; ironic considering they titled their article “Miscounting Poverty.”

                  • Higher, but plummeting like a roller coaster, as would be expected from the natural effects of healthy economic growth. But then after Great Society set in fully, it would seem poverty decrease leveled off and then began a slow crawl back up.

                    So, who knows what to take from that, since there are other contributing factors to all of this.

                • wyogranny

                  Ignorance of history.
                  I’ll cite just one evidence that should start the conversation. It is about black poverty, but it serves very well as a lesson about poverty in general in US history.
                  A Legacy of Liberalism BY THOMAS SOWELL
                  Despite the grand myth that black economic progress began or accelerated with the passage of the Civil Rights laws and “War on Poverty” programs of the 1960s, the cold fact is that the poverty rate among blacks fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent by 1960. This was before any of those programs began. Over the next 20 years, the poverty rate among blacks fell another 18 percentage points, compared to the 40-point drop in the previous 20 years. This was the continuation of a previous economic trend, at a slower rate of progress, not the economic grand deliverance proclaimed by liberals and self-serving black “leaders.”

                  Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/392842/legacy-liberalism-thomas-sowell

                  • deery

                    I don’t know where to begin with that. I’ll be charitable towards Sowell, and grant that he was determinedly trying to make a point, history and statistics be damned, and that you just got caught up in the crossfire.

                    The period cited by Sowell was during the Great Migration, when African-Americans fled by the millions from the lynchings and forced sharecropping of the Deep South to the widely available manufacturing jobs in the North, Midwest, and West. This was also during the post-war period, when the government, as noted, tried very hard to manufacture a middle-class, some policies of which did affect African-Americans as well.

                    But I have to say that Sowell is not arguing in very good faith if he is positing that the Civil Rights Era somehow did not start until the 60’s. It’s generally thought to start around 1948, with the desegregation of the military, or in 1954 with Brown v Board. The era ends around 1968 with the last of the civil rights bills. I expect that he knows that as well.

                    And further he commits crimes against statistics. As noted, because the black poverty rate was so high, it is easier, statistically, to bring it down with simple actions, like not limiting the population to sharecropping, as an example. Once the poverty rate comes down, it will slow, as some of the simpler and broader remedies would have already been implemented, and also because you can’t really have a negative poverty rate.

                    But here are some things to think about:
                    In 1947, 60% of black families lived below the poverty level compared with 23% of white families. In 1968, 23% of black families lived below the poverty level, compared with 9% of white families. In 1947, 11% of white families were affluent compared with 3% of black families. In 1968, 42% of white families were defined as affluent, compared with 21% of black families. In 1947, 8% of black families received $7000 or more compared with 26% of white families. In 1968, 39% of black families received $7,000 or more, compared with 66% of white families. In 1960, the median for a married man of blue-collar income was $3,993 for blacks and $5,877 for whites. In 1969, the equivalent figures were $5,746 and $7,452, respectively. It’s all very relative.

                    • wyogranny

                      I’m sure Sowell appreciates your charity.

                    • Chris

                      Excellent rebuttal, deery. Sowell is a partisan hack.

                    • Whatever Thomas Sowell might be, and whatever one’s definition of partisan hack, Thomas Sowell is definitely not one. Partisan hacks may look to him for authority, but there is no evidence, none, that he is guided by partisan agendas. Have you ever read more than a snippet or an op-ed from Sowell, like one of his books? It’s impossible to reach that conclusion fairly.

                      Now, Walter Williams, who is Sowell-lite, is a different issue…

                    • The burden on deery here is that wyogranny mentioned Sowell discussing 2 key topics in that era: Civil Rights AND “Great Society”/War on Poverty.

                      Deery immediately proceeded to focus purely on Civil Rights by mentioning two key advances that fell outside of the window Sowell was discussing. Then deery seems to completely ignore the “Great Society” half of the discussion.

                      So other than nitpicking, deery really hasn’t rebutted a single bit of Sowell’s assessment.

                      Not quite “excellent” rebuttal, though I must say I personally have never seen you take a position contrary to leftist dogma.

                    • Regardless of whether or not one agrees with his views, Sowell is respected as a top economist, having published extensively in economic journals and general periodicals. He also spent the better part of three decades teaching in prestigious academic institutions. Into the 1990s, his name was commonly seen in a weekly column for Forbes magazine and on his syndicated column appearing in newspapers nationwide. Sowell is the author of over 20 books and has edited or contributed to others. “The word ‘genius’ is thrown around so much that it’s becoming meaningless,” remarked renowned economist Milton Friedman in Forbes, “but nevertheless I think Tom Sowell is close to being one.”
                      Read more at http://biography.yourdictionary.com/thomas-sowell#xSWRtSi6eqp2bkh6.99

                    • Chris

                      Wyogranny, how is your appeal to authority a response to deery’s direct rebuttal of Sowell’s arguments? There are plenty of liberal economists with credentials equal to Sowell’s, but you wouldn’t use the same type of appeal to authority with them as you do here, because you don’t agree with their conclusions. Do you have a rebuttal of deery’s points?

                    • What good would it do? If Sowell is a hack I certainly can’t do better than he does in rebuttal.

                    • Chris

                      I’ll trust your opinion and withdraw my insult toward Sowell, then, though I must say I personally have never seen him take a position contrary to conservative dogma. Deery does a good job of pointing out the flaws in his argument, flaws which strike me as him warping statistics in order to conform to said dogma.

                    • wyogranny

                      Perhaps in his distinguished research he has not found convincing proof that progressive economic and social engineering work better than capitalism.

                    • Chris

                      This is still an appeal to authority, and still non-responsive, wyogranny. Again: why not respond to the points deery made about Sowell’s argument? And if you’re not going to do that, why respond at all?

                    • wyogranny

                      I thought I was responding. My mistake. You’re right. I will not respond at all.

                    • deery

                      texagg04 on August 7, 2017 at 12:21 am
                      The burden on deery here is that wyogranny mentioned Sowell discussing 2 key topics in that era: Civil Rights AND “Great Society”/War on Poverty.

                      Deery immediately proceeded to focus purely on Civil Rights by mentioning two key advances that fell outside of the window Sowell was discussing. Then deery seems to completely ignore the “Great Society” half of the discussion.

                      So other than nitpicking, deery really hasn’t rebutted a single bit of Sowell’s assessment.

                      I’m not nitpicking, I think his entire premise is (deliberately?) false. He sets the Civil Rights Era in the 60s, when most historians set it well before then, most beginning it in a “bizarre coincidence ” right around the time that he notes that black poverty began to drop. I point out two notable incidents used to mark the beginning of the Civil Rights Era (desegregation of the army and Brown v Board), but it was ongoing court decisions, executive orders, and legislation from up until the end of the 60s.

                      The “War on Poverty/Great Society” can be marked as beginning in the 30’s with the New Deal legislation era. Johnson’s contributions originated in 1964, and started almost immediately becoming dismantled by the 70s, increasing in the 80s. The very metrics he is using are deeply flawed, which I expect that he knows. The War on Poverty’s biggest success was greatly reducing the number of elderly poor, mostly by direct cash assistance and healthcare.

            • Other Bill

              All we have to do is become a tiny, little, homogeneous, all white country that relies on other countries to provide for our defense and buy our oil. Brilliant. How’s the Norwegian national anthem go again?

      • deery

        It takes a least twenty years, with absolutely nothing going wrong to escape poverty. Baked into that calculation is that the person has an above average IQ, and starts at least from age 5 with the implementation of the “plan.”

        But this guy has some ideas. We lack the will to do it, but most of his ideas aren’t crazy.

        Despite the bleak portrait that he paints, he doesn’t believe that the U.S. necessarily has to be like this. He offers five proposals that he says might help the country return to more equal footing. Some are fairly clear levers that many before him have recommending pulling: expanding access to and improving public education (particularly early education), repairing infrastructure, investing less in programs like prisons that oppress poor minorities, and increasing funding for those that can help build social capital and increase economic mobility. But other suggestions of his are more ambitious and involve fundamentally changing the cultural beliefs that have been reinforced over generations. Temin advocates doing away with the belief that private agencies can act in the interest of all citizens in the way that public entities can, and should. His final recommendation is to address systemic racism by reviving the spirit of the Second Reconstruction of the 1960s and 1970s, when civil-rights legislation helped to desegregate schools and give black Americans more political and economic power.

        https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/524610/

        • wyogranny

          But nothing about individual initiative and government getting out of the way of it.

          • Other Bill

            All standard issue liberal Authentic Frontier Gibberish (my comments in caps because I can’t get italics or underline or bold to work- sorry):

            Despite the bleak portrait that he paints, he doesn’t believe that the U.S. necessarily has to be like this. He offers five proposals that he says might help the country return to more equal footing. AH YES, THE ROMANTIC NOTION THAT AT SOME POINT THE US WAS A MORE EQUITABLE PLACE. EVER HEARD OF THE ROBBER BARONS? NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND? THE GILDED AGE? Some are fairly clear levers that many before him have recommending pulling: expanding access to and improving public education (particularly early education) HOW LONG HAS HEADSTART BEEN IN PLACE? TWO GENERATIONS? THREE?, repairing infrastructure, WHAT? HOW DOES THAT INMPROVE EQUALITY? ONLY RICH, WHITE CONTRACTORS WHO ABUSE THEIR EMPLOYEES BENEFIT FROM THAT, RIGHT? investing less in programs like prisons that oppress poor minorities, SO RELEASE MORE CRIMINALS SO THEY CAN OPPRESS POOR COMMUNITIES? COMPLETE PABLUM. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO GET CONVICTED OF A CRIME IN THIS COUNTRY? and increasing funding for those that can help build social capital and increase economic mobility. UH, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? GIVE MORE MONEY TO SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS TO ENCOURAGE VICTIMHOOD? But other suggestions of his are more ambitious and involve fundamentally changing the cultural beliefs that have been reinforced over generations. GREAT IDEA, BUT HOW DO YOU DO THAT? Temin advocates doing away with the belief that private agencies can act in the interest of all citizens in the way that public entities can, and should. I.E., LET THE GOVERNMENT GROW LARGER AND DO EVERYTHING. DISCOURAGE CHARITY AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS. His final recommendation is to address systemic racism HOW? by reviving the spirit of the Second Reconstruction of the 1960s and 1970s, when civil-rights legislation helped to desegregate schools and give black Americans more political and economic power. IN OTHER WORDS, DO WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE OVER AGAIN? THAT ALL HAPPENED OVER FIFTY YEARS AGO.

          • Other Bill

            Oh no, wg, au contraire, the proposal asserts that the quaint idea that anything other than government can accomplish anything needs to be completely obliterated.

            • Other Bill

              deery, I think your proposals are simply, “Notwithstanding the War on Poverty has done nothing to decrease the poverty rate since it began in the ’60s, lets keep doing more of the same. That’ll fix it.

              Insanity.

              • Other Bill

                What you’re proposing is simply a massive transfer of wealth from the private sector to the government so it can redistribute it as it sees fit, once it’s skimmed off all it thinks it’s entitle to take for shippin’ and handlin’ (which may not leave much of anything).

                • Chris

                  ““Notwithstanding the War on Poverty has done nothing to decrease the poverty rate since it began in the ’60s,”

                  This is absolutely untrue. The largest decrease in the poverty rate in our nation’s history happened between 1965 and 1969. Poverty has never once gone back to pre-1965 levels since. Not once. Now, correlation does not imply causation, but the difference between poverty rates prior to the War on Poverty and poverty rates since strongly indicates that the welfare state is doing *something* to keep poverty down. Unless you have a better explanation for why poverty was reduced immediately after the War on Poverty began and has never climbed back to pre-WoP levels,, concluding that the War on Poverty has not done anything to decrease the poverty rate strikes me as completely baseless.

                  http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/jul/29/bill-oreilly/bill-oreilly-says-poverty-hasnt-budged-1965-despit/

                  • Other Bill

                    The War on Poverty was supposed to END poverty, Chris. It seems like a stalemate to me.

                    • Chris

                      Your original assertion was that it did nothing to decrease poverty. Shifting from that to say it hasn’t done everything is a massive moving of the goalposts. But yes, we should absolutely look at what was done between 1965 and 1969 to cause such a massive drop in the poverty rate, and why that trend started to fluctuate so much starting about 1973.

                    • Other Bill

                      Same question for you as for deery, Chris: Tell me how to cure all the illnesses you’ve diagnosed in American society. I’m all ears. You’re public policy czar for a day. Take it away.

                    • Chris

                      I honestly don’t know! I do think we need a stronger welfare state, not a weaker one. I’m entertaining the idea of a universal basic income. But I think we have to start, as a nation, by agreeing to the facts. Your claim that poverty hasn’t budged since the War on Poverty began is accepted as dogma by most conservatives, despite being objectively, provably untrue. As long as half the nation refuses to look at a graph, we’re not going to get anything done.

                    • Other Bill

                      “I honestly don’t know!” Comment of the Year.

                      Thanks Chris. You’re a good man.

                    • Chris

                      Back at you! 🙂

                    • Well, if we have to draw a conclusion (and I’m not sure we can), it’s that Great Society slowed down the natural economic trend to pull people out of poverty via economic growth.

                  • You are correct, correlation does not imply causation.

                    We had hardly been tracking “poverty” rates the way we do to even hope to assume “Great Society” did anything about it. What little data we do have demonstrates that poverty was *plummeting* before Great Society in Real numbers…even more rapidly as a percentage of population.

                    What we know is that the only real *lasting* source of getting people out of poverty is overall economic growth (another part of our economy that was exploding during the same era).

                    The best we can bet is that the additional drop in poverty for the initial phases of Great Society is momentum from the post-WW2 explosion. Because interestingly enough, what you see is that poverty rates stabilized shortly after the war on poverty began, halting its downward plunge, and in many cases started creeping back upwards as a percentage of the population.

                    This of course doesn’t blame Great Society for that stop in the drop, because simultaneously, we track what is known as the Great Productivity Slowdown, which seemed to set in around 1970 and continued until the internet boom, though it’s been setting back since.

                    Naturally, we may very well have reached what is an inevitably natural level of poverty (though I don’t believe so), some would say that as Great Society plowed on, and real wealth was taken from people, simultaneously with the growth of the regulatory state, the economy naturally, took a slowing hit to it, which, also began putting people back into poverty.

                    So, it would seem the “immediate” poverty reduction post “Great Society” was still just part of the trend of rapid poverty reduction post WW2. The leveling off of poverty rates and eventually slow creep back upwards after “Great Society” may or may not be caused by it.

                    • Chris

                      Yes, poverty was falling prior to the Great Society, but the rate accelerated after its implementation began. Again, the most rapid drop in poverty occurred between 1965 and 1969. So the notion that the Great Society slowed down the decline in poverty just doesn’t seem to have much support.

                    • Except that, as I’ve shown you, that roller coaster fall fits far better into the pre-great society trend of post ww2 growth. Pull out that free fall and account only for the acceleration, and you’ve got a picture where GS maybe decreased poverty by a modicum. Followed by the long term affects of any massive government program, tied with the growth of the regulatory state… productivity slowdown, follow on slowing of economic growth, then poverty levels begin a leveling off and in many cases a gradual climb up.

                      I think you’re in danger of cherry picking a set of data that best fits one pattern that has a great set of consistent explanations while ignoring a far greater body of data that has considerably dire descriptions of the effects of government imposition on the market.

                      Now, I’ve written on here before that government redistribution will tend to make a small, short term appearance of an economic boom… but it never solves the underlying problems that cause the overall problem the program seeks to solve.

                      Great Society does not solve those endemic and perennial problems.

                      Interestingly enough, free market economic growth, does seem to solve those problems. But we don’t dare try that.

                    • Chris

                      Interestingly enough, free market economic growth, does seem to solve those problems. But we don’t dare try that.

                      Examples? Certainly you’re not using the post-war boom as an example of “free market economic growth,” given that it was the product of massive government intervention, right?

  10. Emily

    One thing I’ve been thinking about reading these comments is that I’m working from an unstated underlying philosophy: not everyone can be, or needs to be, economically middle class. By definition, class is relative. We can’t all be middle class, any more than we can all be above average.

    Most middle class people would be happy to be millionaires, if you asked them. But most middle class people aren’t working towards being millionaires, and probably wouldn’t succeed if they were. But we don’t worry about them too much as long as they’re stable, as long as they can weather everyday emergencies without a major change to their standard of living.

    Most poor people would like to be middle class, if you ask them. But the same thing applies: as a society, our concern should be in looking at stability, not social mobility: do people in poverty have a standard of living where they can survive and feel comfortable, and ways to maintain that standard of living?

    There are certainly problems with that now, but it’s not impossible, or even uncommon in my neck of the woods. And the same habits and lifestyles that make that possible pave the way for social mobility *among those who want to work for it.* It’s an even higher mountain to climb, and not everyone is cut out for it, and not everyone wants to expend the energy to try, but the ones who make it almost always had that stable foundation.

    That was my original point, in the comment up top: not that everyone (or their kids) can be middle class, or is even trying to be middle class, but that most people in my neck of the woods *can* be stable, and can build a life where their kids have the foundation necessary for stability or mobility, which is all you can really do for kids.

    But too many people don’t see the importance of stability. A guy I knew lived in his parents trailer where the roof leaked over his bed, but he managed to get his EMT certification, and a job… when I asked when he was moving out of that godforsaken trailer, he said he was going to start saving for it as soon as he paid off the computer he got from the rent-a-center with his first check (so, $800 for a $400 computer.) He’d spent the rest of his first paycheck on an expensive iPhone (as opposed to more modest cellphone options) and now had the monthly bill for that, too. He’s probably better off financially than I am, but there’s no program or help in the world that will make him stable, let alone upwardly mobile, as long as he’s making those choices. I have dozens of stories like that.

    On the other side of the coin, I know a guy who couldn’t find a job, but he had family in Georgia. He moved down there and started going to church with them. Through church and the support of his family he found a job, then he met a girl and got married and now he has a kid. They’re not middle class, but they’re undoubtedly *stable,* and were buying their son the same tablet I bought my daughter. They might never be middle class, but their son will have the foundation to thrive. I know lots of people like that, too.

    The difference between these guys… well, there is race: the first guy is white while the second is black. But the real difference is in the responsibility they’re taking for themselves (and in Kamil’s case, his family) and the place that puts them *even in poverty.*

  11. wyogranny

    Maybe there can be consensus around this statement.
    Attitudes of individuals make a great deal of difference in seeing and taking advantage of opportunity to change economic, social or educational status.

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