Economics

Poor Poverty Statistics

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An article at AEI's web site by Nicholas Eberstadt was a big nostalgia experience for me, as I recall that conservative and libertarian mags were full of this sort of debunking of poverty rate figures during the Reagan '80s/decade of greed when I first started reading them. Apparently, certain anomalies in how we measure official poverty that seem to make things sound worse than they are continue to abound, as Eberstadt explains.

Official U.S. government poverty measures show that the proportion of Americans living in poverty has actually increased some since the early 1970s:

To go by the OPR, then, America, through three decades of both Democratic and Republican administrations, has utterly failed to improve the material lot of the more vulnerable elements of society–to raise them above the income line where, according to the author of the federal poverty measure, "everyday living implied choosing between an adequate diet of the most economical sort and some other necessity, because there was not money enough to have both."

Eberstadt thinks there is much to doubt about this, though.

Since 1973, the behavior of the OPR looks increasingly aberrant when compared to other indices widely thought to bear on the risk of poverty in a modern urbanized society. In 1973, nearly 40 percent of adults over the age of twenty-five lacked a high school degree; by 2001, the figure was under 16 percent. Or consider trends in means-tested benefit programs–food stamps, housing subsidies, Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other programs that benefit the poor. Between the 1973 and 2001 fiscal years, spending on those programs more than tripled from $163 billion to $507 billion (in 2004 dollars) and increased by over 130 percent in real, per-capita terms.

Eberstadt goes on to show data indicating that expenditures by those under the poverty line are a more accurate measure of their actual deprivation than their reported income, and that "there is good evidence that, for the lowest fifth of Americans on the income ladder, reported expenditures are almost twice their incomes." When it comes to food, housing, transportation, health care, and home appliances, data indicates great improvements in overall American well-being that seem to belie stagnant or increasing poverty in the sense of absolute deprivation.

Eberstadt also notes that

the average net worth of households in the bottom fifth has actually grown in the last decade. Additionally, the gains in wealth have been broadly shared, with the portion of bottom fifth households reporting no assets whatever falling from 21 percent in 1989 to just 8 percent in 2004.

He ends with a call for better statistical well-being tracking based more on consumption than reported income, and some tentative praise for alternative poverty measures undertaken by New York's Mayor (for life?) Michael Bloomberg, though even that only offers a snapshot at a moment in time. Given what we know about the great churn in relative well-being among American families and households, and that Eberstadt thinks there is some reason to believe such volatility might be growing, it's mistaken to imagine that there's a large permanent underclass mired in misery being captured in official poverty stats.

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  1. Of course, by 1950s standards of poverty there is virtually no one living in poverty today.

    I’ve never understood why the poverty line changes over time. Shouldn’t there be a definable absolute standard of poverty, applicable across all times and places?

  2. It’s heartening to see what I’ve known for so long quantified in concrete terms. The War on Poverty has been won. Sure, there are incremental steps we can take to make things even better. Now, though, we have the party who knows it’s over and is trying to fleece the economy because of it, and the party who cries that so much more needs to be done in order to gain power and redistribute wealth.

    I’d say that if this news gets ou t it should be great for the LP.

  3. But of course if we did that then socialism would seem considerably less rational.

  4. I’ve never understood why the poverty line changes over time. Shouldn’t there be a definable absolute standard of poverty, applicable across all times and places?

    But of course if we did that then socialism would seem considerably less rational.

    That reminds me of an old interview with Thomas Sowell, where the topic of poverty was brought up.


    Ray Sawhill: “Someone somewhere is standing up at this instant and saying, rising inequality – something must be done!”
    Sowell: “But inequality between whom? Between income brackets? Or between flesh and blood human beings?”

    R: “You write in the new book that only three per cent of Americans spend eight years in the bottom-fifth income bracket.”

    S: “That study has now been extended to 15 years. And when you stretch it out to 15 years, you find that less than one per cent of the American population is in the bottom income quintile for that duration. Add to that the fact that most of our millionaires have made their money themselves, and you realize that it’s a tremendously fluid system.”

    R: “People have a hard time getting used to the fact that there will always be a bottom fifth.”

    S: “Some people can’t deal with it. In New Zealand, where I was giving a talk, I remember some leftist proclaiming, we just aren’t going to accept that people have to be in the bottom fifth! [Laughs] We’re going to have to become like Lake Wobegone, where every child is above average.”

    Linky

    So for some people inequality itself is the problem. That wealth difference between humans can be put into fractions offends them, I suppose. Which makes sense to me, because fractions were always the worst part of math.

  5. You know, it’s arguably more useful to accept the official income poverty figures, and reason from them.

    No, seriously.

    Taking the Census Bureau numbers and adding the older stuff from Gordon Fisher’s 1986 “Estimates of the Poverty Population under the Current Official Definition for Years before 1959.”, you get poverty rate among persons data for the years 1947-2006.

    Now, run a linear regression on the 1947-1965 data, and another on the 1966-2006 data. You know what result you get?

    The rate of change in poverty from 1947-1965 (that is, until the start of the War on Poverty) was -0.89 percentage points a year, with an astonishingly high correlation coefficient of -0.98. The rate of change in poverty since 1966 (that is, as the War on Poverty swung into action) has been 0.00 percentage points a year.

    That’s right. Poverty was on a natural course to extinction by the mid-1980s, and then the Federal Government started subsidizing it. Everybody knows that you get more of anything you subsidize. Accordingly, we have much more poverty than we would have had, to the tune of +0.89 percentage points a year the subsidies have been in effect.

    The logical solution to ending poverty, then, is to blow up the whole welfare state. Poverty, as defined for the last forty years, will then cease to exist in one generation.

  6. The “poor” in America have a problem with obesity.

    If a politician had the brains, balls, and intentions, the “debate” would be over on that note.

    But they don’t.

  7. Piracy has lifted Somalis out of poverty.

  8. Denial denial denial, this article reeks of desperation. Stop being whiners

  9. consumption is not a better measure than income if people are going into unsustainable levels of debt in order to consume, and record levels of credit card debt, HELOC loans etc. seem to indicate this might be the case. if consumption results from off the book income then I agree the poverty rate will be overstated.

  10. as to why the poverty level should be a moving target, I would think this was pretty obvious: most people regard it as obviously wrong for some people in the richest country in the world to be living at the bare minumum poverty level of what would sustain life in a 3rd-world coutry–a few dollars a day. Once you accept that the question of what is considered ‘poor’ is context dependent, some adjustment of the poverty level as the overall material comfort level of society increases looks reasonable. obviously it would be possible for the US to become so rich that the people in the bottom quintile were better off than those in the top quintile now, and if that were so it would indeed be ridiculous to call these people “poor”, but no observer of the economy, however blinkered, could argue with a straight face that we’re at that point. despite the fact that poor people suffer from obesity at higher rates, there are people in america going hungry at various times of the month or eating less so their children can eat.

  11. Piracy has lifted Somalis out of poverty.

    Nah, it just lifted 12 guys with an RPG out of poverty…for now…

  12. The college degree argument is sheer bullshit, unless you seriously want to claim the decent-paying career options for someone in 1973 with a high school diploma were the same as they are in 2008.

  13. “The “poor” in America have a problem with obesity.”

    It’s possible to be obese but badly deficient in essential nutrients because the nutritional content of the food is out of whack. Fat and corn sweetener are cheap.

  14. There are many socioeconomic indicators that I rarely see referred to in official statistics, such as

    A) Rusting automobile frame on front yard/gravel lot?

    B) Mullet or jheri curl (unironic)?

    C) “Unlicensed small business owner”

  15. Good point, Jon H, but canned vegetables are cheap, too.*

    *I don’t always follow the halthiest diet myself, though.

  16. or healthiest diet even.

  17. Apparently, everything should be adjusted for inflation … except the poverty line. Especially because more people have college degrees.

    By the way, doesn’t the infant mortality rate validate Medicare and access to modern medicine?

    The proportion of children who did not report a visit to a physician was significantly lower for the poor population in 2004 (12 percent) than it had been for the nonpoor population twenty-two years earlier (17.6 percent).

    This is meaningless. Did poor people not visit physicians because they could afford it or because they didn’t need too?

    The article is so full of red herrings that it’s like a kipper ship.

  18. Lazy, good for nothing poor people. If they knew what was good for them, they’d choose to be rich instead.

  19. Well . . . I’m gonna speak a little of experience for ya’ll. Poor people are people who make bad decisions when they can least afford it. The terrible thing is that their worst decisions were made 5 to 10 years ago before they realized it was a bad decision. A good friend of mine was fired recently for insubordination. She was “proud” with a family of three and a dead beat husband not worth a damn. She had married him after she found out she was pregnant with her then dead beat boyfriend when she was 17. What am I supposed to tell her? Your 25 and the decision that brought you to a glamourous job of cashiering was made sometime over the last 8 years of hardship? I don’t know what makes people enter poverty or leave it for that matter. I do know that poverty usually results from pride combined with a lack of foresight(or overwhelming fear) to see where you might or could be in 5, 10, or 15 years.

    *All crying aside the aforementioned cashier actually told a former director turned manager(who avoided being layed-off by taking the manager position, hefty paycut I’m told) that “You need to check yourself. You’re not my boss!”*

  20. I haven’t read any of this thread yet and I’m fairly drunk but ran a google search.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22ignorance+is+not+sexy%22

    How depressing :\ 65 results in the entire world (as defined by google). We need to work on this, as libertarians, as minarchists, as anarchists.

  21. Fuck you Bingo! I actually got a Friday night off and I’m the one who is fairly drunk! A bottle of Nozy Chardonnay(pretty good) and some Spatlese helped seal the deal. I’m not working on shit!

  22. American’s living in poverty?

    I normally avoid grammar Nazism, but when it’s the top article for the weekend on a major magazine’s website..

  23. The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race

    Author’s note. The assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, raised many questions, not all of which were answered by the Report of the Warren Commission. It is suggested that a less conventional view of the events of that grim day may provide a more satisfactory explanation. Alfred Jarry’s “The Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race” gives us a useful lead.

    Oswald was the starter.

    From his window above the track he opened the race by firing the starting gun. It is believed that the first shot was not properly heard by all the drivers. In the following confusion, Oswald fired the gun two more times, but the race was already underway.

    Kennedy got off to a bad start.

    There was a governor in his car and its speed remained constant at about fifteen miles an hour. However, shortly afterwards, when the governor had been put out of action, the car accelerated rapidly, and continued at high speed along the remainder of the course.

    The visiting teams. As befitting the inauguration of the first production car race through the streets of Dallas, both the President and the Vice-President participated. The Vice-President, Johnson, took up his position behind Kennedy on the starting line. The concealed rivalry between the two men was of keen interest to the crowd. Most of them supported the home driver, Johnson.

    The starting point was the Texas Book Depository, where all bets were placed in the Presidential race. Kennedy was an unpopular contestant with the Dallas crowd, many of whom showed outright hostility. The deplorable incident familiar to us all is one example.

    The course ran downhill from the Book Depository, below an overpass, then on to the Parkland Hospital and from there to Love Air Field. It is one of the most hazardous courses in downhill motor racing, second only to the Sarajevo track discontinued in 1914.

    Kennedy went downhill rapidly. After the damage to the governor the car shot forward at high speed. An alarmed track official attempted to mount the car, which continued on its way cornering on two wheels.

    Turns. Kennedy was disqualified at the hospital, after taking a turn for the worse. Johnson now continued the race in the lead, which he maintained to the finish.

    The flag. To satisfy the participation of the President in the race Old Glory was used in place of the usual checkered square. Photographs of Johnson receiving his prize after winning the race reveal that he had decided to make the flag a memento of his victory.

    Previously, Johnson had been forced to take a back seat, as his position on the starting line behind the President indicates. Indeed, his attempts to gain a quick lead on Kennedy during the false start were forestalled by a track steward, who pushed Johnson to the floor of his car.

    In view of the confusion at the start of the race, which resulted in Kennedy, clearly expected to be the winner on past form, being forced to drop out at the hospital turn, it has been suggested that the hostile local crowd, eager to see a win by the home driver Johnson, deliberately set out to stop him completing the race. Another theory maintains that the police guarding the track were in collusion with the starter, Oswald. After he finally managed to give the send-off Oswald immediately left the race, and was subsequently apprehended by track officials.

    Johnson had certainly not expected to win the race in this way. There were no pit stops.

    Several puzzling aspects of the race remain. One is the presence of the President’s wife in the car, an unusual practice for racing drivers. Kennedy, however, may have maintained that as he was in control of the ship of state he was therefore entitled to captain’s privileges.

    The Warren Commission. The rake-off on the book of the race. In their report, prompted by widespread complaints of foul play and other irregularities, the syndicate lay full blame on the starter, Oswald.

    Without doubt, Oswald badly misfired. But one question still remains unanswered: Who loaded the starting gun?

  24. Standard retirement planning involves consuming more than income, selling off assets accumulated for this purpose. Consumption can be greater than income without borrowing.

    As for people who really are poor, the failure to include in kind transfers suggests that the figures don’t show a need to expand transfers. They do suggest a need to maintain the transfers. Obviously, there are other considerations.

    The procedure for calculating the figures does seem more than a bit absurd. A mulitple of the Agriculture department’s economy food plan?

  25. “I’ve never understood why the poverty line changes over time. Shouldn’t there be a definable absolute standard of poverty, applicable across all times and places?”

    I think belle answered this rather well.

    What always gets me about this conservative thinking about “the poor ain’t really so poor” is that if any of those thinkers experienced even the “liberal” defintion of poor they would think it was a fucking calamity.

    When you talk about poverty with a conservative or a libertarian it is indeed a rare day that Sowell doesn’t get brought up within 5 minutes, so it’s nice to see him pop up right away here (he’s like Smoot Hawley in discussions of the Depression). It’s always fun because he’s, you know, a PhD economist and so what he says must be right. I get ribbed all the time here for having too much faith in the work of academics, which is rich because the other side is like this a lot. You have to stop and ask yourself: has Sowell’s work solved this issue in academe? Are the just missing this jewel? Well, no, it’s just not seen as all that great:

    http://www.jacksonprogressive.com/issues/econandwelfare/sowellsfallacies.html

    I’ve enjoyed a lot of Sowell’s works (like his stuff on social capital and his stuff on IQ tests), but I’ve noticed an inverse correlation between how familar a person is with academic studies and how authoritative they think Sowell’s work is on any subject…

  26. “Nigel Watt | November 22, 2008, 5:20am | #

    American’s living in poverty?

    I normally avoid grammar Nazism”

    Merriam Webster:
    Main Entry: pov?er?ty
    Pronunciation: \?p?-v?r-t?\
    Function: noun
    Usage: often attributive
    Etymology: Middle English poverte, from Anglo-French povert?, from Latin paupertat-, paupertas, from pauper poor – more at poor
    Date: 12th century
    1 a: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions

    So it looks like that high horse you were on just shat upon you.

    I love this kind of thing. “By God you can’t use a word like that, they have meanings!” And the fucking person doesn’t know the actual meaning.

    The concept “poverty” has always been one that is not fixed at some eternal level. Deal.

  27. psst – ced – i think he meant the use of the possessive instead of the plural…

  28. Oh I see. Well, it’s a common enough tactic that it’ll apply eventually. In fact, it already has:

    “The “poor” in America have a problem with obesity.”

    See, being poor means some eternal standard of starvation, so obese poor people is a contradiction blah blah blah

  29. Being poor sucks. It primarily sucks because of your neighbors. The social safety net, both public and private, pretty much ensures that food clothing and shelter will be provided to a marginally responsible person and their dependents.

    Then your neighbors drive up the costs of every aspect in daily life making escaping more difficult than it should be.

    Ghetto is not about lack of money, ghetto is the behavior and attitude of the neighbors. If you live in one, fuck a new TV, to hell with new clothes or Nikes for the kids. Get the hell out! Your neighbors are fucking up your life. It’s not the Mexicans stealing “your jobs”, not the robber barons in corporate boardrooms figuring out new ways to raise prices and exploit those in the inner city. It’s your neighbors who are making life miserable for you.

    And don’t make any babies till you live where there are safe. decent schools. Your neighbors have contibuted mightily to fucking those up as well.

  30. Merriam Webster:
    Main Entry: pov?er?ty
    Pronunciation: ?p?-v?r-t?
    Function: noun
    Usage: often attributive
    Etymology: Middle English poverte, from Anglo-French povert?, from Latin paupertat-, paupertas, from pauper poor – more at poor
    Date: 12th century
    1 a: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions

    So it looks like that high horse you were on just shat upon you.

    Dictionary writers are essentially just word historians that summarize meanings. The dictionary says nothing about a word’s modern usage, connotation, and application.

    I’ve never understood why the poverty line changes over time. Shouldn’t there be a definable absolute standard of poverty, applicable across all times and places?

    Not really, because our standards of living increase over time and people start to demand for more and more. People measure their well-being far far more in relative terms than they do absolute terms.

    Poverty statistics are a bitch. Consumption is a good way to measure how they’re living at the time but you need to consider how they’re going to pay off their debts, whatever. Stuff like that.

    And Thomas Sowell, who was mentioned earlier in the thread, is really amazing with poverty statistics. At the least, all of his arguments have good plausibility, and at the most, they seem irrefutable. All libertarians must buy his latest book, Economic Facts and Fallacies. Sometimes I consider a lot of the stuff that liberals say about poverty and how we need to help them more blah blah blah… and then I reread the chapter on income in that book and I’m once again unconvinced. Once I can recite the book verbatim I don’t think I’ll ever experience cognitive dissonance on income statistics (by race, gender, economic class, etc) again.

  31. “It primarily sucks because of your neighbors.”

    I agree with that. In that way it’s like prison…

    Daniel you really should read upthread before posting…

  32. “Ghetto is not about lack of money, ghetto is the behavior and attitude of the neighbors.”

    That’s right too. Elijah Anderson’s Code of the Street does a great ethnographic analysis of ghetto or street mentality. Marx was right when he called the lumpenproletariat “social scum.”

  33. Yes, why aren’t those poor people happy living like people lived at the end of the 19th century?

    Seriously, society changes, and the requirements for living change correspondingly. Fifty years ago a computer was the size of an office building. Today, if you don’t know how to use a computer you are the Republican presidential candidate or you are fucked if you ever want a minimally lucrative career. As someone else noted, why don’t you take a shot at living on $13,000 a year and tell me how that works out for you?

    As far as poverty measures, the current one is seriously dated and has been screwed up by bad inflation calculations. New ones that measure consumption capture people’s means more accurately, but can have some issues with debt accumulation as noted. Another issue is that they factor in benefits. In my opinion, we can’t consider poverty “solved” until people are able to live above some minimal level without relying on the public dole. Liberals pushing for poverty measure changes (such as in new york) always fall into this circular justification of: “We want to be able to measure that people have more money when we give them more money” and thus push to have benefits included as income. While this is reasonable for a pure measure of income, I don’t think it’s reasonable for calculating the success of poverty interventions.

    And I agree with everything J sub D said.

  34. @ CED:

    Ha ha!

  35. I agree w/ everything J sub said.

  36. If you weren’t born into poverty it is fairly simple in a first world country to stay out of it:

    1)Graduate High School

    2) Don’t have children until you are a responsible adult with a stable job, preferaby in wedlock

    3) Don’t get hooked on drugs or become a or drink to the point where it interferes with your job or breaks the bank.

    4) Don’t live beyomd your means (get into massive unbearable credit card debt)

    If you’re born into povery of course this makes things a thousand times harder.

  37. How so? As an adult I am living way, way above what our standard of living was when I was a kid.

  38. BDB, you’d think 1 thru 3 would be have the same degree of difficulty, regardless od environment. You’d be wrong of course. People absorb the culture around them, the cultures of poverty included.

    Lets admit it, all attempts to end inter-generational poverty have affected the problem only marginally. This is a very tough nut to crack. I blame those who are in poverty the most. Especially the baby makers. (I’m looking at you guys!) Perhaps I underestimate the pathologies inflicted by growing up in a ghetto or hillbilly white trash environment.

    Anyone who claims they have “the answer” to entrenched poverty in first world societies is full of shit.

  39. Okay, I see a lot of ignorance in the comments above.

    People:

    1) The official U.S. government poverty measure cited in the original post is a fixed (not relative) measure, and it is of course recorded in constant (that is, inflation-adjusted) dollars. You would have noticed this had you read the linked article.

    2) The net worth of the poorest households has gone up, which means they cannot be financing the increased consumption by debt. Every dollar in debt reduces net worth, see? You would have noticed this had you read the linked article.

    3) No, the poverty measure does not include the dole. For example, money from the Earned Income Tax Credit is not counted as income. This too was mentioned in the linked article.

  40. “BDB, you’d think 1 thru 3 would be have the same degree of difficulty, regardless od environment. You’d be wrong of course. People absorb the culture around them, the cultures of poverty included.”

    Yes, that is why I said if you are born into poverty it is much more difficult to get out of. This is why groups of immigrants who are poor materially but don’t have the ghetto/white trash culture get out of poverty in one or two generations, while in Appalachia or the Detroit ghettoes it goes on and on. The

    Luck (where you were born, what situation you were born into) plays a larger role than we’d like to admit.

  41. Obviously it would be possible for the US to become so rich that the people in the bottom quintile were better off than those in the top quintile now, and if that were so it would indeed be ridiculous to call these people “poor”, but no observer of the economy, however blinkered, could argue with a straight face that we’re at that point.

    The problem with this statement is that we could have had the same exact conversation in 1775. And 1875.

    The bottom quintile now lives better than the top quintile lived in 1775 or 1875. So that should mean that it’s ridiculous to call those people “poor”. Right?

    Why would you pick 2008 as the baseline? Why is that the moment at which, if we can raise the poor above the lifestyle of the top quintile at that moment, poverty will be defeated? I can’t think of any reason other than “I will continually redefine normal to be whatever my circumstances are at this exact time”.

    If we actually raise the lifestyle of the bottom quintile up over that of the 2008 top quintile – say, in 2080 – what will probably happen is that people like you will just move the baseline to 2080. And because the poor in 2080 don’t have personal teleporters and nanotech implants or what have you, they’ll still be considered poor and the fact that they live like affluent 2008 people will be considered irrelevant. Actually, I’d go farther and say that people who point out that the 2080 poor are living like the 2008 rich will be heckled as heartless and cruel – because of course it will be mean-spirited to suggest that Warren Buffet’s 2008 lifestyle will be fit for a human being.

  42. BDB, you left out “avoid nasty diseases and don’t get laid off”.

  43. You can’t help lay offs, and only some diseases (STDs, for instance) can be prevented. Obviously some people will do all these things then get brain cancer at 30 and have to declare bankruptcy because of their medical bills. But 90% of the time, probably, those three things are the cause of falling into poverty.

  44. That was great Fluffy. All we needed was some the old sci-fi that illustrates the present magic.

    Walter Williams has done articles and columns on this too. One remark that particularly struck me was that modern American poor people have an average of 2 TVs in their house.

    And here I am with only one TV, wasting my money on saving for retirement.

  45. Weekend open thread claim.
    Carter Group Barred From Entering Zimbabwe

    Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s 84-year-old president, clinging to power after 28 years in office, barred another famous 84-year-old – former President Jimmy Carter – from entering the country Saturday. The globe-trotting, Nobel Prize-winning Mr. Carter said it was a novel experience for him. He had never before been denied a visa.

    Mr. Mugabe’s decision to forbid a humanitarian visit by Mr. Carter, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and Gra?a Machel, Nelson Mandela’s wife, was a measure of the Zimbabwean leader’s disdain for international opinion at a time when deepening hunger, raging hyperinflation and the collapse of health, sanitation and education services have crippled Zimbabwe.

    Boys and girls, can you say evil?

  46. In Milton Friedman’s “Free To Choose” episode, “From Cradle to Grave” (1980), the concluding discussion included Helen O’Bannon, Secretary of Welfare from Pennsylvania.

    She made an assertion about poverty that I think gets to the heart of liberalism. The goal isn’t to eliminate poverty, it’s to keep the poor in dependant on government. From the transcript:

    O’BANNON: We’re still talking about a significant component of the bottom twenty percent that are the bottom twenty percent. Whether they are above the poverty line or below the poverty line; they are still the bottom twenty percent. And the issue is: What is the responsibility of the other eighty percent; if any, towards those others?

    She doesn’t want to eliminate poverty, she wants to continue redefining it upwards forever. If every person had a mansion, two cars, four meals a day, and a staff of robotic servants that made sure they never came to harm, there would still be a bottom 20%, and this bint would still be arguing that we need a massive welfare program.

  47. Oh crap. Somebody, server squirrels I suspect, screwed up the link in my previous post.

    Sorry ‘ bout that, chiefs.

  48. The concept “poverty” has always been one that is not fixed at some eternal level. Deal.

    Does that mean it’s never-ending to you, CED? Meaning (as someone stated above) that no matter how objectively wealthy the “impoverished” are, you’re willing to continually define the impoverished if they do not have a “socially acceptable” amount of money?

    Operating on the definition you provided, poverty doesn’t mean anything, because its definition is constantly in a state of flux.

  49. I agree with that. In that way it’s like prison…

    Since my brain won’t let me forget anything I read in college, this reminded me of an interesting piece by sociologist Loic Wacquant.

    It’s specific to black Americans, but it puts forward the idea that in the US there have been several “peculiar institutions” which have served to perpetuate black poverty. The two most recent are the ghetto and the prison, and he posits that with intergenerational poverty and dramatic increases in incarceration, what we have seen is the ghetto-ization of the prison, and the prison-ization of the ghetto.

    Individual lives that have been immersed in one or both of these institutions from cradle to grave have a very different lived reality from most of us. This doesn’t minimize the importance of individual choices, but it’s a way of partially explaining how poverty continues to exist despite relative freedom/opportunity.

    His conclusions may implicate a greater gov’t role than I’d personally recommend, but the ideas are interesting nonetheless, and it speaks to what J sub said about the problems of culture WRT poverty.

  50. Since this is an open thread, here is another reason to be glad we won the War of Independence. Yeah, the UK wants to ban happy hour. For the children.

  51. “It’s possible to be obese but badly deficient in essential nutrients because the nutritional content of the food is out of whack. Fat and corn sweetener are cheap.”

    Vegetables are cheaper.

  52. TAO
    The definition is Merriam Webster’s, not mine. It’s the “standard” definition of the term.

    It’s no more meaningless than other terms which are “in flux” or are tied to the particular society in which it occurs, like “rudeness.”

    You just don’t like it because it is actually inherently tied to inequality and like Colbert doesn’t see race you don’t see inequality (or see it as a problem).

  53. fluffy
    If what you are saying is that liberals see the inequality itself as part of the problem, then yes you’re right. Some of the concern with “poverty” involves stuff like not having enough food or money to pay for medical services or home heating, but it is also a realization that the people in the bottom quintile don’t have the same opportunities as people above them to live what people would see as a “decent” life. And since the idea of a “decent” life is one that involves the idea of socially acceptable the concept of poverty, as noted in the definition I gave above, is one that inherently moves around.

    Of course inequality is not a concern for a lot of people because, as TAO seems to think, everyone who is poor has chosen to be so. Even the children or something like that.

    And in TAO’s world black people mysteriously choose to be poor at 3 times the rate of white people, and women more then men. Remember, not social conditions with origins in the past could possibly be to blame, though those regular patterns would make you think that…

  54. I’d like to see poor people live like me. My family has six tvs and eats NY strips twice a week. I think everyone ought to live that good, or better.

    And I want to pay for it by the forcible theft of TAO’s and SIV’s paltry wealth.

  55. CED aka MNG,

    The bottom twenty percent will always exist. It will always be populated by the imprudent, the wastrels, the short sighted, the foolish, the mentally ill and the unlucky. And of course, their offspring.

    You seem to believe that society owes them, or is morally obligated to provide them, a standard of living to ________________ level.

    Society, as I pointed out above, will provide sufficient food, clothing and shelter. We also provide education opportunity and a tried and true roadmap to escape poverty for all but the mentally ill. Sadly, many chose to take a different path through life and remain mired in poverty.

    As I also pointed out above, the biggest problem with being poor in a first world nation is your neighbors. The culture of poverty and dependence that wears you down, saps your will and convinces you that such behaviors are acceptable, even normal.

    Transferring wealth will do nothing to address these underlying causes of poverty. Were we to give every family on the east side of Detroit $100K some few would escape poverty forever, yet most would be needing assistance again within two years.

    As an ancient philosopher once said

    For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.

    Please fill in the blank in my second paragraph, telling me after food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education opportunity and opportunity to work are provided, what should society do?

    I’m afraid the safety net has turned into a hammock for far too many and it may be inevitable. . I’m no dreamer, there is no libertopia where these problems vanish. It is also apparent that LBJs war on poverty has met with resounding failure as these problems have not been alleviated after two generations.

    The left, right and the very few intelligent one who don’t live on that line need to consider the possibility that intractable, generational poverty is unsolvable.

  56. Another open thread submission:

    A hilariously pitiful invention. I like the part where the poor sap says it has “the potential to be a larger advertising medium than any other in existence“.

    Step One: Print ads on cardbord tubes.
    Step Three: Profit!

  57. A hilariously pitiful invention. I like the part where the poor sap says it has “the potential to be a larger advertising medium than any other in existence”.

    When I reach the end of a TP roll, the last thing I’m goiong to think is “Ooh! Time share condos”. Alas advertising is ubiquitous and the marketers will not be satisfied until everything is covered with a come-on.

    How much do you think I can get for a Novofem Disposable Douche? tattoo on my chest?

  58. “Society, as I pointed out above, will provide sufficient food, clothing and shelter. We also provide education opportunity and a tried and true roadmap to escape poverty for all but the mentally ill.”

    Do you think they should? I do, but I imagine many here think all that is “theft” and “socialism.”

    “It is also apparent that LBJs war on poverty has met with resounding failure as these problems have not been alleviated after two generations.”

    I’m not sure that follows. If you had a bacterial illness and wgot prescribed an anti-biotic and it did not do the trick that does not mean anti-biotics don’t cure this sort of thing often or that we shouldn’t try another, maybe stronger dose. And it certainly wouldn’t mean, as many who claim the poverty must be created or fostered by Great Society programs since it hasn’t been alleviated by them, that the anti-biotic created the illness.

    “The bottom twenty percent will always exist. It will always be populated by the imprudent, the wastrels, the short sighted, the foolish, the mentally ill and the unlucky. And of course, their offspring.”

    I partly agree, but what do you make of facts like this: that blacks have three times the poverty rate of whites? That there are 3 times as many imprudent wastrels and mentally ill black people? If the answer is what I think it is, a mix of discrimination, starting with disadvantage (being born into families with less wealth) and a subculture of poverty that more blacks are part of then the questions are, why is there more discrimination against blacks? why are more blacks a part of that subculture of poverty? why are more blacks born into poor families? And I think the answer is that oppressive government actions once made that subculture attractive and once established cultures are persistent, that government actions fostered the idea that blacks were inferior, and that government actions kept blacks from earning their full potential (all this is true for women too). So I think government is warranted in trying to make sure these conditions are ameliorated to some extent.

    But I really don’t support anything much beyond what you mention, basic necessities, educational opportunities and opportunities to work (by which I mean anti-discrimination laws). That’s liberalism in a nutshell imo.

  59. Don’t get me wrong, inequality is inevitable (Nozicks stuff on this is well argued imo) and some of it is good (it provides incentives which drive the prosperity engine). To the extent that it derives from smarter decisions and harder work it is just. But I argue that a great deal of today’s inequality results from past oppressions and from the bad decisions of some people’s parents which give some people enormous advantages over others. We can’t right those specific wrongs and past bad decisions, but a safety net and some measures that provide this roadmap out of poverty you speak of (educational opportunity, anti-discrimination laws) are warranted to combat these conditions so that the ancestors of the harmed and the stupid need not pay the price over and over.

  60. CED,

    Do you think they should? I do, but I imagine many here think all that is “theft” and “socialism.”

    Most libertarians (liberals) don’t take much issue with some level of public education. I myself don’t have a problem with it or with something like a negative income tax. What we do have a problem with is the effort to create government run monopolies in education, which is why there is a lot of emphasis on things like vouchers, which most Democrats vehemently oppose.

    If you had a bacterial illness and wgot prescribed an anti-biotic and it did not do the trick that does not mean anti-biotics don’t cure this sort of thing often or that we shouldn’t try another, maybe stronger dose.

    This assumes that it has been shown that things like public housing and the like have worked somewhere. Have they? Probably not. Indeed, I’m not quite sure why anyone would think that programs which tear down housing, create less of it and concentrate populations in it would be all that useful. That’s been a recipe for failure throughout the world for a couple of decades now.

    …opportunities to work (by which I mean anti-discrimination laws).

    To a liberal that actually means freedom of contract, freedom to change employment, freedom to engage in employment without frivolous government licensing (one of the most significant barriers to entry these days), etc.

  61. I think one thing J sud D and I will agree on is that one thing the government should not do “for” poor people are various nanny-state things like sin taxes or bans on fatty foods and other similar bullshit. Let people make their own decisions on this stuff.

  62. Seward
    You’ll get little argument from me about public housing or a lot of urban development. Consider the closing of “flop houses” for the “good” of the poor that they served. Now it’s almost impossible to find a cheap room to stay in for a short period of time. I’m sure the poor are happy for that!

    I’m also not opposed to vouchers in theory. I do think if what is given is a voucher that only covers the partial cost of a private education then it could be bad (by making it more likely that the public schools will only lose middle class kids but have to retain the poor ones whom still, with the voucher, can’t afford private school).

  63. CED,

    I don’t know why you would oppose them in fact. Vouchers aid in breaking the monopolistic practices of public schools. It breaks apart concentrations of power, concentrations of such being one of the primary concerns of liberals.

  64. “Society, as I pointed out above, will provide sufficient food, clothing and shelter. We also provide education opportunity and a tried and true roadmap to escape poverty for all but the mentally ill.”

    Do you think they should? I do, but I imagine many here think all that is “theft” and “socialism.”

    Society yes. The government, no. Many thing are provided to all of us that the government has not a damned thing to do with.

    “It is also apparent that LBJs war on poverty has met with resounding failure as these problems have not been alleviated after two generations.”

    I’m not sure that follows. If you had a bacterial illness and wgot prescribed an anti-biotic and it did not do the trick that does not mean anti-biotics don’t cure this sort of thing often or that we shouldn’t try another, maybe stronger dose. And it certainly wouldn’t mean, as many who claim the poverty must be created or fostered by Great Society programs since it hasn’t been alleviated by them, that the anti-biotic created the illness.

    No it means the trillions spent on saocial programs since 1964 have had no discernable effects on entrenched poverty. The same groups are mired in it, the same families are mired in it. You can point to many who have escaped that lifestyle as a vindication that it works sometimes, but that is no more credible than pointing to some people getting well after a Christian Science praying regimen.

    “The bottom twenty percent will always exist. It will always be populated by the imprudent, the wastrels, the short sighted, the foolish, the mentally ill and the unlucky. And of course, their offspring.”

    I partly agree, but what do you make of facts like this: that blacks have three times the poverty rate of whites? That there are 3 times as many imprudent wastrels and mentally ill black people? If the answer is what I think it is, a mix of discrimination, starting with disadvantage (being born into families with less wealth) and a subculture of poverty that more blacks are part of then the questions are, why is there more discrimination against blacks? why are more blacks a part of that subculture of poverty? why are more blacks born into poor families? And I think the answer is that oppressive government actions once made that subculture attractive and once established cultures are persistent, that government actions fostered the idea that blacks were inferior, and that government actions kept blacks from earning their full potential (all this is true for women too). So I think government is warranted in trying to make sure these conditions are ameliorated to some extent.

    The causes of black poverty are many. Racism, including government racism, initially and the culture of poverty more recently. The behaviors that ensure poverty are learned, not genetic. The racism excuse for poverty loses credibility when you look at other groups that have exited poverty and also been discriminated against. Add that to the large black middle class and growing black upper class and it seems that learned behavior in the ghetto is the predominate reason for the perpetuation of the black underclass.

    But I really don’t support anything much beyond what you mention, basic necessities, educational opportunities and opportunities to work (by which I mean anti-discrimination laws). That’s liberalism in a nutshell imo.

    I have bent on education, I think private organizations do a far better job at providing the necessities of life because they treat the whole problem, not just the symptoms. Government programs come to be viewed as an entitlement by both bureaucratic providers and impoverished recipients. I strongly believe this to be counterproductive. Anti-discrimination laws that apply to governmental agencies I support, even demand. Anti-discrimination laws that apply to consensual contracts between free adults I don’t. If you won’t let Jews in you country club, I won’t be joining either. The Montgomery bus boycott was after all, about a government law about seating on a government service. Some idiots will write off 10% of the market over bigotry, not all will fail in business. That is a cost of freedom of association.

    Lastly, if I ever meet the moron who decided on typing out blockquote instead of BQ for a blockquote tag, I’ll kick his ass.

  65. Holy smokes! That was a long comment!

  66. All libertarians must buy his latest book

    DRINK?

  67. CED proves his liberal creds thusly …or that we shouldn’t try another, maybe stronger dose

    That’s it, if we just do it again, with MORE money, and HARDER, and/or the RIGHT PEOPLE in charge, it will work this time.

    Now CED, suppose that you go to a doctor with a broken arm and he prescribes an anti-biotic and that doesn’t fix your broken arm. Would you ask him for another stronger dose, or would you consider getting another diagnosis?

  68. Open thread claim.
    So, how’s that War on Drugs Sanity coming along?

    From the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition –

    Mexico Detains Former Top Drug Cop

    Mexico’s former anti-drug czar has been detained in a widening corruption scandal that suggests a large percentage of top agents assigned to fight the drug trade here have instead been cooperating with cocaine cartels.

    President Felipe Calderón has been struggling against a rising tide of blood stemming from drug-cartel turf wars. More than 4,000 have been killed this year in the mayhem, which includes decapitations, torture and brazen daylight attacks on police. [italics added]

    You tell people till you’re blue in the face that drug prohibition invariably leads to police corruption and they agree with a “But, __________”

  69. and that government actions kept blacks from earning their full potential

    Okay, that sounds very reasonable for where Jim Crow ruled. But how does that explain the problems of northern urban blacks?

    An acquaintance of mine who grew up in Harlem thinks that ironically, desegregation is partially to blame. When the black community was segregated (de jure or de facto), it was economically integrated – there were middle and even upper income earners in the same neighborhoods. When blacks could move into formerly segregated areas, the upper and middle class did leaving only those at the bottom behind – and that is the culture that has been perpetuated there.

  70. So, how’s that War on Drugs Sanity coming along?

    Any American politician talking about a War on something has all the credibility of a Soviet apparatchik promoting the latest five-year plan.

  71. “When President Johnson announced his Great Society program in 1964, he promised substantial reductions in the number of Americans living in poverty. When he left office, he could legitimately argue that he had delivered on his promise. In 1960, 40 million Americans (20 percent of the population) were classified as poor. By 1969, their number had fallen to 24 million (12 percent of the population). Johnson also pledged to qualify the poor for new and better jobs, to extend health insurance to the poor and elderly to cover hospital and doctor costs, and to provide better housing for low-income families. Here, too, Johnson could say he had delivered. Infant mortality among the poor, which had barely declined between 1950 and 1965, fell by one-third in the decade after 1965 as a result of expanded federal medical and nutritional programs. Before 1965, 20 percent of the poor had never seen a doctor; by 1970, the figure had been cut to 8 percent. The proportion of families living in houses lacking indoor plumbing also declined steeply, from 20 percent in 1960 to 11 percent a decade later.

    Although critics argued that Johnson took a shotgun approach to reform and pushed poorly thought-out bills through Congress, supporters responded that at least Johnson tried to move toward a more compassionate society. During the 1960s, median black family income rose 53 percent; black employment in professional, technical, and clerical occupations doubled; and average black educational attainment increased by four years. The proportion of blacks below the poverty line fell from 55 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 1968. The black unemployment rate fell 34 percent. The country had taken major strides toward extending equality of opportunity to black Americans. In addition, the number of whites below the poverty line dropped dramatically, and such poverty-plagued regions as Appalachia made significant economic strides.”

  72. Take a gander at the poverty rate improvement since the Great Society (22% in 1959, 12% in 2006) and the black poverty rate especially (55% in 1959, 23% in 2006).

    Yeah, that’s some mighty big failure!

    http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/histpov/hstpov2.html

  73. If we get rid of poverty, then we can’t have race-baiting poverty pimps. I guess they could just be race-baiting pimps, but without poverty the races really wouldn’t have anything to complain about would they? The government industrial complex has a vested interest in an underclass. Without poor people what would hundreds of thousands of useless government hacks have to do all day? Actually work for a living? I’m not holding my breath.

  74. The other problem with taking the poverty out of race-baiting poverty pimps is that the phrase loses the zing of alliteration.

  75. Since this is an open thread, here is another reason to be glad we won the War of Independence. Yeah, the UK wants to ban happy hour. For the children.

    I was about to make a snarky comment about how how Canada – where the losers of the war of independence ended up – never had prohibition, while the winners of course did. But that would be not entirely correct (I had thought that since every third museum in Nova Scotia is dedicated to rum runners, there was no prohibition up there at all)

    Also, from the wiki:

    An official, but non-binding, federal referendum was held in 1898 on prohibition, receiving 51.3% for and 48.7% against prohibition on a voter turnout of 44%. Prohibition had a majority in all provinces except Quebec, where a strong 81.10% voted against it.

    score one for the quebe?ois

  76. CED,

    For all the vast majority of those statistics it could be reasonably argued that those improvements would have happened without the Great Society program.

    As for this…

    Although critics argued that Johnson took a shotgun approach to reform and pushed poorly thought-out bills through Congress, supporters responded that at least Johnson tried to move toward a more compassionate society.

    The intent of a law and a lawmaker are not what is important. It is the effect of a law which is of importance. And I think it is pretty clear that most of the Great Society programs were quite wasteful in their use of resources. That waste brings with it incredible costs, including costs to the people they were designed to help. The moral of that is that if you are going to be intervening in the economy, the private lives of individuals, etc., at least it thoughtfully.

  77. I think the improvement in black poverty statistics have more to do with the demise of Jim Crow in that period than the Great Society.

  78. supporters responded that at least Johnson tried to move toward a more compassionate society.

    So CED, you must’ve voted for Bush in 2000, what with his all his talk about compassionate conservatism.

  79. The demise of Jim Crow was a big part of the Great Society. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, etc.

  80. Yes juris because I am such a total fool that all someone has to do is mutter the word compassionate and I’m all sold.

    I mean, what more could liberals want?

    Are you hungover or something?

  81. Take a gander at the poverty rate improvement since the Great Society (22% in 1959, 12% in 2006) and the black poverty rate especially (55% in 1959, 23% in 2006).

    Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

    CED strikes again.

    a safety net and some measures that provide this roadmap out of poverty you speak of (educational opportunity, anti-discrimination laws) are warranted to combat these conditions

    Even though you’re still wrong about this, let’s assume for a minute that you are right. When do these programs end? What are the standards and when can they stop?

  82. black poverty rate especially (55% in 1959, 23% in 2006).

    Oh, how dishonest. you seem to be citing this percentage-difference as support for the Great Society, and yet:

    I will grant that from 1959 – 1970, the poverty rate among blacks went from 55% – 33%…which, as BDB said, could just as easily be attributed to the end of Jim Crow as opposed to active social programs (you have no proof either way)

    From 1970 – 1994, the rate never fell below 30%. But, looky here, the rate really started crashing (from 29% in 1994 to 22% today) right after 1996….hmm….what happened in 1996, CED?

    Of course, I’m not claiming false causality here like you are.

  83. When do these programs end?

    Oh, right about hier.

  84. In 1973, nearly 40 percent of adults over the age of twenty-five lacked a high school degree; by 2001, the figure was under 16 percent.

    This probably isn’t true; high school graduation rates are overstated because GEDs are sometimes counted as high school diplomas even though they’re useless in terms of future success. The real graduation rate is probably around 75%.

    http://www.nber.org/reporter/2008number1/heckman.html
    http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_baeo.htm

  85. How much of the decline in Black poverty is the result of growth in government employment and the disproportionate representation of Blacks therein ?

    I’d wager it is significant.Poverty aside I’d be curious to see what percentage of Black households with above median income include at least one government worker.

  86. asdfasfd (I fear to learn what that’s an acronym for!), you wrote:

    GEDs are sometimes counted as high school diplomas even though they’re useless in terms of future success.

    And from your link:

    A substantial body of scholarship summarized in our 2008 book 9 shows that the GED program does not benefit most participants, and that GEDs perform at the level of dropouts in the U.S. labor market. The GED program conceals major problems in American society.

    But I’ve been under the impression that a GED means the difference between getting vs not getting certain jobs. Even if GEDs are substantively as worthless as sexual-harassment-education programs are said to be (I’ve experienced neither), doesn’t employability count for something?

  87. Sorry, not acronym; abbreviation.

  88. And from wiki on GED:

    ACE revised the GED Tests for a third time in 1988. The most noticeable change to the series was the addition of a writing sample, or essay. The new tests placed more emphasis on socially relevant topics and problem-solving skills. For the first time, surveys of test-takers found that more students (65%) were taking the test to continue their education beyond high school than to get better employment (30%).

    I don’t know why this suddenly interests me; I guess it’s just the prospect of having any of my unexamined assumptions corrected.

  89. You just don’t like it because it is actually inherently tied to inequality and like Colbert doesn’t see race you don’t see inequality (or see it as a problem).

    I just don’t think these are problems requiring top-down, government-forced solutions.

    Do you see the difference? I’m more than glad to get out there and picket racist and homophobic businesses; here and elsewhere I’ve argued against the usurious institution of payday lending (on Objectivist principles, no less!), I just do not need government to enforce your personal brand of morality.

  90. CED, the Civil Rights Act came before the Great Society. It was talked about extensively since Kennedy was elected and as part of the ’64 Presidential Campaign, the Great Society was not.

    I guess it was part of it in the same way, say, the repeal of prohibition was “part” of the New Deal but it bears very little relation to the other programs.

  91. Come to think of it, of Obama really, really wants to be like FDR, why not start by repealing the prohibition of marijuana?

  92. (I fear to learn what that’s an acronym for!)

    I think it’s just Mr. jkl;’s first name. He also appears to have a stutter and a mild dyslexia.

  93. This probably isn’t true; high school graduation rates are overstated because GEDs are sometimes counted as high school diplomas even though they’re useless in terms of future success. The real graduation rate is probably around 75%.

    Speaking only of the military, a GED is the same thing as a diploma from a brick and mortar school. I’ve known LDOs who’s highest level of non-military schooling was a GED.

    Yeah, I could have passed a GED test at 14. I could read, write, do math, expound on history and science than many H.S. grads at that age as well. That speaks more of the low requirements for a high school diploma than anything else.

  94. J sub D,
    GEDs and high school diplomas are equally worthless.

  95. J sub D,
    “Yeah, I could have passed a GED test at 14. I could read, write, do math, expound on history and science than many H.S. grads at that age as well.”
    So much for the military intelligence stereotype. Then again, I thought it was mostly bullshit anyway, a holdover from conscript armies where the unintelligent made good cannon fodder.

  96. Kleagle,
    Why don’t you work on extracting your head from your anus criticizing anyone else?

  97. economist, maybe I’m taking you (and others) too literally here when you say that a HS diploma is worthless, since I (again only) assume it’s a requirement for admission to undergraduate schooling, which is again a requirement for graduate schooling in professional training, which in at least some instances is not valueless either as to currency or content.

    As to substantive rather than instrumental value, if it’s possible to be underqualified to graduate high school, and if qualifications such as literacy and numeracy are what make the cut, wouldn’t it be accurate to say only that it represents less value than it ought, or that it’s overvalued, or that its value is inflated, rather than that it’s valueless?

    I wouldn’t press the point if I didn’t expect to learn from an economist.

  98. Oh, and would you please expand your critique of Kleagle’s post? Maybe I’m missing some prior context or an agenda or something.

  99. None of my questions here are meant ironically, facetiously, or in another way disingenuously.

  100. Kleagle has a point. That blacks are overrepresented in the federal workforce vs. the private sector is anecdotally noticeable, but I had never looked at the numbers.

    Take a look at this 2005 federal employee demographics report (specifically page 40). Black women are wildly overrepresented, on the scale of >100%, in the federal workforce as compared to the private sector. Black men and “other minorities” are also overrepresented but not to the same degree, while Hispanics are under-represented.

    Thoughts?

  101. Black men and “other minorities” are also overrepresented but not to the same degree, while Hispanics are under-represented.

    Sounds like the Irish in the late nineteenth eary twentieth centuries.

  102. Thoughts?

    Ever notice the quickest way to get into trouble around here is to say something that’s clearly true?

  103. BDB-
    Several major Civil Rights Act were part of what is commonly called LBJ’s Great Society. I mean, he passed them chronologically right alonside most of the other programs.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_society

    I love it when people here call into question the gains made during the Great Society by attributing them to ending Jim Crow. WTF do they think ended Jim Crow? Markets? lol.

    TAO
    “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.”

    I posted that to specifically answer J sub D’s claim: “No it means the trillions spent on saocial programs since 1964 have had no discernable effects on entrenched poverty. The same groups are mired in it, the same families are mired in it.”

    And that’s not true. Since we’ve been spending those trillions poverty has been lowered quite a lot for a lot of folks. Maybe something else did it, but it certainly is hard to argue that all the spending made matters worse or had no effect. Shit, something did!
    “I will grant that from 1959 – 1970, the poverty rate among blacks went from 55% – 33%”

    I guess you will “grant” this just like I “grant” that I cannot in fact fly…

    “When do these programs end? What are the standards and when can they stop?”

    They don’t. And there is nothing wrong with that.

    I don’t think you’ve read or understood my answers above. It’s about ensuring that we always have opportunity for people to break out of current conditions created by the past, conditions they had nothing to do with:

    But I argue that a great deal of today’s inequality results from past oppressions and from the bad decisions of some people’s parents which give some people enormous advantages over others. We can’t right those specific wrongs and past bad decisions, but a safety net and some measures that provide this roadmap out of poverty you speak of (educational opportunity, anti-discrimination laws) are warranted to combat these conditions so that the ancestors of the harmed and the stupid need not pay the price over and over.”

  104. Now TAO, how about you answer some questions?

    Why is the black poverty rate three times the white poverty rate? Does this have nothing to do with current conditions, such as greater discrimination, less average wealth to begin with, cultures of poverty, etc that have their origins in explicit governmental injustices of the past?

    Now, since the answers to those questions which you’ve been dodging like Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball are obvious, I again ask you, how is it just to then ask the ancestors of the harm who are currently still harmed by conditions created by those past harms to just “overcome” it? Imagine what you are saying in saying such a thing, that it is on black folks to,through Herculean efforts, overcome the very racism among the population that is a direct result of the discrimination inflicted upon their ancestors by white governments in the not too distant past. In other words, the victims and their issue must be the ones to remedy the conditions imposed on them through wrongdoing.

    Incredible!

  105. Man, my bad about all that oppression. But hey, no more of that. I realize that now my people have more money, power, influence and social capital, but hey, you can’t ask us to help you out since that would, you know, be a violation of property rights (yeah, we realize we never gave a shit about your property rights all those years, but now that our kids are set with all that property we gained from oppressing you we realize how important all that shit is).

    And yeah, we realize we fostered and encouraged the idea you were inferior and all that, and we realize that is going to make it way tougher for you and your kids to get jobs from us and our kids (who, yeah, have all the capital to start businesses and all, see supra), but we really can’t pass anything like an anti-discrimination law because you know, freedom of association of an employer to choose their employees on whatever whim floats into their head is really sacred.

    Now good luck in changing our kids minds on the whole inferior thing!

  106. The significantly lower net worth of higher than median income earning African-Americans compared to the same or lower earning households of other races/ethnicities is cultural.I don’t think that can be blamed on past or ongoing discrimination.
    There is even an old racially derogatory expression for that kind of reckless financial behavior. It rhymes with “rigger niche”.

  107. It’s cultural. But why do blacks more than whites subscribe to this culture? Was black culture not shaped in any way by past or ongoing discrimination?

    I mean, given that whether a slave or sharecropper under Jim Crow tried to work hard, save, get an education, (if they were allowed to do that) etc., they were still going to be denied many basic rights and rewards of such behaviors, you don’t think that would erode those values in that community?

  108. IIRC,Thomas Sowell blames some of the “cultural failings” of many African-Americans on cultural transmission from poor Whites of a particular regional English population of violent spendthrifts.

  109. “It’s cultural. But why do blacks more than whites subscribe to this culture? Was black culture not shaped in any way by past or ongoing discrimination?”

    Is this behavior unique to blacks in the US? If not, then clearly the influence of discrimination is not the determining factor.

  110. I don’t think racial oppression is to blame for the acceptance of out-of-wedlock births and the denigration of academic achievement among African-American peer groups. The former is facillitated by feminism and social welfare policy however.

  111. who is the “we” in your 7:52 post above, CED?

    Your whole 7:52 post lays blame at the feet of people who have nothing for which to be blamed.

    we realize we fostered and encouraged the idea you were inferior and all that

    I never did this. Neither did my parents, neither did you and neither did your parents. And yet…you want to lump me in to that category.

    I won’t let you. IOW, speak for yourself, cracker.

    Why is the black poverty rate three times the white poverty rate?

    I am sure that it’s because of past policies. Which are policies I did not and do not support…ergo, I should pay for them! Woo-hoo!

    Thanks, again, for proving you resort to collectivism in all of your arguments. This “we” stuff needs to go

  112. CED aka MNG,
    At somne point in time a people need to take responsibilty for their own decisions. Here’s why.

    The blacks whose behaviors that lead to a life of poverty living in the ghetto (a minority of black Americans) are not to blame because of their ancestors treatment by slaveholding, Jim Crow enacting, bigoted Americans.

    Slaveholding, Jim Crow enacting, bigoted Americans are not to blamed because of their ancestors mistreatment by the residents of the northern states.

    The northern state’s citizens are not to be blamed due to their ancestors mistreatment by the British.

    The British get a free pass because of their documented oppression by the Romans.

    The Romans are equally blameless because this is a result of their oppression by the Greek city-states that ruled the Mediterranean prior to the establishment of the Roman Republic.

    The Greeks are given a pass because of the oppression they suffered at the hands of the Persiam Empire.

    The Persian Empire behaved the way it did due the the previous machinations of Mesopotamia.

    The Mesopotamians are not really responsible for their behavior due the oppression of the Sumerians who preceded them in the Tigris Euphrates watershed.

    Since the Sumerians possess the oldest written records, we don’t know who is at fault for their fuckups.

    As far back as I can trace it, entrenched poverty in African American ghettos is the responsibility of the Sumerians. Future archeological discoveries may allow us to push the blame back further.

  113. Does this have nothing to do with current conditions, such as greater discrimination, less average wealth to begin with, cultures of poverty, etc that have their origins in explicit governmental injustices of the past?

    Yes, I am sure it does.

    I again ask you, how is it just to then ask the ancestors of the harm who are currently still harmed by conditions created by those past harms to just “overcome” it?

    It makes no difference to me whether they overcome it or they do not. I just ask that you not make me pay for the mistakes and oppression of others; oppression I did not foster nor endorse and am consequently not responsible for.

    Let me ask you the other side of your question:

    “Do you expect ancestors to be responsible for anything their predecessors did? If so, why?”

  114. MNG, I want you start paying extra taxes to the South. Everybody knows if our Northern Ancestors had no devastated the South, it would be equal with the North is advancements today. You’re responsible!

    When do these programs end, you say?

    They don’t. And there is nothing wrong with that.

  115. J sub, your post is traveling round the world, thank you.

  116. CED,

    …we…

    Your we argument is a very weak one. At best, the notion of multi-intergenerational group responsibility is at best a morally bankrupt idea, and I’d say – putting on my Hayekian hat – that it is often quite corrosive to societal cohesion, as is the case whenever the government is picking winners and losers, or rather, pitting groups of a population against one another.

    Since we’ve been spending those trillions poverty has been lowered quite a lot for a lot of folks. Maybe something else did it, but it certainly is hard to argue that all the spending made matters worse or had no effect.

    Actually, it is easy to argue that it made matters worse or rather retarded what progress would have happened if those programs hadn’t been undertaken. Why is that? Because government spending, government intervention, etc. often lead to effects which are directly adverse to what was expected.

  117. “entrenched poverty in African American ghettos is the responsibility of the Sumerians”

    Let’s find those goddamn sumerian pigs and make them pay their fair share!

  118. economist, are you proposing (*gasp!*) Sumery justice?

  119. anarch,
    I’m just trying to find a way to link the Sumerians to teh jewes.

  120. Since Abraham’s father, Terah, was Sumerian, that shouldn’t be difficult.

  121. “I am sure that it’s because of past policies. Which are policies I did not and do not support…ergo, I should pay for them! Woo-hoo!”

    Yes, but you now have an advantage over them and they have a disadvantage because of these past policies. Who then should pay for this burden? Because someone is going to pay, either blacks through being discriminated against, struggling with less wealth and less social capital or whites like you and me will “pay” via having our associational freedom to discriminate in hiring impaired and some portion of our taxes go to take some of the sting from the harmful conditions.

    This is why white libertarians and conservatives are viewed with such suspicion by the black community: in a choice as to who has to shoulder any burden to overcome the harms done to black people in the past, either the black people themselves or the white people who have benefited from the harms (though perhaps they nor their ancestors encouraged them [but note how EVERYONE says their ancestors did not, sure, sure]) you guys say “the blacks.” It’s the ones who have the disadvantage placed upon them that must overcome it, not the ones who got the advantage.

    And that is because you are so “just” and others are just evil collectivists.

    OK.

    Of course I’m going one better here. Even if person x is poor just because he made stupid lazy choices his kid y should have a safety net there to take the sting out of his dad’s dumb choices. Basic things like welfare, schools, college loans, etc.

  122. When do Jews get reparations from their ancient Egyptian owners?

  123. Even if person x is poor just because he made stupid lazy choices his kid y should have a safety net there to take the sting out of his dad’s dumb choices.

    At your expense? For choices you are not responsible for?

    either the black people themselves or the white people who have benefited from the harms

    You cannot demonstrate which white people benefited. That’s the problem. You’re willing to penalize people based on their skin color.

  124. J sub D

    I think you have little understanding about how profound an effect on a ethnic culture can occur because that ethnic group was enslaved.

    Many blacks had to frigging pick LAST NAMES when they were freed. Their parents had no schooling and their parents had no schooling, because they were kept from it. Jim Crow exacerbated this. So you have generations of families with no value on education, or saving, or monogamy.

    Since we know that familial values are the biggest predictor a kids educational success (see James Colemans work) and that a kids educational attainment is connected to their adult success, then indeed the conditions created by people with our skin color has led to conditions that harm a great deal of people with black skin.

    So it’s wrong now to ask people like us to help out through the minimal means of having their right to discriminate in hiring and such limited and some of our earnings taken to ameliorate the hardships in this community?

  125. “At your expense? For choices you are not responsible for?”

    Sure, at the expense of the folks whose dads made smart decisions. Who else would pay for it? The one’s who made bad decisions don’t have the money to.

    But since you ask why should the kid pay for it anymore than you?

    Remember, I’m not talking equalization but basic measures to make sure kid has a chance to get past his dad’s dumb decisions.

  126. CED ignores the claims of Jews. I shall invoice his grandkids.

  127. “When do Jews get reparations from their ancient Egyptian owners?”

    You’re missing the point. I’m not talking about specific reparations. I’m talking about ensuring some measure of opportunity NOW for those harmed either by past wrongs or even the bad decisions of their ancestors.

    I don’t think either group should be “responsible” for that any more than those who are in a position to help, especially for the former group!

    “You cannot demonstrate which white people benefited.”

    To some degree every white person benefited. A white kid in 1800 had a possibility of voting, holding property, being elected to office, attending university, etc., in a way that pretty much every black kid did not.

    But get this, if I’m correct then at worst I’m saying that some white people who indeed have not benefited in any way from the racial imbalances created and existing now would indeed have to suffer: having their ability to discriminate against blacks curtailed!

    And that’s a mighty small price to pay to get what we would be paying for: ameliorating the disadvantages blacks face because of the past injustices of our government.

  128. The President gives a speech. Your wife watches it and it makes her so mad that she is curt with you. It causes a fight. That makes you so mad you get in your car and drive down the road at 100 mph. You hit someone and injure them and they sue you.

    In some sense the President is the cause of the injury, but I bet you’d be held to be the proximate cause and legally liable. In the same way J sub D it was only two generations ago that people with our skin color were actively voting for folks who were directly oppressing people with darker skin. So I kind of think your example is silly.

  129. To some degree every white person benefited.

    If you’re going to put that way, to some degree every black person alive today benefited too. It’s not like you’re seeing a mass exodus of black people out of the country.

  130. CED,

    Yes, but you now have an advantage over them and they have a disadvantage because of these past policies. Who then should pay for this burden? Because someone is going to pay, either blacks through being discriminated against, struggling with less wealth and less social capital or whites like you and me will “pay” via having our associational freedom to discriminate in hiring impaired and some portion of our taxes go to take some of the sting from the harmful conditions.

    Dude, you do realize you are bordering on mercantilist thinking here, right? As if there was some unchanging economic pie that some segment of society is always going to take a larger portion of than the rest. Get out of the 16th century.

    This is why white libertarians and conservatives are viewed with such suspicion by the black community…

    But presumably not black libertarians and conservatives?

    I’m curious – how long do these programs have to stay in place until whatever past wrongs have been righted? A hundred more years? A thousand?

    …in a choice as to who has to shoulder any burden to overcome the harms done to black people in the past, either the black people themselves or the white people who have benefited from the harms (though perhaps they nor their ancestors encouraged them [but note how EVERYONE says their ancestors did not, sure, sure]) you guys say “the blacks.” It’s the ones who have the disadvantage placed upon them that must overcome it, not the ones who got the advantage.

    At this point I’d say that it is quite hard for you to prove that past harms are any sort of significant factor in today’s outcomes. The current government harms – such as the drug war – are of course a factor, and they should be the focus of any efforts to deal with the issues at hand. Of course that isn’t going to happen.

  131. Your grandad had just won the lottery and was walking home when my grandad jumped out from behind a bush and killed him. He took the money home and bought tutors for my dad. He paid for a Harvard Business School education for him. He used the skills he got there and the money left to him to make investments and get loans that would have been near impossible without both, and the result was by the time I was born my parents had millions of dollars.

    When your grandad did not come home your grandma had to go work at the mill for two shifts to make ends meet. She had no time to interact and nurture your dad, no time to read and become culturally proficient. They had to live in a bad neighborhood and he got caught up in some stuff that resulted in him being expelled from school (where you doing poorly anyway) and arrested, jailed when you were born. You never saw your dad, and your mom was of course the kind of woman that would be attracted to an uneducated felon and let’s just say you didn’t get much material or cultural supports.

    Now a law preventing me from discriminating against “your kind” would be wrong? And a law asking me to give up, say, 2% of my income to support schooling and college loans for you (if you applied and qualified) would be wrong?’

    Man, that’s messed up dudes!

  132. Now a law preventing me from discriminating against “your kind” would be wrong? And a law asking me to give up, say, 2% of my income to support schooling and college loans for you (if you applied and qualified) would be wrong?’

    I take it you favor repealing the statute of limitations for all crimes then?

  133. CED:

    1. You’re proposing penalizing ancestors of people who did not, in fact, jump out and slaughter lottery winners. You are actually proposing penalizing people who happen to have the same skin color as the grandfather who murdered somebody.

    2. Setting all that aside, why SHOULD (this is a morality and justice argument here) I pay for something my grandfather did? Did I do it? Or is it because I just happened to be born in that family line?

    And, again, the fact that you don’t want these programs to ever end means that you really don’t buy into proximate cause, because the point of proximate cause is to LIMIT, not confer, liability to a certain point because it becomes manifestly unjust to do so.

    Let me ask you this: Should Ms. O’ Leary (of the Chicago Fire Fame) have been on the hook for the damages to the entire City of Chicago? Why or why not?

  134. CED,
    The Britons were fucking Christianized! Lost their names, freedom, religion and property. Y’know what? This has only been happening to innocent people since, oh I don’t know, before recorded history began?

    It sucks. It’s immoral. A people (homogenous culture) is harmed for generations. All of that is a given. But, this is important, a past of victimhood can be claimed by every single culture on the planet. That fact relieves nobody from the responsibilty of conducting their own life.

    Yeah, blacks got screwed in America, big time. Yes, it advesely affects inner city blacks particularly. None of those facts removes responsibility from those who make poor decisions in life. It may help explain why those decisions are being made, but it does not move the responsibilty from those making the decisions.

    Some will argue, somewhat convincingly, that the present government is most responsible for entrenched, generational poverty. The War on Drugs Minorities coupled with the perverse incentives of the welfare system create a huge roadbloick to forming stable families in our most distressed neighborhoods.

    Somewhat related, does anybody on Earth have a better excuse to be a poor and dysfunctional society than the people of Korea?

    South Korea – GDP (PPP) – Per Capita: $24,200 (34th)

  135. blank,

    What is particularly bizarre is for someone to focus their entire energy on what is at best an indirect method of ameliorating these past wrongs – multi-intergenerational guilt made into money transfers. There are about a dozen far less intrusive, far more direct ways to handle whatever problems of equality exist – end the drug war, get rid of the vast majority of licensing requirements, etc.

  136. Yet again, I get drawn into an argument with MNG, and yet again, he demonstrates why trying to change his mind is a fool’s errand.

    Seward, “blank”, J sub D and others have put up winning arguments and yet…MNG wants to punish freedom of association based on skin color…because *some* white people at *some* point in history were nasty bastards to *some* black people…so everyone pays!

    “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

  137. Anyway, I guess if any of us is hispanic, of asian descent, Native American, etc. we’re off the hook. Oh, what about folks of “mixed” heritage? Say they are 1/3rd “white” and 2/3rds Pacific Islander, do they only have to pay 1/3rd?

  138. And is the level of payment reduced if the individual hails from a subgroup of “whites” who were themselves oppressed? Say the Irish?

  139. You’re missing the point. I’m not talking about specific reparations. I’m talking about ensuring some measure of opportunity NOW for those harmed either by past wrongs or even the bad decisions of their ancestors.

    For one thing, there is no baseline against which to suggest that a child has been harmed by past wrongs or the bad decisions of their ancestors. It is a null comparison that means only what one wants it to mean. By the standards you’re presenting here there is no way to judge whether such “opportunity providing” measures even would work because if someone doesn’t take advantage of such opportunities you can claim that it’s just further justification of these measures and even if they do do so and succeed one can still claim that they are “bearing costs” or “harmed” because there’s no telling what they might have achieved had those things never happened. And for another even if someone’s ancestors made “good” decisions one cannot prove that they were not harmed because one can still imagine an even better set of circumstances to be born with.

    It’s a big pile of meaninglessness.

    To some degree every white person benefited. A white kid in 1800 had a possibility of voting, holding property, being elected to office, attending university, etc., in a way that pretty much every black kid did not.

    So, not being harmed is the same as benefitting because someone else harmed someone else. Of course, in a way every white person in the US was also harmed by slavery to some degree, for without slavery things would indubitably have been more peaceful, more sane, and richer/more productive–showing again that it’s all a big pile of meaninglessness.

    But get this, if I’m correct then at worst I’m saying that some white people who indeed have not benefited in any way from the racial imbalances created and existing now would indeed have to suffer: having their ability to discriminate against blacks curtailed!

    A “small price”, you say. Certainly, if one does not resist. But a lack of discrimination can never be proven, so it must naturally move towards some sort of quota system. And if someone does not wish to comply? Court orders, fines. And if they don’t comply with those? The police come to take you to jail. And if you don’t comply with the police? You get killed, or knocked unconscious and are made a slave of the state in the prison (hotbeds of rape, by the by). Hence a simple, if irrational and ugly, desire to exercise one’s freedom of association is met with violence, slavery, and possibly rape as well.

    So by following CED’s plan to ameliorate fundamentally unprovable harm (and benefit) to people with no baseline for comparison by people who are all long dead, we wind up with an entrenched bureaucracy with no incentive to end the problem it’s set out to ameliorate (and know way to tell if it’s doing that) and every incentive to keep vast reams of money moving through the system that they can tap, and a philosophy that tells people that any discrepancy between what they think they could be and what they are is an injustice that the whole world has an obligation to remedy.

    Bad philosophy leads to bad worlds, and this just has “intergenerational clusterfrak” written all over it. How’s about we say no to the violence of the state, accept the fact that we can’t right all that is wrong with the cosmos, and try to make a society where these things don’t happen to begin with.

  140. Setting all that aside, why SHOULD (this is a morality and justice argument here) I pay for something my grandfather did? Did I do it? Or is it because I just happened to be born in that family line?

    Oddly enough, there is a constitutional provision somewhat related to this – treason being applied as a “corruption of blood”. I guess if you’re a strict constructionist or literalist you would only see that as strictly applicable to treason. Wonder how it fares with the living constitution crowd?

  141. “Setting all that aside, why SHOULD (this is a morality and justice argument here) I pay for something my grandfather did?”

    Why should anyone? Like the kid who is born into the poor grandfather’s family? Or worse, why should the grandson of the one harmed have to pay more than the grandson of the harmer? What kind of moral miscreant are you to think that would be just?

    TAO, you’re still misunderstanding the basic point, you’re not paying for the murder your grandfather did (if so you’d be locked up not forced not to discriminate and pay taxes), but your “right” to the ill gotten gains he got through the murder are questionable.

    I’m also not sold that there is a “right” to discriminate in employment and such (TAO’s “freedom of association based on skin color”, what a nice euphemism!). But even if there is I argue: who should bear the burden of amerliorating the obviously still present effects of government discrimination against blacks, the ancestors of those harmed or the ancesters of those benefited? Note I’m not proposing affirmative action to help those harmed or “punish” anyone, I’m proposing that the very racism created by the harms and still existing be blunted by limiting the “freedom to discriminate.” And btw, I’m not advocating that only whites be so limited, anti-discrimination laws protect every color from discrimination.

    You guys seem to think that because someone has something he therefore has a right to it or deserves it. I think that’s dubious to begin with.

    “The Britons were fucking Christianized!”

    Yeah, but the average Anglo-Saxon ancestor is not suffering from disporportionate deficets in wealth vis a vis the average Italian. I’m not saying all past wrongs need righting, only the PRESENT CONDITIONS of past wrongs, especially ones that can be addressed by measures that involve morally questionable “rights” like the right to discriminate to begin with. And the effects of white on black racial discrimination are obviously still with us while the Roman on Briton ones are not. So stop being silly.

    Nasikabatrachus
    You’re missing the point too. Inequality is inevitable because there will be winners and losers in competition. That’s a good thing overall. What’s not a good thing is that people’s kids get mired in the losing of their parents. It’s not fair to the kid, it’s not good for society (many talents may be buried under the bad conditions a kid is born into). So yes the opportunity-providing structure will be around as long as inequality is. It’s there to blunt an inevitable mechanism. The race stuff in America just gives it that more (and how) moral weight (because the kid now is not just the victim of his father’s bade decisions, but his father’s victimization) and means the anti-discrimination laws are morally weightier than the “opportunity providing” structures, but I think both sell either way.

  142. “Why should anyone? Like the kid who is born into the poor grandfather’s family? Or worse, why should the grandson of the one harmed have to pay more than the grandson of the harmer? What kind of moral miscreant are you to think that would be just?”

    Because that is what you guys are proposing, have no doubt about it. Without amelioration it will be the black kid born into conditions traceable to dicrimination who will have the onus on them to overcome it all. That’s what you are calling for. TAO is bitching about me wanting to visit the sins of the oppressor grandfather on the grandson but he incredibly calls for the sins of the grandfather’s oppressor to fall on the grandson!

  143. CED, do you know the difference between actively interfering with force and not actively interfering with force? I am starting to suspect you do not.

    I do not want “the sins of the grandfather’s oppressor to fall on the grandson”. I will do what I can to help alleviate some of that condition. So, no, I am not calling for anything, other than calling on government not to interfere.

    On the other hand, I won’t cry and stomp my feet and demand government ‘do something’ because “life’s not fair.”

    Without amelioration it will be the black kid born into conditions traceable to dicrimination who will have the onus on them to overcome it all.

    I do not particularly care (as a matter of government policy, that is) whether a child (regardless of race) overcomes his tough circumstances. What I do care about is NOT PUNISHING those who are NOT RESPONSIBLE for that situation.

  144. Oddly enough, there is a constitutional provision somewhat related to this – treason being applied as a “corruption of blood”. I guess if you’re a strict constructionist or literalist you would only see that as strictly applicable to treason. Wonder how it fares with the living constitution crowd?

    Actually I think the consitutional provision in Article 2 limits the concept of corruption of blood.

  145. I think the basic point of the article is right on – we should be looking at consumption, not income, for a variety of reasons, and consumption should include state-subsidized consumption as well, including housing, food, and medical care subsidies.

    Your standard of living isn’t determined by how much earn, but by how much you consume. That seems to me to be axiomatic. Right now, due to a desire to retire early and to not get beat up by the recession, my household is consuming quite a bit less than our income. Our standard of living is probably equivalent to somebody who makes about 2/3 of what we make, but spends it all.

  146. What’s not a good thing is that people’s kids get mired in the losing of their parents.

    Sadly, this falls into the “life’s not fair” bucket. Kids who are mired in the losing of their parents in the US of A are so mired mainly because of the attitudes and culture they have absorbed. We, as a society, simply cannot change this, no matter how many wealth transfers and social programs we create.

  147. Eberstadt goes on to show data indicating that expenditures by those under the poverty line are a more accurate measure of their actual deprivation than their reported income

    Correct me if Im wrong, but doesn’t this necessarily imply that this spending is funded by debt and hence therefore merely a temporary illusion of prosperity that will crumble when the credit runs dry?

  148. libarbarian,
    Or maybe they under-report income to qualify for benefits.

  149. CED,

    You are dead wrong when you say that I came into this world more advantaged because of my skin color. My great-grandparents were Swedish immigrants, came over dirt poor and earned their own money, never owned a slave, never got free welfare because they were white, didn’t have anything handed to them. They started on the same playing field that the average african-american does today.

    And what about the asian-americans? Are you even aware that asian households have a higher income than whites? (Link)

    Did they get that way through systematic oppression? Did asians have some sort of huge advantage over the other races? No, they were discriminated against as well (chinese rail workers, japanese internment camps, etc). But they have a strong work ethic and don’t live off the government teat.

  150. doesn’t this necessarily imply that this spending is funded by debt

    Don’t see how, if their net worth is also increasing.

  151. Much of it is political in that no administration (Democrat or Republican) wants the ‘official’ poverty rate to go up, they really like it to go down and so that tends to govern the numbers.

    Poverty is probably a major reason why I am not a Libertarian (although I strong support in lenient ballot/debate access).

    I do not think that government is always the solution, but I think it has an important role to play.

    I think that when liberals get into the ‘only blame society’ or conservatives get into the ‘only blame individual’ mode, policy ends up being what people think is best, not what actually works.

    I would agree with conservatives that raising kids in stable families is key, but do not feel that must always been a 1950s Ozzie and Harriet family.

  152. “”life’s not fair””

    My favorite libertarian line! Just remember that when you are taxed, don’t complain, life ain’t fair! Oh, you mean it’s not right? Well no shit Sherlock, this is what most people mean when they talk about fairness.

    “On the other hand, I won’t cry and stomp my feet and demand government ‘do something’ because “life’s not fair.”‘

    Again. Well of course you won’t, you are one of the folks who has gotten the ill gotten gains of the past wrongs and don’t care about righting the current conditions of such wrongs. Government does wrong, stacks the deck, and then the beneficiaries, cry “OK, no cheating from now on!” Well of course! Not redressing the current effects of past wrongs is to do something too though, and the result of doing that is to visit the sins of the current kids grandfather’s oppressor on that kid.

    “They started on the same playing field that the average african-american does today.”

    Yes, because there is that well documented racism aimed at Swedes in America today. And Swedes were enslaved for hundreds of years as we well know…

  153. Yes, because there is that well documented racism aimed at Swedes in America today.

    I come from Irish stock. You care to assert that the Irish were NOT discriminated against, harshly, for many years? How about the Chinese – you should read the early California state constitution and statutes. Blacks actually did have more rights in the state.

    I have ancestry that died ending slavery, do I get a pass for that?

    You should just drop the CE part of the name and go by the D portion.

  154. you are one of the folks who has gotten the ill gotten gains of the past wrongs

    Prove it.

    Government does wrong, stacks the deck

    How is that my fault?

  155. “Yes, because there is that well documented racism aimed at Swedes in America today. And Swedes were enslaved for hundreds of years as we well know…”

    The average african-american today does not face racism that is powerful enough to stop their efforts. Case in point: Barack Obama. I’m still waiting for a Swedish president though. Also the average african-american was not enslaved and possibly not even a descendant of a slave.

    Also, african-americans start out learning English..with educational opportunities of some sort.

    Not to mention vast welfare programs for the poor that insure basic health and food services.

    None of this being available to my swedish grandparents.

    You can find hardships all around in the past. I’d say it’s better to look at the present and the future. As long as there is a fairly even playing field for OPPORTUNITY (there is) I don’t see a need for Big Daddy Government to take control. Sure, some people start out with an advantage. It doesn’t hurt my feelings that I don’t have rich parents/grandparents/etc.

    Oh and you fail to explain to me how asian-americans make more than me if I’m so privileged. Good luck with that one.

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