Social Issues

Poor Little Rich Man

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Maybe it's true that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. But the poor are also getting a lot more time to enjoy "our friends, our hobbies, and our favorite TV shows." While people in the top 10 percent have about the same amount of leisure time now as their counterparts did in 1965, the bottom 10 percent have gained about 14 hours a week in free time.

Over at Slate, Steven E. Landsburg offers some musings on these surprising facts:

First, man does not live by bread alone. Our happiness depends partly on our incomes, but also on the time we spend with our friends, our hobbies, and our favorite TV shows. So, it's a good exercise in perspective to remember that by and large, the big winners in the income derby have been the small winners in the leisure derby, and vice versa.

Second, a certain class of pundits and politicians are quick to see any increase in income inequality as a problem that needs fixing—usually through some form of redistributive taxation. Applying the same philosophy to leisure, you could conclude that something must be done to reverse the trends of the past 40 years—say, by rounding up all those folks with extra time on their hands and putting them to (unpaid) work in the kitchens of their "less fortunate" neighbors. If you think it's OK to redistribute income but repellent to redistribute leisure, you might want to ask yourself what—if anything—is the fundamental difference.

Read the original study here.

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  1. The poor are getting richer, just not as fast as the rich. I agree that the rich getting super-rich is a problem because they can (and do) use their riches to disproportionately influence the government (relative to the poor). I do not agree that it is a problem because poorer people “feel bad” that they don’t have all the stuff rich people do. That’s envy, and it should never be rewarded. Envy is a petty human emotion that should be discouraged. Envy is a sign of shallowness, which no thinking person should respect (even if we are all at least a little bit shallow).

  2. The poor are getting poorer in the same way a smaller than anticipated budget increase is considered a budget cut. This is, it’s not really the same thing at all.

  3. But if the poor get a less than expected increase, and the rich get a bigger than expected increase, you can understand why they feel pissed. There’s a sense of entitlement, man!

  4. While people in the top 10 percent have about the same amount of leisure time now as their counterparts did in 1965, the bottom 10 percent have gained about 14 hours a week in free time.

    Which may, just may, have something to do with why the top 10% are where they are, and the bottom 10% are where they are.

  5. On the one hand it is disturbing having people worth billions of dollars while others are dumpster-diving for supper. On the other hand I dont understand the thinking that we should all have the same amount of wealth.
    I think that the wealthy could do more to help the less fortunate but I also believe that a lot of poverty is the result of poor decision making.

  6. I love the conception that the wealthy would just hide their money under their mattress unless the govt taxes it away from them.

    The best way for the wealthy to help the less “fortunate” (as if the difference was only one of luck), is for them to invest their wealth and create jobs. Strangely, this is exactly what most of them do.

  7. ” . . . a certain class of pundits and politicians are quick to see any increase in income inequality as a problem that needs fixing-usually through some form of redistributive taxation.”

    Any such increase noted in modern day trends is only an increase in a problem that has always needed mending. Progressive taxation does not have to be redistributive taxation. As I’ve said before in a formula that seems apt, it’s not a matter of taking from the richer to give to the poorer, but of taking (to the extent we feel government has to take at all) from the richer instead of the poorer.

    To quote the free-market manifesto that started it all, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations:

    “The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess. . . It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.”

    So then it’s just a question of how much progressivity in taxation is just. I believe taxes should be far more progressive than they have been in recent history and than most libertarians think they would like. On the one hand, the government’s confiscation through taxes of what a poor or middle class citizen needs to establish or maintain a decent and reasonably secure lifestyle works a greater assault on personal liberty than does taxing the excess resources of the wealthy (of course the latter taking as well as the former impinges on liberty — but which impinges more?). Cf. Thomas Paine’s Agrarian Justice. No one making less than $50k per year should have to pay income tax.

    We can also look to the apparent injustice of various forms of taxation relative to one another. The much maligned (and inherently progressive) inheritance or estate taxes seem far less odious and more congenial to the libertarian spirit of independence than other forms of taxation. Cf. Andrew Carnegie’s The Gospel of Wealth. Consumption or sales taxes (which unlike income taxes do not tax savings, investment and capital), if they exempt the “necessaries of life” (such as food) which “occasion the great expense of the poor” may be more just than the current income tax regime.

  8. “The best way for the wealthy to help the less “fortunate” (as if the difference was only one of luck), is for them to invest their wealth and create jobs. Strangely, this is exactly what most of them do.”

    And with the advent of companies that manage investment portfolios like Edward Jones, the middle class has been getting in on that action, as well.

  9. Human behavior is economic behavior.

    what’s the value of leisure time?

    the closer the remuneration offered by one’s job gets to the (often subconsciously) assessed value of leisure time, the more people will opt for the leisure hours.

    when you earn 9 bucks/hr gutting pigs at a slaughterhouse, sitting at home watching TV is certainly competitive.

    If you stand to pull serious riches (measured in millions) by expertly and competitively riding herd on paperwork and yapping on the phone, you’re a lot more inclined to put in the hours.

    Note: in 1965, gutting pigs in Austin, Mn paid enough to buy your high school graduate a new car, or to send them off to college…even if it was a land grant university.

  10. “rounding up all those folks with extra time on their hands and putting them to (unpaid) work in the kitchens of their “less fortunate” neighbors.”

    The top 10% work mostly in their kitchens?

    “If you think it’s OK to redistribute income but repellent to redistribute leisure, you might want to ask yourself what-if anything-is the fundamental difference.”

    To redistribute leisure you have to force people to stop working, and force the person with more leisure time do their job for them a while.

    I doubt the bottom and top 10% are perfectly substitutable, though some at the top may just be rent-extracting bureaucrats (a la Kevin Carson). And it’s disruptive to The Class Structure and all that jazz.

    Under redistributive taxation of income, you pay The Man his slice then get back to working how and as much as you’ve a mind.

    So redistribution of income does rather less damage than redistribution plus a shitload of government planning. Forced to choose between the two, the former’s just plain more libertarian than the latter.

  11. Also, quoting Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri = teh win

  12. As far as taxes go, the really rich haven’t had it so good since the 1930s, thanks to a top rate of 15% on dividends and capital gains. (Lower than the 17% flat tax that Steve Forbes dreamed about!)

    A low-income person can easily end up paying >25% in tax, if you add it all up (15.3% SS/Medicare, 10-25% income tax, plus state income, sales, and property taxes). The only people who get off easy are those in the sweet spot of the Earned Income Tax Credit – some even enjoy a net subsidy.

  13. On the one hand it is disturbing having people worth billions of dollars while others are dumpster-diving for supper.

    I know a little bit about that guy you saw dumpster diving; namely that he isn’t just poor. If I recall correctly, poverty is defined something like two or three times the money needed to maintain a nutritionally adequate diet. So, in the US, around half of “poor” families own their own home. They are poor relative to, say me, but not in the sense of dumpster-food-or-no-food poor. That guy in the dumpster is crazy. My wife donates some of her time as a physician in a homeless clinic. Even though the care is free, the largest obstacle she faces in patient care is getting them to follow directions and return. The hard core homeless couldn’t show up to a simple menial job even if they could get one. I don’t know what rich folks can de for these people. Free food, healthcare, and coats maybe.

  14. I don’t know what rich folks can de for these people.

    A bullet between the eyes would probably be best.

  15. Is that leisure time desired? If people are not working as many hours as they want and have more free time than they wish and would rather have more, then the study’s results mean something completely different than what Landsburg implies.

  16. Of course the rich get richer. That’s what they do!

  17. Oh, and that guy in the Dumpster is probably Eustace Conway.

  18. Col Dubois,
    I am not religious, so I hope you aren’t either, or St. Peter will give you the down elevator. And I am not kidding.

  19. …and the definition of ‘leisure time’ can be debated. How about a four-hour flight in a private jet with a fully-stocked bar, a personal attendant, and an entertainment center? To some people, it’s part of a normal working day…and many others can only dream of such luxury. I’m sure you can come up with additional examples.

  20. Don’t knock the rich. Did a poor man ever give you a job?

  21. “I believe taxes should be far more progressive than they have been in recent history and than most libertarians think they would like.”

    Now exactly what do you mean by more progressive? If the US with its unwieldy, complicated progressive tax system were to eliminate the income tax and the payroll tax, and switch to a flat consumption tax with a deductible of $20k and no silly and complex exceptions, would that make the tax system more or less progressive? (It would definitely make the tax system immensely better, but that wasn’t the question.)

  22. Progressive taxation does not have to be redistributive taxation.

    It does in a democracy, because the majority will inevitably discover that progressive taxation is a step on their path to untold riches:

    Step 1: Tax my rich neighbor more than myself

    Step 2: Vote for pandering politicians who promise me a Free Lunch.

    Step 3: Untold riches!

    Are there any modern democracies that haven’t taken this path?

  23. The study doesn’t talk about the “top 10%” vs. the “bottom 10%.” It talks about people with more than 12 years of education vs. people with 12 years or less.

    Now I’m off to do some non-leisure activities for the next 8 hours.

  24. The poor have more leisure time because they don’t work FLSA exempt jobs. My preferred solution? Get rid of FLSA exemptions so I can have my free time back.

  25. I do not agree that it is a problem because poorer people “feel bad” that they don’t have all the stuff rich people do. That’s envy, and it should never be rewarded. Envy is a petty human emotion that should be discouraged. Envy is a sign of shallowness, which no thinking person should respect (even if we are all at least a little bit shallow).

    I don’t know about this – I would think that the desire for equality is a natural one among people and to assign the perjorative term “envy” to those who wish to be treated like others seems a little like blaming the victim.

    You could say that anybody who is treated unjustly is going to be jealous of those who are not. But it comes across as a rationalization of the guilt that comes along with privilige.

  26. The poor are getting poorer in the same way a smaller than anticipated budget increase is considered a budget cut. This is, it’s not really the same thing at all.

    No. Wealth is relative and if a certain group is building wealth at a slower pace than society at large then that group is getting poorer, since the only way you can be poor or rich is in comparison to everybody else.

  27. “I would think that the desire for equality is a natural one among people”

    Jesus Dan, you really are a hopeless idiot. The common desire is to do better than your neighbor.

    “The study doesn’t talk about the “top 10%” vs. the “bottom 10%.” It talks about people with more than 12 years of education vs. people with 12 years or less.”

    This really speaks to me. My wife and I are moving and getting some new “good” jobs. They are good in that they pay more, but we will also be working less than we typically have. My wife with 20+ years of education will be working 10 hour days with three overnight shifts a month. This is considerably better than the hours she works now. I’m embarrassed to say how long I’ve been in school, but it is at least as much as her. I will now be working a 40 hour week for the first time ever.

    But then, we chose the jobs with long hours. Someone already raised the point, but would the bottom 10% in education like to work more?

  28. “No. Wealth is relative and if a certain group is building wealth at a slower pace than society at large then that group is getting poorer, since the only way you can be poor or rich is in comparison to everybody else.” – Dan T.

    Nonsense. If everyone were billionaires, you think that the people who had 5 billion would envy those with 6 billion? On the other hand, if everyone is starving, then the guy with a crust of bread has the status of a billionaire.

    “I don’t know about this – I would think that the desire for equality is a natural one among people and to assign the perjorative term ‘envy’ to those who wish to be treated like others seems a little like blaming the victim.” – Dan T.

    Envy is what you experience when you have enough, but want what belongs to someone else. It has very little to do with how people treat other people. Unjust treatment should and usually does bring about righteous indignation, a completely different emotion. But that brings us to your next point…

    “You could say that anybody who is treated unjustly is going to be jealous of those who are not.” – Dan T.

    True, but there’s a huge difference between being TREATED unjustly and how much money one makes/has. The two are not related. That’s why “all men are created equal” is a reference to how they are treated by their government and their society, not as an edict to chop off chunks of people’s legs to make them all the same height.

    “You could say that anybody who is treated unjustly is going to be jealous of those who are not.” – Dan T.

    Unjust treatment does not breed jealousy, but righteous indignation. People who are jealous feel that way because they don’t deserve what the other person has, and hate the way that makes them feel.

    “But it comes across as a rationalization of the guilt that comes along with privilige.” – Dan T

    Project much? While I agree that wealth does bring certain privileges, the best thing about being a U.S. citizen is that the poor man is equal under the law to the rich man. In fact, the two could very well trade places, though it is more likely that the poor man will become richer than that the rich man will lose everything. (It’s also unlikely that the poor man will stay poor.)

    The rich man and the poor man alike, have nothing to be ashamed of. Even Eleanor Roosevelt understood this: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That’s one of the beautiful things about the U.S.

    Of course, another of my favorite ER quotes is “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Odds are, if you believe in it, and go about it in a rational manner, you can accomplish it. That’s one of the primary differences between the U.S. and most of human history…

  29. Wealth is relative and if a certain group is building wealth at a slower pace than society at large then that group is getting poorer, since the only way you can be poor or rich is in comparison to everybody else.

    If my neighbor’s house burns down, it doesn’t make me any richer. If only it were so simple!

  30. “No. Wealth is relative … “

    There is absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty is measured in terms of affording subsistence items. You can certainly make time here talking about absolute poverty. But if you want to talk about the guy who settles for basic cable on his 27″ CRT while his neighbors watch high-def cable on 58″ plasma screens you’ll find most unsympathetic. Including me.

  31. “If you think it’s OK to redistribute income but repellent to redistribute leisure, you might want to ask yourself what-if anything-is the fundamental difference.”

    OK, gennius, the next time a mugger wants your wallet, are you going to volunteer to go off with him and be his slave instead? I didn’t think so.

    There are levels of stupidity that require a great deal of education.

  32. You ever hear the old saw, “It takes money to make money?”

    Try showing up to the job interview half an hour late because your ’81 Citation broke down again, wearing a threadbare sports coat, with a rash you haven’t gone to the doctor to have treaated because you have neither health insurance nor much of a savings account. I’ll tell you what, you’re not going to be seeing a decline in your leisure time anytime soon.

    Yeah, it’s all petty envy for poor people to believe their situation is unjust. Hey, they’re not starving!

  33. joe:

    When the mugger steals the wallet, he is stealing productive hours of your life. He has after the fact forced all of the labor you spent earning those dollars to be solely for his benefit. I don’t think the slave thing is as far off as you suggest.

  34. Try showing up to the job interview half an hour late because your ’81 Citation broke down again,

    Been there. And I did get the job. In fact joe, when I was poor I worked a series of undesirable jobs. There was considerable turnover in my coworkers because of the nature of the work. I guess I just needed the money more than them?

  35. Define slavery, joe. Would you agree that slavery is being forced to work for someone else without choice or fair recompense, under threat of violence?

    “OK, gennius, the next time a mugger wants your wallet, are you going to volunteer to go off with him and be his slave instead? I didn’t think so.” – joe

    No one can volunteer to be a slave. You can’t rape the willing, joe.

    “There are levels of stupidity that require a great deal of education.” – joe

    The best part about you is how incredibly ironic some of the statements you make truly are.

    Here’s one for you to think over: Education can cure ignorance, but not stupidity. Anyone who thinks stupidity can be cured probably also believes the guy who tells you “I’m from the government, I’m here to help.”

  36. “No. Wealth is relative and if a certain group is building wealth at a slower pace than society at large then that group is getting poorer, since the only way you can be poor or rich is in comparison to everybody else.” – Dan T.

    Nonsense. If everyone were billionaires, you think that the people who had 5 billion would envy those with 6 billion? On the other hand, if everyone is starving, then the guy with a crust of bread has the status of a billionaire.

    I’m not sure what you mean here – money is not a thing, but rather a means of exchange. The value of having a billion dollars depends entirely on the amount of money everybody else has.

    “I don’t know about this – I would think that the desire for equality is a natural one among people and to assign the perjorative term ‘envy’ to those who wish to be treated like others seems a little like blaming the victim.” – Dan T.

    Envy is what you experience when you have enough, but want what belongs to someone else. It has very little to do with how people treat other people. Unjust treatment should and usually does bring about righteous indignation, a completely different emotion. But that brings us to your next point…

    I guess whether an emotion is “envy” or “righteous indignation” depends on whether you sympathize with the person in question.

    “You could say that anybody who is treated unjustly is going to be jealous of those who are not.” – Dan T.

    True, but there’s a huge difference between being TREATED unjustly and how much money one makes/has. The two are not related. That’s why “all men are created equal” is a reference to how they are treated by their government and their society, not as an edict to chop off chunks of people’s legs to make them all the same height.

    But I contend that wealth is the very thing that makes people unequal. If you think a Rockefeller is “equal” to a child born into poverty then the term ceases to have any meaning.

    “You could say that anybody who is treated unjustly is going to be jealous of those who are not.” – Dan T.

    Unjust treatment does not breed jealousy, but righteous indignation. People who are jealous feel that way because they don’t deserve what the other person has, and hate the way that makes them feel.

    In this case you’re kind of begging the question – does simply having something mean that person deserves it? Especially when your station in life is largely determined by your birth?

    “But it comes across as a rationalization of the guilt that comes along with privilige.” – Dan T

    Project much? While I agree that wealth does bring certain privileges, the best thing about being a U.S. citizen is that the poor man is equal under the law to the rich man.

    In theory they are, in reality the poor are the ones in prison, not the rich.


    The rich man and the poor man alike, have nothing to be ashamed of. Even Eleanor Roosevelt understood this: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That’s one of the beautiful things about the U.S.

    Easy enough for her to say!

  37. I want to pin down the ‘justice’ angle. What does that word mean when someone says the “situation of the poor is unjust?”

    It isn’t the same justice we use when we talk about ‘the justice system’, is it? How?

  38. If my neighbor’s house burns down, it doesn’t make me any richer. If only it were so simple!

    Actually, it does.

    Consider – now your neighbor needs a place to stay. If you still have a house, you went from having nothing that he needed to having something that he needs. Therefore, he might agree to pay you to rent a room where he wouldn’t have before.

  39. “Try showing up to the job interview half an hour late because your ’81 Citation broke down again, wearing a threadbare sports coat, with a rash you haven’t gone to the doctor to have treaated because you have neither health insurance nor much of a savings account. I’ll tell you what, you’re not going to be seeing a decline in your leisure time anytime soon.” – joe

    Ok, let’s play the “who has it bad” game, joe… Some of the jobs I’ve held you wouldn’t poke with a stick, joe. My favorite was working as an “assistant plumber” – it doesn’t sound so bad, right? The job description, if there had been one, would read “digging footings with a pick and shovel in the Louisiana heat, no different from the guys who pulled ‘hard labor’ at Angola and Parchman back in the day.” I didn’t have a rash, but I couldn’t afford sunblock, either. Most guys passed out from heat stroke at some point or other while I worked there. Granted, I didn’t have a Chevy Citation, because I didn’t have the money to buy a car. I guess showing up on foot for the job didn’t bother my employer too much. My favorite part of the job was replacing septic tanks. When you talk about a “shit job,” it helps to know what you’re talking about.

    “Yeah, it’s all petty envy for poor people to believe their situation is unjust. Hey, they’re not starving!” – joe

    Well, you got that part right, at least. When was the last time you met someone who was not mentally impaired/unbalanced who was starving?

  40. Jason L,

    “When the mugger steals the wallet, he is stealing productive hours of your life.”

    Yes, theft is bad. Not as bad as physical assault, enslavement, and extended physical compulsion.

    It’s really easy – you KNOW it’s better to give the guy you’re wallet. You KNOW you’d give up your stuff before you gave up your freedom.

    pigwiggle,

    Lucky you. Anecdote is not the singular of data. Do you make a point of showing up late for jub interviews? is someone who has more resources going to have more advantages pursuing opportunities, or not?

    The gymnastics required to play dumb here are astounding. LOok here at rob’s comment:

    “”OK, gennius, the next time a mugger wants your wallet, are you going to volunteer to go off with him and be his slave instead? I didn’t think so.” – joe

    No one can volunteer to be a slave. You can’t rape the willing, joe.”

    In other words, if a mugger demands your wallet and you give it to him, you’re being robbed. If you get him to accept something else instead, your doing so “willingly,” by rob’s reasoning.

    Deliberate self-obfuscation. Sad, and telling.

  41. Yay, everyghing is ok, because poor people can get hired to do pick and shovel work!

  42. And don’t lecture me on hard jobs, troll boy. Your self-serving projections of what my life “must have been like” don’t matter.

    Ever eat popcorn for two days because your check hasn’t come it yet? No? Then crack open a nice tall bottle of STFU, and don’t you ever dare to guess at my personal circumstances gain, you prick.

  43. “It’s really easy – you KNOW it’s better to give the guy you’re wallet. You KNOW you’d give up your stuff before you gave up your freedom.”

    It still isn’t that clear to me. Let’s say that I knew the robber would be back every day to take all of my earnings for that day. I would be a slave. There would be no meaningful difference. My house wouldn’t be mine. I’d starve unless he deigned to give me some of my product back to feed myself.

  44. But if you want to talk about the guy who settles for basic cable on his 27″ CRT while his neighbors watch high-def cable on 58″ plasma screens you’ll find most unsympathetic. Including me.

    If the only difference between the impoverished and the wealthy were the size of their TV sets I doubt anybody would care.

  45. Lucky you. Anecdote is not the singular of data.

    Joe comes with an “old saw” and then bitches about my anecdote. Dick.

  46. “I’m not sure what you mean here – money is not a thing, but rather a means of exchange. The value of having a billion dollars depends entirely on the amount of money everybody else has.” – Dan T.

    Sure, money is a means of exchange not a fixed value. But assuming everyone could like like the current equivalent of a billionaire – would there still be envy? I’d bet my last crust of bread that there would be…

    Now explain how having all of the basics in life – food, clothing, shelter, leisure time to spend with your loved ones – covered makes you “unjustly poor.”

    Here’s a corker for you: What is the difference between someone who could earn millions and decides not to in favor of a minimalist lifestyle, and one who lives exactly the same way but never had the capability to earn millions? How is either one “poor?”

    “I guess whether an emotion is ‘envy or ‘righteous indignation’ depends on whether you sympathize with the person in question.” – Dan T.

    It has nothing to do with sympathy. For starters, they feel very different and are motivated by completely different things. If you don’t know the difference, I can’t explain it to you any more than I can explain what a purple sunset looks like to a congenitally blind man.

    “In this case you’re kind of begging the question – does simply having something mean that person deserves it? Especially when your station in life is largely determined by your birth?” – Dan T.

    One’s station in life is not determined by one’s birth. Is being given something by your parents wrong? I’d say that a parent has every right to give their child anything they possess, since it belongs to the parent and should then be the parent’s decision about how to handle their property.

    “In theory they are, in reality the poor are the ones in prison, not the rich.” – Dan T.

    Tell it to Martha Stewart, Jeffrey Skilling, Kenneth Lay, George Soros, etc. Just to name a few “insider trading” convictions off the top of my head…

  47. Jason L,

    If every slave in Dixie had $100, and could buy their freedom for $100, do you actually think any of them would keep the money and remain a slave? Would offering that deal to slaves – who, even if they chose to buy themselves out, would be forced to give up their money under pain of the violence inherent in being a slave – be no better than forcing them to remain slaves?

  48. If the only difference between the impoverished and the wealthy were the size of their TV sets I doubt anybody would care.

    Which was the point of my post. Again; there is a significant difference between relative (your words) poverty, and absolute poverty.

  49. pigwiggle,

    Very nice. I couldn’t help but noticed that decided to dodge the questions that demonstrataed why your anecdote isn’t reliable evidence.

  50. ” I’m embarrassed to say how long I’ve been in school, but it is at least as much as her.”

    And your degree(s), I suspect, came not from the English Dept.

    And I have, in real life, traded income for “leisure” (i.e., control). I don’t feel oppressed , or envious.

  51. P Brooks,

    How many of the people in the bottom quintile got there because they had the choice a high income, and chose more leisure instead?

    It’s nice that there are monks who choose a live of poverty instead of being CEOs, but that’s a vanishingly small portion of poor people.

  52. “Ever eat popcorn for two days because your check hasn’t come it yet? No? Then crack open a nice tall bottle of STFU, and don’t you ever dare to guess at my personal circumstances gain, you prick.” – joe

    Cry me a river about your “starving student” days, joe. Try eating one bowl of cereal every day for over a week, no milk, chased with tap water, so that your son can have three meals a day. The starvation diet does wonders, doesn’t it? Why do you think the job I referred to was so attractive?

    That doesn’t change the fact that I stuck it out, and did it by myself, while you bitch and moan and look for pity.

    “In other words, if a mugger demands your wallet and you give it to him, you’re being robbed. If you get him to accept something else instead, your doing so ‘willingly,’ by rob’s reasoning.” – joe

    Now THAT’S a hefty straw man you’re swinging at, joe. Still waiting for your definition of slavery…

  53. Anybody who can talk about “the days when they were poor” was probably never truly poor to begin with.

  54. “Anybody who can talk about ‘the days when they were poor’ was probably never truly poor to begin with.” – Dan T.

    Uh-huh, sure. Because no one ever makes their lives better through physical and mental effort, that only happens on TV. Anyone who has anything more than a subsistence-level lifestyle has more than they deserve, right?

  55. joe:

    I don’t think your example exactly works. You are offering $100 in exchange for perpetual slavery. That is, of course, a no brainer.

    If you work hours of your life for the express purpose of attaining a wage, and someone else takes that wage, you have lost those hours of your life. You thought you were making a free choice, but you were not.

  56. “How many of the people in the bottom quintile got there because they had the choice a high income, and chose more leisure instead?”

    Life is full of choices. Dropping out? Having kids. Using drugs. Selling drugs. Learning a skill. Sitting on your arse. Take a risk. Play it safe.

    I submit that it is predominately these choices that determine your economic outcome in modern America.

  57. You can have my defition of slavery when you apologize for your unwarranted presumption in making baseless assumptions about my life, troll-boy. Actually, no, you can’t, because I’m not interested in another back and forth pissing match with someone who refuses to discuss ideas.

    And no, I wasn’t talking about while I was in school.

  58. joe,
    You and I must be the two unluckiest guys posting on HNR. Most people who were born in, and live in the U.S. don’t usually go without food.

  59. “It’s nice that there are monks who choose a live of poverty instead of being CEOs, but that’s a vanishingly small portion of poor people.”

    I don’t want to get drawn into the anecdote wars, but I have known a lot of people with extremely high native intelligence who consciously declined to “make something of themselves” specifically because they valued “leisure” more than money or status. That portion of *poor* people may not be as vanishingly small as you might think.

  60. Jason L,

    “If you work hours of your life for the express purpose of attaining a wage, and someone else takes that wage, you have lost those hours of your life.”

    No, you have lost some money. Your stuff is not your life. It’s not nothing, but it’s not your life. It’s not even your time.

    The hours you’ve worked to pay your taxes – would you be just as well off if they were, instead, lopped off your lifespan? Or spent in prison?

  61. rob,

    At least I get to be me, instead of you.

  62. “You can have my defition of slavery when you apologize for your unwarranted presumption in making baseless assumptions about my life, troll-boy.” – joe

    I’m sorry I made unwarranted presumptions about your life, joe.

    Can I have an apology for your name-calling in addition to your definition of slavery?

    At least you can explain to Dan T. why he’s wrong to claim that “Anybody who can talk about ‘the days when they were poor’ was probably never truly poor to begin with.”

  63. “At least I get to be me, instead of you.” – joe

    At last, something we can both be glad of.

  64. P Brooks,

    I would submit that the people you describe are not a representative sample of poor people in our country.

    Jason L,

    “I submit that it is predominately these choices that determine your economic outcome in modern America.” I submit that the children born to people who became poor through such bad choices are going to live in poverty, and have fewer resources to get themsevles out of poverty, through absolutely not fault of their own.

    The low level of movement among different wealth clases – not income classes, because the low income of college students while they are in school, and their ability to take unpaid but useful internships in their off time demonstrate the uselessness of looking merely at income in any given year – is evidence of what common sense tells us: people who have economic resources have structural advantages that those without those resources do not.

  65. “The low level of movement among different wealth clases” – joe

    “people who have economic resources have structural advantages that those without those resources do not.” -joe

    A few citations for this would help, but positing that these two things are significant problems, what is your proposed solution to those two problems?

  66. 1. Policies to encourage more economic activity in areas with high concentrations of povery. It may be ideologically comforting to think that there were Help Wanted signed all over the South Bronx throughout the 1980s, and that people just chose to ignore them and be poor instead, but it isn’t true. Loan programs, infrastructure investments, the siting of government facilities, redevelopment efforts to make certain areas more attractive for private investment, tax breaks, that sort of thing.

    2. Programs designed to provide more opportunnities for poor people, to help them into the economic mainstream. There’s a great program in my city which provides low-income women with work-appropriate outfits, so when they apply for jobs, they aren’t immediately dismissed by potential employers based on their appearance and the inability to function in a professional environment that those would-be employers often assume based on their appearance. I don’t know why I’m fixated on clothing today, but the example works.

    3. Additional resources for schools in poor areas.

    4. More progressive tax policies, such as EITC expansion.

  67. It would be comforting to see one single proposed pallative in that list that doesn’t involve massive gov’t bureaucracy and the mismanagement of resources that goes along with it.

    Although I have to admit I like the way you’re selling it – you managed to use the word government only once – even tho every solution requires massive gov’t intervention for your “policies and programs” approach.

    The “War On Poverty” followed very similar approaches, yet was a miserable failure. How can you avoid the same result?

  68. Would it be fair to characterize your 4-pronged approach as:

    1.) Gov’t programs.

    2.) Gov’t policies.

    3.) Another gov’t program.

    4.) More taxes to pay for more gov’t? (Not that I’m against the EITC – I think ANY money the gov’t gives back to ANYONE is a good thing and far too rare.)

    I don’t want yout to think I’m unfairly characterizing your solution, and I don’t want you to think that I’m creating a straw man. But when I see what you’ve written, that’s really what it scans as.

  69. “The hours you’ve worked to pay your taxes – would you be just as well off if they were, instead, lopped off your lifespan? Or spent in prison?”

    Noting that I ostensibly get something back for taxes and looking at the net time lost, servitude can be more or less pleasant. How cushy is the prison? There are subjective aspects to the time spent doing something that aren’t factored into the wage, but if you net those out, there is still some portion of my life that I’m working entirely for someone else’s benefit because I have no choice in the matter. If I hate my job, such that all subjective aspects of it save the wage are bad, I could as well choose prison.

  70. A new theory – the more ridiculous and indefensible Joe’s point, the faster it devolves into “you can’t argue with me unless you’ve lived my life.”

  71. I, too, was unaware of any numbers that measure a low level of movement between wealth classes. I’d be curious to see such.

    Of course there are structural advantages to having well off parents. There are even more structural advantages to having good parents. There is a ton of opportunity out there if you make the right choices, even if you are from a poor family. What I’m saying is that there aren’t a lot of people who study, finish high school, and get a skill or go to college who can’t move between classes.

    If those choices aren’t made, EITC ain’t gonna help.

  72. Magical thinking. Oh My God, the government is involved, that means it can’t work!

    Since the government sets tax policy, determines where its facilities are located, maintains the public infrastructure including schools, and alone raises enough money to provide sufficient resources for a nationwide effort, the government is going to have to play a large role in any effort to reduce poverty.

    “The “War On Poverty” followed very similar approaches,” No, not really. The War of Poverty, as it is generally understood, followed the approach of providing money to the poor, rather than attempting to address the causes of their poverty.

    “…yet was a miserable failure.” Actually, poverty rated declined dramatically after the War on Poverty was instituted, and rose dramatically once Reagan undid it. It’s actually rather striking how poverty rates fell even during the lousy economy of the 70s. The War on Poverty succeeded at what it was attempting to do – get money into the hands of people who didn’t have enough money. The problem was, it ran into the old “If you give a man a fish…” problem.

  73. Would it be fair to characterize rob’s contributions to the thread as:

    1. Collection of words and punctuation.

    2. Collection of words and punctuation.

    3. Collection of words and punctuation.

    4. Collection of words and punctuation?

    Enough with the magical thinking and labelling. You actually need to consider the substance of ideas sometimes, rob.

  74. Well, one thing is for sure.

    As long as we define poverty as the bottom quintile of income, it will always be with us.

    No matter what the material conditions of those occupying that quintile happen to be.

  75. R C,

    Yes, there are two different issues there – one of helping the needy, and one of providing equal opportunity.

    They overlap, but they can certainly be thought of on their own terms.

  76. I ate picnic tables for three weeks so the wife and one-legged dog could eat the stuff on top of the tables.

    Soberly speaking, I generally sing libertarian but in this area, I find myself siding with joe. Too many Libertarians assume that if you’re poor, it’s just your own damned fault. Of course, Dan T.s assertion that you’re only poor if you’ve been poor your whole life is much more asinine than that, but it’s still philosophically naive to assume that our choices are entirely in our own hands – that we are not at least partially the products of the circumstances we are born into.

  77. Soberly speaking, I generally sing libertarian but in this area, I find myself siding with joe. Too many Libertarians assume that if you’re poor, it’s just your own damned fault.

    I don’t assume that. I just think it’s wrong to enslave some people to help others.

  78. Real Bill:

    Are you equating any form of taxation with slavery? Or just progressive taxation?

  79. joe – Nice to see you haven’t lost your ability to miss the point, even when I’m bending over backward to give you the benefit of the doubt. I also love the rhetorical trickery you engage in to avoid having to respond to anyone who challenges your position as someone who refuses to “actually … consider the substance of ideas sometimes.”

    “Magical thinking. Oh My God, the government is involved, that means it can’t work!” – joe

    You mean like the magical thinking that the gov’t can fix the profound problems that its individual citizens have? The amount of gov’t failures is a stronger track record for skepticism regarding gov’t intervention than is your faith in gov’t intervention.

    “Actually, poverty rated declined dramatically after the War on Poverty was instituted, and rose dramatically once Reagan undid it.” – joe

    Two points – you’re wrong on the basic history (Nixon, not Reagan), and you can’t prove it was the WoP that helped those folks.

    In fact, you’ve already admitted to the fundamental problems of the program:
    “President Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty’ speech was delivered at a time of recovery (the poverty level had fallen from 22.4% in 1959 to 19% in 1964 when the War on Poverty was announced) and it was viewed by critics as an effort to get the United States Congress to authorize social welfare programs. Many economists such as Milton Friedman have argued that Johnson’s policies actually had a negative impact on the economy due to their interventionist nature. Economists such as these recommend that the best way to fight poverty is not through government welfare but through economic growth.” – wikipedia entry on “War on Poverty”

    “The OEO was dismantled by President Nixon in 1973, though many of the agency’s programs were transferred to other government agencies.” – wikipedia “War on Poverty” entry

    What would keep your program from falling prey to the same problems, joe? Magic?

    Surely you’ve heard the old saw that “insanity is repeating the same action yet expecting a different result.”

  80. “it’s still philosophically naive to assume that our choices are entirely in our own hands – that we are not at least partially the products of the circumstances we are born into.” -thwip

    Truest statement written on the subject thus far.

  81. thwip:

    I’m equating taxation as it is actually practiced in the US with slavery. I’ll allow that certain forms of taxation do not rise to the level of slavery.

  82. I read somewhere that the war on poverty did result, for certain targeted minority groups, an advance out of poverty for the first few years of its inception. Then the results stabilized, then reversed. That war didn’t work very well here, yet, perhaps it’s due to how it was designed. Conversely, countries such as Sweden have done pretty well negating poverty with much more thoughtfully designed taxation and social safety nets.

  83. buh bye, rob.

    As usual, it was pointless.

  84. thwip,

    As I wrote (and as rob missed, even in his own quotes. Gee, I wonder what “though many of the agency’s programs were transferred to other government agencies” could possible mean?), the WoP was largely dismantled by Reagan, and that is when we began to see poverty rates creep back up. They didn’t begin to fall again until the early-to-mid 1990s, under Clinton’s economic policies.

    Now, causation is tough to prove. To some people even more than others, but when you see three consecutive changes in a measure, each of which follows in short order the implementation of policies regarding programs intended to address the measured factor, most reasonable people would find that to be some compelling evidence.

  85. Btw, Sweden was just an example. Not saying I’d favor their model exactly. For one thing I’m not sure it’s dynamic enough to sustain long term growth. Personally, I’d favor a dynamic tax system that doesn’t penalize productivity and incentives for greater investments, business creativity, etc. yet at the same time would not penalize the poor: for example a sales tax on all items, save food, medicine, and clothing, and then a progressive tax on higher end luxury goods (but not so high as to penalize production of those goods). This along with a robust social safety net, designed to avoid moral hazzard, could be another way to combat poverty.

    I do agree that the taxation system as it stands now is horribly wrongheaded and regressive. It’s especially harmful to the poor. You go to work a job at 8 dollars an hour only to find a sizable chunk of that is taken out through withholding. At the bare mininum such a system needs to go.

  86. “buh bye, rob. As usual, it was pointless.” – joe

    joe’s motto should be “Bringing intellectual dishonesty to the Hit N Run discussion since his very first posts.”

    At least you’re consistent, persistent and tenacious, joe. Consistently insulting, persistently irritating, and tenaciously immune to rational discourse, that is.

  87. That should have read – Consistently insulting, persistently PARTISAN, and tenaciously immune to rational discourse, that is.

  88. “Gee, I wonder what “though many of the agency’s programs were transferred to other government agencies” could possible mean?” – joe

    Surely it mitigates the word “dismantled,” right joe?

    You’re a real piece of work…

  89. If we genetically engineer people to have higher intelligence, I bet poverty would decline.*

    *I’m not endorsing compulsory genetic engineering.

  90. “Personally, I’d favor a dynamic tax system that doesn’t penalize productivity and incentives for greater investments, business creativity, etc. yet at the same time would not penalize the poor: for example a sales tax on all items, save food, medicine, and clothing, and then a progressive tax on higher end luxury goods (but not so high as to penalize production of those goods).”

    The premise is pretty much where I am. I want the least damaging safety net. I don’t think the safety net should be set very high, either, except for the physically an mentally unable. I don’t think your plan would get us there exactly, but I agree with the goal.

  91. JasonL – Yeah, that’s the second thing that thwip’s said that makes a boat-load’s worth of sense.

  92. Wah wah wah, rob.

    Big mean joe refusing to do all the work, provide all the ideas, and then sit back while you google opinions and factoids from unreliable sources so you can do a touchdown dance and insult me personally?

    Grow pair, nancy.

  93. Grow some critical thinking skills, joe.

  94. This from the guy who thinks typing the word “government” is an argument.

  95. joe,

    joe,

    You hang out here, ignore arguments you can’t answer, insult people for no reason, and make shrill claims you can’t back up. What exactly do you get from the boards, and what exactly do you bring to the community? Don’t get me wrong, I conceptually love the idea of someone who makes good arguments challenging a lot of the predispositions and misconceptions on this board. In fact, I would admire that person, because as any libertarian participating in day to day life can tell you, it’s intimidating being in a room full of people who all can’t wait to tell you you’re crazy (but it helps sharpen your mind and develop your arguments!)

    But you’re not that person, you’re just trolling, elaborately and persistently. The worst part about it is that you dismiss everyone else for “making you make all the arguments”, when what you really mean is “for not providing arguments for which you have ready answers” – just looking above us on this thread, there are a number of unanswered points you’ve just abandoned, and then you try to end the argument by acting like no one is willing to make points against you? Weak.

    Why should anyone listen to a word you say if you don’t believe it enough to defend it, and why should anyone bother arguing with you, if you don’t respect them enough to listen?

  96. Question: Walmart, for instance, likes to cap the hours of it’s workforce at 31 a week so they don’t qualify for benefits (IE: Are part time). They are hardly the only business that does this

    Walmart workers are, if adults, likely to be pretty low down the income totem pole.

    Does anyone know if the study in question accounts for things like that? What about multiple part-time jobs? (Most of those I’ve personally known who rate in the “bottom 10%” either work multiple unskilled jobs OR shouldn’t be counted as workers (students, etc)).

  97. Walmart, for instance, likes to cap the hours of it’s workforce at 31 a week so they don’t qualify for benefits (IE: Are part time). They are hardly the only business that does this

    Yet another reason to decouple health insurance from employment.

  98. “This from the guy who thinks typing the word “government” is an argument.” – joe

    This from a guy who thinks, all human history as evidence to the contrary, that ‘government’ is a solution.

    See how easy it was for me to take the easy way out and just turn the insult around on you? And I didn’t even have to make a rational argument against anything you wrote.

    Calling people names is what people do when they can’t counter someone elses’s point, joe. There are very few people on these threads dumb enough to think that abandoning arguments means you’ve made your point. When you just back away from even trying to counter someone else’s points it shows how weak your line of argument really is.

  99. So, there’s a fundamental difference between leisure time and wealth because you’d probably prefer to give money, rather than time, to a mugger? … ? joe should write a thesis about the Mugger Theory of Value and its advantages over the Labor and Utility Theories.

    (The argument was already pretty well demolished by JasonL, but it’s so absurd on its face.)

  100. joe,
    It’s a little strange to get frustrated with someone for consistently arguing a pro-market, anti-government solution line on a blog where the slogan is “free minds, free markets.” I also think government solutions are often uncreative, coercive, and inefficient. Perhaps I might venture over to The Nation’s blog and argue my case, but I know it would just be irrational of me to get upset when I would consistently hear about all the wonderful ways that government could intervene into the economy. I might give Earth First a shot but I’m not going to be surprised if they don’t buy my stance that human beings are more important than animals. Or that there are market approaches to some of the environmental problems we face.

  101. Andy,

    “What exactly do you get from the boards, and what exactly do you bring to the community?”

    What I bring to the community are interesting ideas and principled arguments, as my numberous libertarian defenders point out whenever people throw a fit because there’s a dirty liberal commenting.

    Onion Belt,

    I engage with and debate pro-market ideas with people who make them all the time. Were there actually any ideas in rob’s bitchy snarks, I would engage them. But simply writing, “That’s the government, right?” isn’t an idea. It’s the waving of a magical talisman. Were it coming from someone with who was decent and respect, I’d brush it off ina decent and respectful manner.

    But it’s not. It’s coming from troll-boy rob, who lurks here for the purpose of insulting me personally.

    Fuck him.

  102. some o’ y’all’s got some funny ideas regarding what being poor in the USA is about these days

    I had a post I was gonna drop here yesterday

    but I decided not to (who am I to spam up someone else’s blog with the “blah blah blah” of my low-end anarcho-capitalistic existence?)

    so I spent an hour getting my abandoned blog to work again, and posted some of the
    blah blah blah” in question under the title “fuck welfare”:

    http://whitetrashpromenade.blogspot.com/

    I hope someday to get into a back and forth dialog with some of the refined and well heeled libertarian types who post hereabouts

    just for the educational value

  103. ” Were there actually any ideas in rob’s bitchy snarks, I would engage them.” – rob

    Reading this pretty much sums up why joe is my bitch in every thread we’ve ever tangled on.

    “Were it coming from someone with who was decent and respect, I’d brush it off ina decent and respectful manner.” – joe

    Anyone who has ever read joe’s posts knows he’s nearly incapable of being decent and respectful.

    “But it’s not. It’s coming from troll-boy rob, who lurks here for the purpose of insulting me personally. Fuck him.” – joe

    That’s EXACTLY how trolls behave, joe. Good demonstration, but everyone who reads these threads would be much more surprised if you actually did something other than insult people who have you intellectually out-gunned.

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