Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 6, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

PARADIGMS OF POVERTY....Mike Tomasky's working class cred aside, I was amused by this paragraph from George Will's column today. He is contrasting the "old" paradigm of poverty that the poor need housing, transportation, training, etc. to the new paradigm:

The new paradigm is of behavior-driven poverty that results from individuals' nonmaterial deficits. It results from a scarcity of certain habits and mores punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, etc. that are not developed in disorganized homes.

In other words, the poor are poor because they're lazy, dirty, weak, and come from bad stock. Is Will seriously trying to pretend that this is a new view of the poor?

Kevin Drum 1:46 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (167)

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Comments

He's certainly correct that the concept is back in vogue -- it is, afterall, the underlying philosophy for the welfare reforms of the 1990s.

Posted by: PA on March 6, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Good catch Kevin. Will is a better target than Jonah Lucianne, as George tries so hard to wrap his idiocy in pseudo-intellectual arguments which seem to attract some people, even liberals.

Posted by: lib on March 6, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

People are poor because they are lazy and have sex. Unlike me and Al!

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on March 6, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

i think it's called social darwinism. the poor are poor because they deserve to be.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on March 6, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

This is an old view of the poor -- it held sway in 1920s America, until the advent of the New Deal.

Posted by: Marc on March 6, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Even before that. This is like 1890s and William Graham Sumner all over again.

Posted by: brett on March 6, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

George F Will declares war on the poor class and attacks.

Liberals point out that Will is engaging in class warfare.

Conservatives will mendaciously claim that it is the liberal critics who are engaging in class warfare.

Conservatives SOP: blame the victim first; blame the messenger second; rationalize the lack of responsibility of those conservatives whose policies actually created the victims or increased their level of pain and suffering through deliberate neglect, indifference, denial of aid, or imposition of additional harm.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 6, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

My middle class parents (two public school teachers) had one kid move up, one kid move way up, and one kid move down. It pretty much came out according to the soft stuff Will is talking about it.

Look, I'm as liberal as the next guy around here, but there are some folks that are just screwups. I think we ought to have a safety net for everybody, because we're talking about my brother here.

My parents did everything they could. I just figure some folks aren't wired to make good decisions all the time. We ought to be able to have a system where they aren't totally f***ed. You'd think that right-wingers who believe in predestination and genetic inevitability and whatnot would be more sympathetic to those who draw the short straw.

Posted by: Jermaine D. on March 6, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, but there's a difference. When described as "lazy, dirty, weak, and come from bad stock," the poor ahve characteristics that are inborn and inalterable. The best we can do is put them in workhouses, deprive them until they work, or alternatively, pity their weakness; ultimately, there is nothing we can do about it. It is the class-based mindset of 19th century Britain.

To describe the poor as having "certain habits and mores," by contrast, implies that we can train them, or instill those habits and mores into them. Being poor is not so much what they are as how we choose to educate them. This is actually a classless perspective, a testiment to the success of liberlaism. Really, we won that part of the debate. The serious question, and the one I don't think conservatives (and adherents of certain strands of deterministic economic liberalism) take seriously enough, is how to successfully instill those habits that aid in economic independence, both through childhood and adulthood.

Posted by: Monstertron on March 6, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Right up there with "A rising tide lifts all boats" must be "The poor will always be with us."

Will, Wm Bennett, and Robt Samuelson make a good trio of swells, looking down their noses at the poor folks.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on March 6, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

I guess any of the old fashioned "ism's"(racism, sexism, and classism)as well as ethnic prejudices are ok if you are a Conservative Republican who uses big words.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 6, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

It is circular logic worthy of the Bush administration: if the poor were deserving, then they wouldn't be poor.

Only a simpleton would equate richness with morals. If that were true, then Paris Hilton, Jay-Lo, Puffy, 50-cent, etc. are on their way to beatified sainthood.

Posted by: Jon Karak on March 6, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

The new paradigm is of behavior-driven poverty that results from individuals' nonmaterial deficits. It results from a scarcity of certain habits and mores punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, etc. that are not developed in disorganized homes.

It's the Intelligent Designer's garbage bin!

Posted by: ogmb on March 6, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

yes, but what do the moderate christians think of the poor?

Posted by: Roxanne on March 6, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

The new paradigm is of behavior-driven poverty that results from individuals' nonmaterial deficits. It results from a scarcity of certain habits and mores punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, etc. that are not developed in disorganized homes.

First Will shows us he's never actually read Aristotle (though he may refer to him on occasion). Now we see he's never read Dickens.

Did he get his degree from one of those diploma mills? Has he written a book length anything on something besides baseball?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on March 6, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

The book that really captures these two takes on poverty throughout American history is James Morone's _Hellfire Nation_. I especially liked the connections he pointed out between blaming the poor for their poverty and racism.

Posted by: Ted on March 6, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Will wrote "And Democrats know that Gore might now be in his second term if he had carried his home state."

Correction. Democrats know that Bush would be an irrelevant also-ran if the Supremes had simply allowed every Nov. 2000 ballot in Florida to be counted.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on March 6, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

i think it's called social darwinism. the poor are poor because they deserve to be.

With all due respect, mudwall: Social Darwinism? Try Calvinism...

Posted by: Gregory on March 6, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

In order to bring at least some southern evangelicals within the fold, we should concede that although the poor may not be poor due to their own fault, their poverty can definitely be ascribed to the disorganization of their families.
Amy Sullivan.

Posted by: lib on March 6, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'll bet George Will's ex-household really became disorganized when he left his wife to care for their mentally retarded son, when he ran off with another woman.

The pompous, bow-tied buffoon is an immoral creep and is hardly in a position to sit in judgment of those less fortunate than himself.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 6, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

The important thing is label people before we round them up. That, and a bow tie, makes everything okay.

Posted by: Kenji on March 6, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Anything that anyone who uses the trite word "paradigm" says should be ignored, as obviously they are incapable of original thought.

Posted by: Chris Brown on March 6, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm . . . Kevin, your "other words" don't track Will's words well. He's basically saying the obvious, which is that if you smell like a sewer, repeatedly don't show up to work on time, don't actually do any work when you're clocked in, &c., people will be reluctant to hire you. That is, as you say, all old news, though the "housing/transportation/training" mantra did in fact hold sway for a long time, and does still in some quarters.

But you lose me with the "bad stock" bit. The insinuated coding in that statement is that the poor are somehow genetically deficient. Will does not believe that. It wasn't he who favored the slow starvation of insufficently-intelligent infants in need of reasonably simple surgery so that they could ingest food. I suppose the Infant Doe case was possibly the only time the Left in general had second thoughts about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Surely it can't mean that we have to supply life-saving surgery to infants without regard to whether they have Down Syndrome or not. That would be so . . . cruel. To the parents.

Posted by: waterfowl on March 6, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, the poor are poor because they're lazy, dirty, weak, and come from bad stock. Is Will seriously trying to pretend that this is a new view of the poor? Kevin Drum

Well, that is true of some people who are poor. Or are you going to tell us that we are all equally endowed by our creator or some such nonsense, and that some poor people are singled out by the non-poor for special treatment?

Posted by: Jeff II on March 6, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum is an expert on why poor people are poor.

Drum plays tennis with other rich white people. After an exciting tennis match with a fellow white guy, Drum and his opponent go to the clubhouse and talk about how poor people just need federal housing and government daycare. If there were just more government programs, then poor people could join the tennis club like Kevin Drum.

Posted by: Monkey See on March 6, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory,

The label Social Darwinism perfectly captures Will's execrable statements.

"The simpler aspects of Social Darwinism include the fact that... the poor should have to provide for themselves and not be given any aid... thus giving the poor a better chance to provide for themselves and distiguishing those who are capable of succeeding from those who are poor out of laziness, weakness, or inferiority."

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

Posted by: Sean on March 6, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post, Kevin.

Posted by: Walter Crockett on March 6, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

George Will wrote "But no one knows how to stop it. Anyway, spending at least $6.6 trillion on poverty-related programs in the four decades since President Johnson declared the 'war on poverty' is not 'nothing.' In fact, it has purchased a new paradigm of poverty."

Poor people go to inferior schools, live in inferior housing, have to contend with more crime and pollution, and have to spend more time getting to work on public transit because they can't afford to maintain private cars. Because they have urgent need for money, it is harder for them to make investments in themselves by going to college. But Mr. Will thinks that the poor are responsible for the poverty they were born into.

6.6 trillion divided by 41 year is $161 billion per year. Will doesn't say what's included in this calculation. TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) is welfare, but federal spending on TANF is under $20 billion. Add in Food Stamps and Head Start and it's still not much. Only if you add in Medicaid do you get past $100 billion, and Medicaid would not be necessary at all if the United States joined the rest of the civilized industrial world and provided national health care.

Even accepting this figure of $161 billion per year on poverty-related programs, in the context of trillion-dollar budgets, it is a token amount. We are spending about $70 billion every year on fool's errand in Mesopotamia. Just think how much that would do to eradicate poverty if spent wisely here in the United States.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on March 6, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter George Will:

Paris Hilton is rich because she is industrious and has instilled values. Joe Poverty is poor because he does not have these values, even though he works 70 hours a week for minimum wage.

As we all know, Coal Miners are poor because they have "a scarcity of certain habits and mores punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, etc."

Posted by: Alderaan on March 6, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Jeff II,

If George W. Bush had been taken from the hospital nursery by Cletus McFarkel to be raised on the McFarkel dirt farm with 8 siblings, 27 cousins, and 2 pigs, do you think George W. McFarkel would be a successful man today?

Merit means 1 in a million poor kids will become a Bill Clinton or Jack Welch. Family wealth and connections mean that any child who's not a complete clusterfuck (and even some who are -- see George W. Bush and Bill Frist) will succeed.

Posted by: sean on March 6, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'm lazy, have a lot of sex, haven't shaved in 5 days, frequently miss deadlines -- but do pretty well economically. On the other hand I have good teeth and a pretty good head on my shoulders. Maybe Will is right.

Posted by: B on March 6, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

If nobody had ever heard of George Will, and there were some sort of open competition for those op-ed spots on our nation's newspapers (as opposed to the current system, which approaches lifetime tenure), would he have a snowball's chance in hell of getting to the bigs?

Posted by: RT on March 6, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

There's also the low IQ of poor people. I think it needs to be factored in along with hard work.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

The label Social Darwinism perfectly captures Will's execrable statements.

No argument there, Sean, I'm just pointing out that it's this nation's burden that such a Calvinist attitude predates the Revolution and certainly predates Social Darwinism.

Posted by: Gregory on March 6, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

And then Will has this gem:

But the idea that the candidate's persona is primary and that issues are secondary is a mistake made by some Democrats who yearn for another John Kennedy. He was a talented but quite traditional politician whom many Democrats wrongly remember as proving that charisma trumps substantive politics.

One would think Will can't possibly be so clueless as to have forgotten the last two Presidential elections. Ask Gore and Kerry which they'd prefer had been more important with the electorate.

Posted by: RT on March 6, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Negroponte sounds pretty lazy. Is he one of these poor people George Will is talking about.

http://www.warandpiece.com/blogdirs/003787.html

Posted by: B on March 6, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I don't think Will is arguing that the differences are genetic and unchangable. Which would lead to dismissiveness.

I think it is quite likely that many people are poor because they have some disfunctional habits and inappropriate attitudes. The thing is, things like attitudes and habits are changeable. And giving them the opportunity to change those things is much more powerful socially than simply giving them more money. To me, that's a call to work to change them. Which is why I strongly support programs like AmericaCorps which demonstrably DOES change them.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on March 6, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

I hate these kinds of discussions because they shed so little light on reality. Isn't it obvious that seeing poverty ONLY in terms of Will's "old paradigm" is just as myopic as seeing it only in terms of the "new paradigm"?

Isn't it obvious that poverty is a complex subject that defies simple solutions? Isn't it obvious that some people are poor because they lack employability while other people are poor because they are disadvantaged in some way?

The one thing you can say about Will's views is that he is correct that the so-called "old paradigm" is no longer the dominant mindset. Very few people still believe that curing poverty is simply a matter of throwing more resources at the problem.

Posted by: BradtheDad on March 6, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

This sounds like that Bell Curve
rehashed racist excuse for Artistocracy
only its being applied to poor people
(even though min wage is below Fed Poverty Guidelines)

money and wealth do not create intellgence
nor does Intelligence create wealth.
How many Smart Criminals have you seen?
Abramoff? Cunninham? ol Scarface?
Rich Stupid? intelligent? or Greedy?

Yeh Money is Intelligence allright.

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on March 6, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

"We are spending about $70 billion every year on fool's errand in Mesopotamia. Just think how much that would do to eradicate poverty if spent wisely here in the United States."

If the $161B amount is considered token and not sufficient to address poverty, then how is a smaller than token amount suppose to do the job?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bell_Curve
The Bell Curve is a controversial, best-selling 1994 book by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray exploring the role of intelligence in American life. The authors became notorious for the book's discussion of race and intelligence in Chapters 13 and 14.

Named for the bell-shaped normal distribution of IQ scores, the book cites the rise of a "cognitive elite" having a significantly higher than average chance of succeeding in life.

Within both the mainstream media and the scientific community, large numbers of people rallied to both support and criticize the book. Some critics denounced the book and its authors as supporting scientific racism.

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on March 6, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

There's also the low IQ of poor people. I think it needs to be factored in along with hard work.

Is this a fake Freedom Fighter? Or has he decided that the time for pretense is over? 'Cause that line is one of the more astonishing lines of stereotyping I've seen in a long time.

Posted by: Edo on March 6, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Hm, is $161B 'token' or simply 'not enough'? Seems like the poster above wants to have it be both, when it suits him. This kind of chicanery pervades right wing discussion; this kind of compromised thought processing is what makes them so singularly poor at solving public policy problems.

Posted by: matt on March 6, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

1. Since no one else has used the term yet: Working poor.

2. Will has succeeded in rising from the middle class to become THE political commentator (back in the 1980s, anyway). I'm not surprised that he says what he says here.

Posted by: MaryCh on March 6, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Jeff II,

If George W. Bush had been taken from the hospital nursery by Cletus McFarkel to be raised on the McFarkel dirt farm with 8 siblings, 27 cousins, and 2 pigs, do you think George W. McFarkel would be a successful man today?

No. He's the perfect example. He's stupid and rich, though I certainly can't characterize him as successful in any way, other than managing to stay out of jail.

Merit means 1 in a million poor kids will become a Bill Clinton or Jack Welch. Family wealth and connections mean that any child who's not a complete clusterfuck (and even some who are -- see George W. Bush and Bill Frist) will succeed.
Posted by: sean

Well, maybe a couple thousand (but do we really need a couple thousand Clintons and Welchs?). However, it's just as likely that, like yourself, coming from an undeprived background, that they would sink into intellectual mediorcrity as well.

There are undoubtedly many poor Americans who have the potential to become another Bill Gates, Richard Feynman or even Cal Worthington, if they just had been born even middle class. However, a certain level of material comfort tends to temper drive.

I never said that all or even most poor people are poor because they lack sense and the slightest iota or ambition. But, again, for some who are poor, this is the case, just as it is for some rich people.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 6, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

True about Will, there is nobody so lacking in a rational sense of proportion about the importance of good luck as the self made man. Everything such a person gets is, of course, due to their virtuous embodiment of all the ethics of the Horatio Alger books.

Posted by: matt on March 6, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Who knows why the poor are poor, but if some people keep having the same problems what's the reason for this?

Posted by: Patrick Lane on March 6, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Is this a fake Freedom Fighter? Or has he decided that the time for pretense is over? 'Cause that line is one of the more astonishing lines of stereotyping I've seen in a long time."

So are you saying IQ has no impact?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

"It results from a scarcity of certain habits and mores punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification"

I guess Will hasn't seen the latest Ivy-league college students! The only reason they won't be poor is that they can get a job through their parent's connections, live in their parents home in suburban splendor, or have their instant-gratification lifestyle subsidized by their parents.

Posted by: CParis on March 6, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

George Will has trouble understanding that many people from the middle to upper middle classes have received second and third and four chances. How many times, as just one example, was George W. Bush bailed out by his parents and their friends? Kids from poor backgrounds quite often don't get much of even a first chance.

These are not easy times, even for Americans who are nowhee near the poverty line. There are a host of Washington writers these days whose disconnect from the American people is dumbfounding and sad.

Posted by: Craig on March 6, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

According to Larry Elder: "You need only do three things to avoid poverty in this country: finish high school, marry before having a child, and produce the child after the age of 20. Only 8 percent of families who do this are poor; 79 percent of those who fail to do this are poor."

Poor people choose to be poor?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

I'm as liberal as can be on this issue, and George Will is partly correct: poor people often lack the "cultural capital" needed to succeed in society, and delayed gratification is a big one. But he doesn't explain that this is not a genetic issue or an "in-born" issue, but one that is just another part of how we're failing the poor. My parents were able to instill in me delayed gratification because I had a roof over my head that was stable, because my family had a relatively steady income, and because I always had food on my table. I could learn delayed gratification because I was secure in my basic needs. Just as when we secure the basic needs of the poor (housing, transportation, jobs), we can fix what are problems of hygiene and other social skills.

On a separate topic, Will uses the term "out-of-wedlock." Hasn't this term gone away yet? This term is so judgmental: the majority gets to decide for the minority what is a "good" and a "bad" pregnancy/birth. We all know that there are favorable, even ideal, conditions in which to raise a child, but can we stop judging a pregnancy by the manner in which occurs?

Posted by: Colleen on March 6, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

George Will is the most insufferably pompous columnist in the Free World. Even worse, he's a willing water-carrier for this administration any time they need their talking points (excepting those on Iraq) disseminated and pimped. And let's not forget his role in helping Ronald Reagan prepare for his debates with Jimmy Carter.

Posted by: Doofus on March 6, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

So are you saying IQ has no impact?

I'm saying that your stereotype of poor people vis-a-vis IQ is excessive even for you.

Out of curiousity, what do you think Paris Hilton's IQ is? Assuming you don't know her specific IQ, what would you guess it is relative to your stereotyped poor person?

Posted by: Edo on March 6, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how "Fredo" Bush is doing these days?

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 6, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Out of curiousity, what do you think Paris Hilton's IQ is? Assuming you don't know her specific IQ, what would you guess it is relative to your stereotyped poor person?"

If I had to guess, I'd say probably slightly above average. What's your point?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK
According to Larry Elder: "You need only do three things to avoid poverty in this country: finish high school, marry before having a child, and produce the child after the age of 20. Only 8 percent of families who do this are poor;

A study recently showed that 0% of the children dropped off at private school in a mercedez ended up in poverty. Clearly, we should give all poor people a mercedez and enroll them in private school.

Clearly, that is according to Mr. "I pretend correlation euqates to causation" Elder, and his chief cheerleader, Freedom [SIC] Fighter [SIC].


Posted by: Edo on March 6, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

I took a more detailed look at Will's column on my blog.

Posted by: coturnix on March 6, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

The serious question...is how to successfully instill those habits that aid in economic independence, both through childhood and adulthood.

Meth instead of heroin.

Posted by: Hostile on March 6, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

If I had to guess, I'd say probably slightly above average. What's your point?

why would you guess that? Have you ever heard her speak? I think you are being disengenous.

What's my point? you really can't see it? I just want to ensure that you are admitting to being astoundingly dull before I answer that question.

Posted by: Edo on March 6, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Deferral of gratification?

Georgie lasted 15, 20 seconds, tops.

And don't get me started on hygiene.

Posted by: Lally Weymouth on March 6, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

I think in the interests of accuracy, it would be fair to say that there are people out there who are poor because they do have these traits. But be that as it may, that's a far, far cry from the generally held belief of the 19th century and even furhter back in the past that poor people were poor because they have a moral deficiency of some kind, which is really all that Will is saying. I know he can be a pompous fool at times, but unless he's a fool who doesn't even realize what he's writing, he had to know that his argument really doesn't sound that much different from anything any of the elite and their social "theorists" would have said a hundred years ago. It just sounds nicer, dressed up this way. Surely he can't honestly believe that most poverty these days is a result of poor upbringing in "disorganized" homes. But if even were one to believe that 100% of people living in poverty did so because they lacked the drive, initiative or discipline to be otherwise, what situation caused the conditions in which they were raised to be the way they are? Why, poverty of course. Sputtering about the social and moral "deficits" of the poor as if our solution to poverty is supposed to be spiritual and moral, is certainly not a new paradigm. Instead, it's merely an excuse for those on the right-even those who pity or have sympathy with the poor-to avoid having to spend any money on them. Instead of giving their children a decent education, sufficient job training, adequate health care, a chance to get away from abusive home lives, adequate transportation, etc., etc., all of which requires somebody to spend money, people like Will seem to think that we need only lecture the poor on their failings, send them to budgeting classes, and encourage them to go to church. And it won't work.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on March 6, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

"A study recently showed that 0% of the children dropped off at private school in a mercedez ended up in poverty. Clearly, we should give all poor people a mercedez and enroll them in private school."

So what's stopping you?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

"the poor are poor because they're lazy, dirty, weak, and come from bad stock"

That is my excuse.

The amount of energy I need to go to work everyday is less than my perceived payback. Doing nothing reduces one's costs enormously.

Just listening to the grand government schemes that the right and left dream up is enough to put me off work indefinitely.


Posted by: Matt on March 6, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

So what's stopping you?

Knowledge that correlation does not equate to causation, and to assume so, especially in policy matters, is a bad idea.

Care to admit that you didn't see my point yet? Or are you going to refute your idiotic stereotype regarding IQ and poor people?

Posted by: Edo on March 6, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'd love to know how many poor people George Will has actually met.

Over the past several years I have worked (as a social worker) with hundreds of families living in poverty.

Some of these parents would put most of us to shame. Up at 5:00, get the kids up and out to school, go to job number 1. Finish job number 1 and go to job number 2. Etc.

With rents approaching 800 to 1000, monthly groceries at 600, utilies, clothes, transportation -- it is difficult to meet these obligations even for some of those in the middle class.

The Poverty Institute at Rhode Island College has developed a "Rhode Island Standard of Need", which determines the income needed for a single parent with two children to meet their obligations. In 2003, this amount was just a little over $44,000.

With wages stagnant, and few jobs around and the jobs that are out there are typically in the service industry...

But no, according to George Will, everyone who is poor has a moral deficit.

I find this argument particularly appalling given the lack of any moral character with many of the GOP in office today.

Posted by: um on March 6, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

So are you saying IQ has no impact?

It clearly didn't for George Bush, Jr.

Posted by: ExBrit on March 6, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

"why would you guess that? Have you ever heard her speak? I think you are being disengenous."

Because, I don't really know much about her? I haven't heard her speak on too many occasions. So, how am I being disingenuous? Yes, I still fail to see your point.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Will is not all that off base here in describing how sociologists and urban historians now study endemic poverty. As the late Pierre Bourdieu observed, class and wealth have as much to do with the production and reproduction of certain codes of behavior -- including dress, speech, and manners -- and networking skills bestowed on the more fortunate by their parents, family and education as with material resources. Poverty is not merely a lack of money, but a lack of social knowledge about work, health and education in a broad sense that actively _prevents_ the materially less fortunate from gaining access to the means of advancement. Because the poor don't dress right, talk right, look right, read the right things and know how to talk to the right people, or have those vital connections most of us here have always taken for granted provided to them, poverty becomes a vicious cycle of deprivation. I think that analysis lends itself far more to progressive policy intervention than mere bare-bones safety net welfare conservatives prefer, which assumes that poverty is largely a result of people "falling on hard times" who just need a little support until they "get back on their feet." For most seriously poor people in our country, the problem is, they never had any feet to begin with.

Posted by: Jonas on March 6, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Knowledge that correlation does not equate to causation, and to assume so, especially in policy matters, is a bad idea."

So what would you propose as policy then?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory, Sean,

When John Calvin announced his social/religious theory, he was only the latest to reach the same conclusion. Before him the landed gentry had long held the belief that they deserved to be noble because they were chosen by God. Calvin just expanded the argument to include the wealthy non-nobility. The haves always have to find a way to blame the have nots for the obvious inequilities of life. If they didn't they might feel guilt for their failure to act responsibly. It seems they will always find a way to shift responsiblity by saying they were chosen by God, selected by nature, annointed by the Flying Spagetti Monster or some similar drivel. After all a bunch of haves nailed Jesus to the Cross after he told the parable of the good samaritan, shortly after he gave the sermon on the mound and immediately after he cleared the money changers from the temple. Jesus spoke with a moral clarity unknown to pretenders like George Will.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 6, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

"It clearly didn't for George Bush, Jr."

He's a gradute of Yale and Harvard, and a fighter jet pilot. I wonder how many posting at this blog is capable of that...

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Because, I don't really know much about her? I haven't heard her speak on too many occasions. So, how am I being disingenuous? Yes, I still fail to see your point.

You certainly are giving her much more of the benefit of doubt than you are all the poor people you stereotyped. Having heard her speak myself, I'm not so generous.

As for my point, I'll use small words to make it easy for you.

Paris Hilton is very rich. Paris Hilton apparently does not have a very high IQ to match her wealth. Thus, to believe that IQ determines wealth is wrong. Thus, to imply that poor people have low IQs is equally wrong. (not to mention that it is a pathetic stereotype)

Posted by: Edo on March 6, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

It seems like whenever this is pointed out, it is spun in the worst way possible. I support federal anti-poverty programs & would gladly pay more intaxes for even larger, more cohesive ones. But any system designed to alleviate poverty, that doesen't recognize the part the destitute's own personal choices play in their economic status is a hollow & incomplete one.

We work off the "New Deal" paradigm of povert relief. A working class guy with a wife and kids to support, loses his job, can't find work and is out on his luck. The government will catch him when he falls and support him until he gets back onto his feet again.

The problem that afflicts the poor, and by that I mean the really destitute in this country, is that they lack the life skills, priorities, organization & institutions (Church/Family) that even the working class in this country take for granted.

When the Federal Govt. was giving money to Katrina evacuees, and reports surfaced that these destitute people were using their debit cards to buy lap dances and 800 dollar handbags, the right wing talk heroes snickered and tried to make liberals feel embarassed. But this wasn't something to be embarassed about, this was something to be sad about. This was evidence of how an abandoned class of destitute people are caught in a poverty trap and don't have the means to escape it.

The Right always says that as the Government lessens it's role, the cultural institutions will become stronger & better run. Well these people have been left to their own by the Govt. their whole lives & they're no better off for it.

Posted by: Dustin Ridgeway on March 6, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

why would you guess that?

Because she's rich! Rich people are smart, poor people are dumb, duh!

Posted by: Calvinist Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Because the poor don't dress right, talk right, look right, read the right things and know how to talk to the right people, or have those vital connections most of us here have always taken for granted provided to them, poverty becomes a vicious cycle of deprivation."

Is it still deprivation if there's an active effort to reject these opportunities?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Kevin even read Will's essay.

Poverty today is strongly correlated with single parent families, primarily those headed by women; any attempt at reducing poverty in the future will have to find a way to address this fact. Since I blame past governmental policies for largely causing the problem in the first place, it will take a lot to convince me that government really has an answer.

I know it was denigrated in many of the comments above, but it really is true that you can avoid poverty by staying in high school, don't have children before the age of 20, and be married when you do have children. This is true even of children that grew up in poverty and in broken homes. The question is how to get more of the children, living in such conditions today, to follow these guidelines, and the truth is that I have no idea what a proactive policy might be, but I know that what we have done for the last 40 years has made the problem more intractable, not less.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on March 6, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

He's a gradute of Yale and Harvard, and a fighter jet pilot. I wonder how many posting at this blog is capable of that...

If I had the chance to slack my way through Yale, Harvard, and the TANG, yeah, I'd betcha I could.

Posted by: Dustbin Of History on March 6, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK
He's basically saying the obvious, which is that if you smell like a sewer, repeatedly don't show up to work on time, don't actually do any work when you're clocked in, &c., people will be reluctant to hire you.

No, he's not. While that statement would be uncontroversial, he's reversing the correlation to say that if you are poor, it is most likely because people were reluctant to hire you because you smelled like a sewer, &c.

See, Will has taken the rather uncontroversial statement:

"If a person has (certain bad habits), then the person is likely to end up in poverty (presuming they don't change them)."

..and reversed it to:

"If a person ends up in poverty, it is most likely because of (certain bad habits)."

Which is, contrary to your assertion, a very different contention.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 6, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Both rich and poor have a mix of kids who are capable and who are not, including some who are lazy, dirty, and weak. Rich parents can support their weak kids; poor parents cannot.

How do you think George W. would have fared if he had had poor parents while being a lazy, dumb, alcoholic, coke head?

Chris Brown: Regarding the use of "paradigm," was Thomas Kuhn incapable of original thought? Is it all right to talk about paradigms if you've read Structure of Scientific Revolutions but not if you haven't? Is it all right to do so if you haven't read Kuhn but use "paradigm" in the sense he did but not in any extended sense? Is it all right if you extend his usage from science to social science but not to corporate thought?

Or is language fixed, so we must use "paradigm" as philosophers did prior to Kuhn? Just what is the cut off date for setting the meanings of words in stone? (You seem to have picked 1962 for "paradigm.")

Posted by: anandine on March 6, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK
He's a gradute of Yale and Harvard, and a fighter jet pilot. I wonder how many posting at this blog is capable of that

A legacy admit to both schools, who got through with "Gentleman's Cs", and had strings pulled by family members to get him into TANG. Few people here are capable of that, because few have the family connections to get into either school as a legacy, receive the courtesy of "Gentleman's Cs", or have strings pulled to get us into (and out of, without consequence!) the Air National Guard.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 6, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

As we all know, Coal Miners are poor because they have "a scarcity of certain habits and mores punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, etc."

Plus, they're covered in that yucky black stuff.

Posted by: ckelly on March 6, 2006 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Alexander Wolfe,

[Replying to you as a proxy for the whole thread; please don't take offense. You've just said what most here have said, only better.]

I think you're wrong; I think Will really does believe that poor upbringing is the real cause of what I suppose we could call serial poverty.

But if even were one to believe that 100% of people living in poverty did so because they lacked the drive, initiative or discipline to be otherwise, what situation caused the conditions in which they were raised to be the way they are? Why, poverty of course.

This obviously explains why poor immigrants for some reason seem mostly to stay married, to value education, to practice the Work Ethic Formerly Known as Protestant almost to a fault, and in general to work themselves right out of poverty remarkably rapidly. Evidently poverty doesn't hit everyone the same way. Why is that? The worst you can say of most immigrant groups is that they are so eager for massive amounts of back-breaking work that they tend to jump the national turnstile in pursuit of it.

I really don't think that more money thrown into the right corners is gonna fix this. You can say, if you like, that this is just an "excuse" not to spend actual money on the poor, though such things as vouchers are in fact initiatives to spend money on the poor. But the other aspect of this is that "spending money on the poor" in the sense you mean has been tried for several decades and has more often than not made stuff worse.

Instead of giving their children a decent education, sufficient job training, adequate health care, a chance to get away from abusive home lives, adequate transportation, etc., etc., all of which requires somebody to spend money, people like Will seem to think that we need only lecture the poor on their failings, send them to budgeting classes, and encourage them to go to church. And it won't work.

OK. "Decent education": read vouchers and charter schools here. "Job training": tell me what you mean, and I'll tell you whether I agree. My understanding is that anything smacking of vocational education is anathema among most of the Left, but "vocational education" is "job training" in its Sunday dress. I doubt that lack of "adequate health care" is causing many poor people to be dirty, poor, lazy, whatever the rest of your Will paraphrase contained. Transportation? You wanna see genuine ingenuity about transportation, check out Mexican day laborers. You have a prospect of work, you know where to go, and prospective employers know where you'll be. It's amazing what you can do without a car (or with five or six friends, one of who has a car). If, that is, you actually want to work. As for the "abusive home lives," someone please re-interview Walter Polovchak, and see who stood up for his right to stay in the United States rather than return with his parents to then-Soviet Ukraine.

Posted by: waterfowl on March 6, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

OK, personal experience.

All the poor I have seen come from dangerous drug addiction. But that may just be the people I hang with. However, I have seen it from three or four different, unrelated groups of people I have run across. I can count up the meth deranged households in my neighborhood, about 10-20%, 15% would be a good estimate with a 5% error.

By meth deranged, I mean unable to function for days, children neglected, no job capability, on disability. These folks form a large section of the poverty class, along with the heroin addicts. Whatever we do with these folks, (and the long time smokers) will be a diminishing return.

Posted by: Matt on March 6, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK
Plus, they're covered in that yucky black stuff.

That's, I think, covered in the "hygiene" thing.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 6, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

"As for my point, I'll use small words to make it easy for you."

OK thanks. Was "disengenous" too big a word?

"Paris Hilton is very rich. Paris Hilton apparently does not have a very high IQ to match her wealth. Thus, to believe that IQ determines wealth is wrong."

No one ever said people with low IQ can't have wealth. My whole point was that it doesn't take much to stay out of poverty in America. For able bodied people who are hopelessly stuck in poverty, they either lack the IQ or will.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

"Decent education": read vouchers and charter schools here.

"vouchers and charter schools": read crappy McEducation and endemic corruption here.

Posted by: Dustbin Of History on March 6, 2006 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Personal Responsibility! If you're poor, its all your fault!

What? We're losing in Iraq? It's all the fault of the media and the liberals!

Personal responsibility for thee, but not for me, i say!

Posted by: Calvinist Fighter on March 6, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it's a little of both. Will's main problem is that, like lots of conservatives, he has trouble imagining more than one cause or characterization being relevant to an issue, and handling some/all issues. (They are literally cognitively handicapped in odd ways - however smart in general terms.) He can't understand that if *some* of the poor are indeed unpunctual etc., then it still would help the rest of them to have good wages etc. (And, what excuse is there for the minimum wage for example to *decrease* relative to CPI in any case?)

Posted by: Neil' on March 6, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

See, Will has taken the rather uncontroversial statement:

"If a person has (certain bad habits), then the person is likely to end up in poverty (presuming they don't change them)."

..and reversed it to:

"If a person ends up in poverty, it is most likely because of (certain bad habits)."

Which is, contrary to your assertion, a very different contention.

Nope, they don't mean the same thing. OTOH, they might both be true. Certainly the relative success of immigrant groups who come here with basically nothing but the contents of a suitcase or two (one not packed with $100 bills, I mean) seems remarkable. Evidently it's not especially difficult to become a middle-class African-American from scratch, so long as you weren't actually born here.

As for immigrants from other places so far as I can figure it out, the ones who succeed on their own are more or less the ones who don't get racial preferences of any kind. Cause? Effect? Both? (Probably the last.)

Posted by: waterfowl on March 6, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

able bodied? Aaah, yes. There's the rub. What constitutes "able bodied"? Someone who has the normal number of appendages, but through no fault of their own wasn't blessed with the right set of genes, mentally speaking? I think GW fits nicely into this category, and yet he's not poor thanks to old wealth beyond most of our dreams. Otoh, if GW had been born to a hardworking poor family it doesn't take much imagination to figure out where he'd be today. In fact, I think I passed his doppelganger on the way to work - he was sitting on the street corner with a paper bag at his side.

Blows Will's proposition out of the water I think.

Posted by: ExBrit on March 6, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

So tell me, what are the Democrats gonna do for the poor? Besides offering platitudes and sympathy, I mean....

Posted by: sglover on March 6, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

So what would you propose as policy then?

John Edwards approach has plenty of solid policy proscriptions in it.

but if you want my take, here it is at a high level:

  • End the incredibly ineffective War on Drugs.
  • Reinvest that money towards drug rehabilitation and early intervention programs in schools to dramatically reduce the demand for drugs in our society.
  • Immediately parole all non-violent criminals that are serving ridiculous amounts of time in prison due to drug related offenses. Make participation in drug rehabillitation programs and keeping a job part of the parole conditions. See the following for last resort jobs for these people. For the small % of people who will not work and stay clean on their own as part of their parole, put them in low-security facilities where their basic needs are met (but no luxuries, inlcuding TV). Offer job training in these low-security places and job placement assistance when they want to get out.
  • Use the monies freed up from the dramtic reduction in our prison population and the left over money from the termination of the War of drugs to create a set of community based centers to provide day care facilities for people who want to go to work but have small children. Staff these facilities with parents of small children who don't yet have other jobs. Make the any government subsidies to these parents conditional on their participation.
  • (funded the same as the point above) create a series of soup kitchens and basic shelters that are available on demand at no charge with no forced prayer services. Staff these with people who receive government assistance and have no other jobs. Both these facilities as well as the day care facilities can also be job training centers as they will inevitably be providing on the spot training for food preparation, education, and basic health-care provider skills.
  • Expand (reinstitute?) AmericaCorps job program. There are lots of construction and environmental clean up/restoration opportunities out there that are lacking for labor.
  • Raise the minimum wage.
  • Single payer health care.
  • There are probably more items to add, but I don't have all day to make this post and its a pretty good start.

    Posted by: Edo on March 6, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

    As for policy recommendations: healthcare and education are the two most obvious areas on which to focus. Poor people suffer proportionally higher rates of depression, environmental illness (asthma, etc.), and work physically harder jobs. Without decent health care, of course, those problems or injuries (like back pain) go untreated and become exacerbated, thereby leading to a further loss of work, wages, etc. Investing far more than we do in schools, teachers and after-school tutoring and mentoring programs in underserved urban and rural areas is also key. Students (and their parents) need help learning good nutrition, health and study habits. Few inner city or poor schools take field trips, and students are deprived of any awareness of the wider worlds of art, science, history and even just the simple notion that they can travel outside their neighborhoods and see something different if they want. Draconian juvenile sentencing laws also need reform. Many young, particularly black, poor men now get most of their education behind prison or juvie camp walls and get no support or follow up once they're released. The list goes on. The point is, any effective antipoverty program has to acknowledge that poverty is not just lack of money. It is a deeply complex lack of opportunity and dearth of social knowledge and awareness that stems from a lack of a decent education, a cohesive and supportive family life and living in a culture that does not transmit to its young the kinds of skills, both practical and behavioral, required to pursue success in our society. Of course, that's not fair, and things shouldn't be like this, but given that full-bore revolutionary Marxism is no longer a terribly useful nor broadly acceptable answer to these problems, we're left to repair the fraying edges of late capitalist society in this piecemeal way.

    Posted by: Jonas on March 6, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK
    Nope, they don't mean the same thing. OTOH, they might both be true.

    They might, in abstract theory, sure. I was addressing merely the claim that Will was saying the former, rather uncontroversial thing, when in fact what he was saying was the latter, rather more controversial one.

    Certainly the relative success of immigrant groups who come here with basically nothing but the contents of a suitcase or two (one not packed with $100 bills, I mean) seems remarkable.

    Perhaps "remarkable" in some some sense, but it hardly validates Will's contention.

    As for immigrants from other places so far as I can figure it out, the ones who succeed on their own are more or less the ones who don't get racial preferences of any kind.

    The groups that succceed the best are the ones that are from farthest away and for whom, therefore, it is less likely that any given immigrant was poor in the country from which he came, even if poor by American standards.

    Posted by: cmdicely on March 6, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

    Its perhaps worth noting that what Will describes as the "new" paradigm is really a zoom in on one element of the old paradigm, and exclusion of the rest of the paradigm, and the adoption of an a priori belief in government incompetence in the one area that is retained.

    That is, the "1930s paradigm" Will describes is that poverty comes from the lack of a variety of factors: Will lists "housing, transportation, training, etc."

    Will's new paradigm is of supposedly one of "behavior-driven poverty" that results from "non-material deficits", found in "the scarcity of certain habits and mores".

    But, you know, what distinguishes a merely naturally-talented worker from a high performing worker in any area of human endeavor? The latter has taken whatever innate talents they have, and developed them through the acquisition of -- you guessed it -- certain habits and mores that apply to the task at issue. People who believe they have the talent needed for various fields (or organizations that recruit people they believe have those talents, including, notably, the US government) spend quite a bit of money inculcating the relevant "habits and mores" through a novel process with which one expects Will should be familiar, since he mentioned it as part of teh 1930s paradigm: this process is called "training".

    And, you know, if George Will thinks no one in government has any idea how to inculcate the "habits and mores" of punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, and so on, well, I think, there are quite a lot of people in the government that have not only ideas, but demonstrated skills. Among others, most military drill instructors. And, in fact, the military has been one of the best (though certainly not a reliable) routes out of poverty for many people trapped in generational poverty.

    I don't think anyone can doubt that deficits "habits and mores" -- the exact equivalent of a need for "training" -- are part of the problem. Certainly, as Will himself admits, while trying to hide it by using different words for the same thing, the adherents to the "1930s paradigm" do not.

    Will, however, prefers and preaches a simplified version which holds that that is the only important factor (ideologues love to oversimplify), and that, bizarrely, the government has no capacity to address that problem. And tries to pretend, somehow, that the kind of deficits that he sees as the whole of the problem are not recognized by those he criticizes, even though the very words he uses to describe the paradigm he criticizes reveals that he knows this to be untrue.

    George Will isn't stupid. But he seems to assume that his readers are.

    Posted by: cmdicely on March 6, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

    There is indeed an all too cavalier "blame the victim" mentality that pervades much popular thought vis-a-vis the poor. This mentality should be challenged.

    Yet, liberals (and, certainly, the readers of this blog, if the comments are any indication) tend toward blind acceptance of what might be called a "blame the system" mentality--i.e., that the poor are simly victims of larger forces.

    While the first ascribes venality to the poor qua the poor, the second tends to absolve them from any responsibility or agency.

    Yes, the "system" (or whatever one wants to call it) needs structural reform, and governmental programs can be helpful in ameliorating the causes and the effects of povery.

    At the same time, though, individual responsibility must be stressed. It is, for example, a simple economic fact that having children out of wedlock correlates hightly with poverty. It is not prudery to provide advice and assistance to discourage young women from having children out of wedlock, and to encourage them to finish school, get job training, etc.

    This is to say that amelioration programs are necessary, but the poor must also be advised and encouraged in the type of choices that will help them to get out of poverty. This is not an "either-or" situation.

    Flame at will.

    Posted by: JRP on March 6, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

    cmdicely,

    The groups that succceed the best are the ones that are from farthest away and for whom, therefore, it is less likely that any given immigrant was poor in the country from which he came, even if poor by American standards.

    I don't know that that's so. My understanding, at least, is that Black immigrants from the West Indies fare better in the American economy than native Blacks do; and Cubans fare better than Guatemalans when they get here without interception. As for Asia, I'd give better odds on a Taiwanese immigrant succeeding here than an Uzbekistani, even if the latter has to travel further. And Africa it's all terribly complicated, but I'd think someone from Kenya or South Africa would be better off on arriving here than would someone from Liberia, despite the last's American roots.

    Posted by: waterfowl on March 6, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

    Yet, liberals (and, certainly, the readers of this blog, if the comments are any indication) tend toward blind acceptance of what might be called a "blame the system" mentality--i.e., that the poor are simly victims of larger forces.

    No flame yet, JRP, I'm just curious if you could provide a couple of examples of comments on this blog that you feel "tend toward blind acceptance of what might be called a "blame the system" mentality--i.e., that the poor are simly victims of larger forces."

    Thanks in advance.

    Posted by: Gregory on March 6, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

    I guess Little Georgie Will approves of lazy, dirty, weak Latins who come from bad stock if they throw a ball with alacrity, and make him cream his Dockers.

    Posted by: Pechorin on March 6, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK


    What sort of gratification does George Will defer?

    Posted by: King of Alkebulan on March 6, 2006 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

    Liberals rule out the genetic differences too quickly. What else but an argument based on genes can explain this?

    Liberals ignore such clear evidence of the effect of genes on the eventual success/failure of a person at their own peril.

    Posted by: lib on March 6, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

    Yancey Ward wrote: "Poverty today is strongly correlated with single parent families, primarily those headed by women; any attempt at reducing poverty in the future will have to find a way to address this fact. Since I blame past governmental policies for largely causing the problem in the first place, it will take a lot to convince me that government really has an answer."

    Dear Yancey, you are blaming liberal government for the failure of conservative government. It was conservatives, not liberals, who put in rules such as no welfare payments if there is an able-bodied man in the house. The result was predictable, and it happened. It increased the proportion of unemployed and under-employed low-income men who abandoned their families. Liberals have the right idea: it is good public policy to help families through times of low income. Conservatives had the wrong idea: Don't help families with able-bodied men. It was this bad idea on the part of conservatives, not the good idea on the part of liberals, that led to all those single-parent families.

    Other policies that contribute to this problem include treating recreational drug use as a crime rather than either a medical problem, or a non-problem, as the case may be. Putting petty retailers in prison is guaranteed to increase the number of families headed by one parent.

    When Yancey doubts that "government really has an answer" he should instead doubt if conservatives really have an answer, because it is their policies that are the problem.

    Yancey continues, "it really is true that you can avoid poverty by staying in high school, don't have children before the age of 20, and be married when you do have children."

    In response, There are plenty of Americans living in poverty who finished high school and didn't have children before 20 or outside of marriage. In fact, many Vietnam veterans are now living in poverty. More important, there are millions of children living in poverty right now, still in school, but the schools they attend don't measure up and are not giving these children the education they will need to break into the middle class.

    Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on March 6, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

    What sort of gratification does George Will defer?

    Since he is intent on bringing back the mores of the 1920s, methinks that he is defering the use some device to clear his colon, as constipation was assumed to be the root cause of all diseases in that era.

    Posted by: nut on March 6, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

    Yeah.

    Those rich white folks like Drum control the gubberment and give out housing, medical care, and transportation to those unfortunate poor...

    Yeah, you sure can smell nice when you don't have a good home and arrive on time when you don't have access to transportation.

    Bah.

    Posted by: Crissa on March 6, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

    I am not sure of what immigrants you mean waterfowl, but as someone who has lived in many immigrant communities composed of many different ethnicities, European, African and Asian, I can tell you that in my experience it is in these communities that the concept of the American dream seems most illusory. It is very, very common in immigrant families to witness decades of back breaking labor across many different generations end in exactly the same place it started - with grinding poverty. For anyone who has witnessed the living conditions of most day laborers you mention, who probably work harder than anyone else in our society, it is hard to imagine how Will's connection of work habits to a lack of poverty could be more wrong.

    Posted by: brent on March 6, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK
    My understanding, at least, is that Black immigrants from the West Indies fare better in the American economy than native Blacks do; and Cubans fare better than Guatemalans when they get here without interception.

    And I'd argue its easier for native blacks to get to America than West Indies blacks; and, given the availability of a land connection and less chance, per attempt, of interception, easier for Guatamelans than Cubans (though Cubans have other advantages, due to the fact that we treat a Cuban as a heroic escapee from tyranny, and other Latin Americans as greedy sneaks -- often even those who came legally -- who come to steal our jobs and land.)

    So I wouldn't say either of those are counterexamples.

    Posted by: cmdicely on March 6, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK
    Poverty today is strongly correlated with single parent families, primarily those headed by women; any attempt at reducing poverty in the future will have to find a way to address this fact.

    So, ending the war on drugs is a pretty key element, then?

    Posted by: cmdicely on March 6, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

    Joel Rubinstein,

    Conservatives had the wrong idea: Don't help families with able-bodied men. It was this bad idea on the part of conservatives, not the good idea on the part of liberals, that led to all those single-parent families.

    OK, let me see if I have this straight. A msn has a partner and one or more children. The government declines to support his loved ones if he is capable of doing so himself. Natural result, according to you: man deserts partner and child(ren). I mean, wouldn't you? There's no reason to have a family if you aren't on stipend for it, right?

    Really, and they call conservatives cynical. I notice that it seems to be the men who took off, by the way. Why ever is that? The women seem to have been in precisely the same boat.

    As in your next example:

    Other policies that contribute to this problem include treating recreational drug use as a crime rather than either a medical problem, or a non-problem, as the case may be. Putting petty retailers in prison is guaranteed to increase the number of families headed by one parent.

    How easy to slide from "recreational users" to "petty retailers" in a sentence or two. And, again, how odd that the "one-parent families" are so often headed by you-know-what gender. For some reason, "petty retailing" by women, when it isn't prostitution, seems most of the time to mean setting up a street stall and selling really awful macrame-and-shells crafts and the like, or at worst braiding hair without a valid cosmetologist's license, not selling banned drugs.

    Posted by: waterfowl on March 6, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

    Poverty today is strongly correlated with single parent families, primarily those headed by women; any attempt at reducing poverty in the future will have to find a way to address this fact.

    So, ending the war on drugs is a pretty key element, then? Posted by: cmdicely

    Only if you assume that most households "headed by a woman" also involve the "man of the family" being incarcerated on drug charges.

    Statistics, please.

    A lot of white, divorced, formerly middle-class mothers out there might take issue with this reduction.

    Posted by: Jeff II on March 6, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

    cmdicely, I take both the geographical points, though I'd think Black immigrants from anywhere arrive with a great disadvantage in knowledge of the country and plain material goods although, since they are mainly from ex-British colonies, they often arrive with better English than most of us can boast. Re Cuba vs. Guatemala, point taken; you can generally get from Guatemala to the US without your home government acting on standing shoot-to-kill orders.

    Re the "war on drugs," I'm conflicted. When I worked in SF's Mission District, I didn't know whether to be more grossed out by the used condoms on the sidewalk or the heroin-jonesers' decorative pattern of vomit puddles interweaved with them. The whole scene was infinitely pathetic and sad, and the people responsible for keeping other human beings in that state are scum. (And I doubt very much that the people dealing, even in that small-time way Joel finds not such a big deal, are really family material whether locked up or not.) Still, we're spending huge amounts of money and manpower for enforcement that doesn't enforce.

    Posted by: waterfowl on March 6, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK
    Only if you assume that most households "headed by a woman" also involve the "man of the family" being incarcerated on drug charges.

    Well, no. Its true if I assume that a substantial portion of the households "headed by a women" are such, because of some effect of the war on drugs or, alternatively, if the link to poverty and that condition is due to the war on drugs. Since I think both the first and, to a much lesser extent, the second, are true...

    Sure, a lot of it is incarceration, particularly in the black community -- but its also death of fathers and other effects of drug-related crime which are fueled by the war on drugs that contribute to both sides of that equation.

    But, no, I don't have statistics handy, but then, I'd bet, neither do you, I suspect, to support your implicit contention that more prominent in poverty a "white, divorced, formerly middle-class mothers" who are entirely unaffected by the War on Drugs. Though certainly there are too many of them in poverty, too, but then, I didn't say the correcting the problems caused by the War on Drugs would end poverty, even if the woman-headed single-parent family area; its necessary, IMO, but not even nearly sufficient.


    Posted by: cmdicely on March 6, 2006 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

    Kevin nails it.

    Posted by: gak on March 6, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

    Some of the most illuminating work on how to help people out of poverty has been described in Bridges Out of Poverty (Payne, Devol, Smith). They explain the values system that people in generational poverty adhere to. Spend some time with their ideas and you will indeed see that the problem is not one of providing opportunities, but of inspiring poorpeople to value those opportunities. I don't think I am doing Bridges Out of Poverty justice with my interpretation here, but I do suggest you give attention to the book. Then you might understand why the problems of the poor are so intractable.

    Posted by: Jackie on March 6, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK
    How easy to slide from "recreational users" to "petty retailers" in a sentence or two. And, again, how odd that the "one-parent families" are so often headed by you-know-what gender. For some reason, "petty retailing" by women, when it isn't prostitution, seems most of the time to mean setting up a street stall and selling really awful macrame-and-shells crafts and the like, or at worst braiding hair without a valid cosmetologist's license, not selling banned drugs.

    Well, maybe its because petty retailers of drugs are very often addicts trying to feed their fix, and given the higher demand for female prostitutes, established dealers are prone to turn the desperate women that come to them into prostitutes (who might also work as mules and subordinate dealers) rather than subordinate dealers primarily.

    So, yeah, the women are more likely to end up as prostitutes than the men, who are more likely to end up as "petty retailers" rather than primarily prostitutes. Not a huge surprise, there.

    Posted by: cmdicely on March 6, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

    "The pompous, bow-tied buffoon is an immoral creep and is hardly in a position to sit in judgment of those less fortunate than himself."

    ...but that's what make's him a conservative.

    George Will: sanctimonious pissant.

    Posted by: pluege on March 6, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

    brent,

    Not sure what to say. Just to clarify: I'm in Novato, CA, and have lived elsewhere in the Bay Area before (Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, San Rafael). Up here the immigrant population is mainly Mexican, but with a considerable Vietnamese/Cambodian/Lao component. (Municipal vehicles in San Rafael have lettering in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. So do some of the street signs. So does the ATM in my local Safeway.) In Emeryville there was a big Indian-subcontinent contingent.

    You say, correctly, that these people are working their butts off. Yes, they are. I've seen them at it. Well, not personally, because I couldn't afford to hire someone to vacuum my carpets for me even if I didn't think the whole idea of hiring out the housework was silly. But I used to commute to SF by bus on Saturdays, and you know exactly where the main pickup points are once you've done that once or twice. They were sharing the bus with affluent white folks going down to SF or Corte Madera to shop, who were aggrieved as often as not at having to share space with workers on Saturday. Didn't they know it was a weekend?

    Sorry to digress, brent. My point is that these (almost all) men didn't seen stricken with "grinding poverty." They weren't making much, and I rather think a lot of what they did make got sent back to Mexico, but they weren't deadened by it. And I really do think that it's rare for many generations of immigrants to be trapped in poverty certainly much rarer than it is for families already here for many generations to be similarly trapped.

    Posted by: waterfowl on March 6, 2006 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

    The Irish potato famine, in which well over a million people starved, was greatly exacerbated by the "tough love" exercised by British bureaucrats. The wealthiest country on earth had a policy of sending no food aid that was only changed after the magnitude of the disaster became clear. The food that was sent was not terribly nutritious (meal of some kind), and more people starved.

    Posted by: searp on March 6, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

    Shorter version of the reasoning behind about half the comments:
    Some people who are A are not very B, and some people who are B are not very A, therefore A cannot correlate with B, and anyone who says it does is lying scum.

    "The wealth of Paris Hilton proves that blah blah blah!"

    Or, from the old days:

    "Why, I know a man who smoked like a chimney and lifed to be 95! -- What's all this nonsense smoking causing cancer?"

    This sort of childish reasoning fosters a hatred of truth-tellers and hurts the very people it supposedly defends. I urge reality-based people to treat it as a toxic intellectual pollutant.

    Posted by: tired on March 6, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

    It results from a scarcity of certain habits and mores punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, etc. that are not developed in disorganized homes.

    While no one wants ever to talk about it, least of all conservatives, one of the best preventatives of "disorganized homes" is abortion on demand. Indeed, the statistics of post Roe v Wade seem to bear this out pretty powerfully.

    You want a home in chaos? Make sure that pregnant teenagers must bear their unwanted children. They don't have maturity, money, or, typically, a father. It's a recipe for a family life from hell.

    Posted by: frankly0 on March 6, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

    You want a home in chaos? Make sure that pregnant teenagers must bear their unwanted children. They don't have maturity, money, or, typically, a father. It's a recipe for a family life from hell.

    Exactly the fate the Intelligent Designer has picked out for them.

    Posted by: ogmb on March 6, 2006 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

    "deferral of gratification"

    Mmmmm, yes--lack of which resulting in George Will showing up at his house one morning to find his clothes piled on the lawn.

    And his membership in the lucky sperm club comes from his father, a professor and editor of the useful Lakeside Classics, scholarly reprints of early American historical books. Not quite an oil well, but Junior didn't have to sweat out many interviews with admissions officers.

    Posted by: Steve Paradis on March 6, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

    "Was "disengenous" too big a word?"

    No. It's not any kind of word.

    Posted by: Joel on March 6, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

    The American people are as generous as they were in 1964, but they are tired of being treated like chumps by the poverty pimps and their co-dependents like Kevin Drum. As long as welfare is handed out with no strings attached, because the oh-so-prescious liberals do not want to admit that bums are bums, the Repubs will continue to run this country. Until you are willing to admit to the fundemental truth Will is pointing out our "war on poverty" will continue to be like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. And the independents will hold their nose and vote Repub.

    Posted by: wks on March 6, 2006 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

    Click my URL for a study that links neurogenesis (regrowth of brain cells) rate to environmental stress, both prenatal and adult. Poverty kills the brain (among other things).

    http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2006/02/the_reinvention_of_the_self.php?page=all&p=y

    Posted by: your mom on March 6, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

    My point is that these (almost all) men didn't seen stricken with "grinding poverty." They weren't making much, and I rather think a lot of what they did make got sent back to Mexico, but they weren't deadened by it.

    Wow -- that's impressive, how much you know about these guys' lives after sitting on the same bus once or twice. You must have a real gift for languages and dialects, since Spanish is often just a starting point, if that. Not to mention all the male/female, madonna/whore, urban/rural, familiar/invisible, legal/not, powerful/not, risky/not layers that tend to inhibit the open and frank communication you seem to have enjoyed.

    Seriously, you should email me. I have a friend who's a civil-rights lawyer for migrant workers, mostly undocumented, mostly from Mexico and points farther south, and someone with your gifts would be a major asset.

    Or maybe your judgment is based on the fact that these men weren't wearing sandwich boards reading, "I AM STRICKEN WITH AND DEADENED BY GRINDING POVERTY."

    Oh, I hope that's not the case. That would be so embarrassing for you.


    And I really do think that it's rare for many generations of immigrants to be trapped in poverty certainly much rarer than it is for families already here for many generations to be similarly trapped.

    And you think this based on what? The same rigorous observation and analysis that revealed to you the contentedness of those brown people on your bus?

    Sure, plenty of immigrant families manage to move beyond 14-hour days and 7-day weeks of busing tables and/or mowing lawns and/or cleaning hotel rooms within one or two generations. Those are the families you know about, because those families are interviewed in the media, their kids go to class with you or your kids, they work at the bank with you or your Aunt Susan.

    What makes you think that's the norm? How would you, Miz Middle-Class Waterfowl, ever know about anyone who hadn't made it?

    You might get some inkling of things by keeping a census of those happy-go-lucky brown fellows on your bus -- what job each one has, how long he stays, where he goes when he leaves, what happens then. And it wouldn't do you any damage to spend time with the native-born, multi-generational trapped -- tutor some kids, volunteer at a clinic, something like that. You'd see plenty to reinforce all your prissy, shallow judgments but you'd also get some sense of what life is like outside your privileged bubble.

    Or not. Somehow, I doubt you'll allow anything to interfere with your pleasant fictions. Which is fine, but please do not pretend that your fantasies mean anything at all outside the well-manicured theme-park of your own cranium.

    Posted by: vetiver on March 6, 2006 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

    While no one wants ever to talk about it, least of all conservatives, one of the best preventatives of "disorganized homes" is abortion on demand. Indeed, the statistics of post Roe v Wade seem to bear this out pretty powerfully.

    Posted by: frankly0

    Sorry but we already have abortion on demand and the poor and uneducated keep on pumping out welfare families. Especially in the black community where fathers act like nothing but sperm donors.

    Posted by: Fat White Guy on March 6, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

    Shorter thread: After all, the ONLY reason anyone is poor is because they are the victims of injustice and oppression.

    The solution is to throw more money, real money, at the problem. We'll take that money from the rich.

    I'm sure the 80% of the population are not poor would be thrilled to pay higher taxes to achieve the goal of eradicating poverty. They like to be called racist, elitist, and stupid. They are eager to give up their privilege. If only the Democrats could get this message out, surely we'll start winning elections again.

    Posted by: PTate in Mn on March 6, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

    Great wealth only comes through great exploitation.

    This has been true since the pharaohs.

    Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 6, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

    George Will's research into the prevalence of laziness as the main cause of unemployment and poverty reaches about as far as his desk blotter. He can't cite any laziness statistics because there are none. Will doesn't want us to even consider that:

    Some people are poor because their underfunded schools poorly prepared them for higher education and the professions;

    Some people are poor because working a full year at minimum wage guarantees a poverty-level existence;

    Some people are poor because their savings have been exhausted by health care expenses and their jobs don't offer health insurance;

    Some people are poor (and dead!) because their houses and places of businesses were flooded out by failed levees;

    And yep, some people are poor because they are lazy. It's always scores points when you wag fingers at the lazy ones (assuming you can distinguish them from the other poor people), but the full story is always more complex.

    This is the marketing of conservative ideology at its finest -- people like George Will make oversimplified caricatures seem like ultimate truths about the bulk of humanity.

    Posted by: pj_in_jesusland on March 6, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

    I'm sure the 80% of the population are not poor would be thrilled to pay higher taxes to achieve the goal of eradicating poverty. They like to be called racist, elitist, and stupid. They are eager to give up their privilege. If only the Democrats could get this message out, surely we'll start winning elections again.

    Posted by: PTate in Mn

    The reason for welfare reform was that people got tired of throwing away money on programs that only perpetuated more multigenerational welfare families. So I don't think telling people that all they have to do is spend lots of their money will convince anybody. Until ablebodied welfare recipients are willing to work part time for their welfare check and look for work the rest of the time or participate in training programs. The Dumbercrats will never be able to sell it to people that work for a living.

    Posted by: Fat White Guy on March 6, 2006 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

    Especially in the black community where fathers act like nothing but sperm donors.

    Excellent job, Fat White Guy! I salute your progress!

    Since the end of Reconstruction, white men (fat and otherwise) have been obsessed with the sexual prowess of black men, and their own perceived inadequacies. I'm pleased to see that you're sublimating your envy into boilerplate jargon rather than indulging yourself in the violent lynchings your forebearers favored.

    Kudos to you!

    Posted by: vetiver on March 6, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

    punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, et ceteri, et cetera

    haha...what a flaky prig he is. Every time Will wills his gob to open must and dust spew from his disused Victrola brain. For a certain species of conservatite, anticipation of Victorian scolding wriggles just under the lizard-skin surface.

    You know, discipline is the prescription for both personal and public ills. Advice needed, but not heeded, in a country run down by Republicans that produces nothing, has declining pensions and health care benefits, increasing poverty and pays for its wars and consumption with the Red Chinese Credit Card.

    Not being responsible for mismanaging the country (after nearly 40 years of Republican domination, it is still FDR's fault) is Republican job number one. Will leads the way by doing the Christian thing. He blames the poor for their poverty as Jesus taught in Matthew 19:16-22.


    Posted by: bellumregio on March 6, 2006 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

    I'd love to know how many poor people George Will has actually met.

    Probably quite a few. Keep in mind they all sell concessions at Camden Yards and RFK Stadium, mind you.

    Kramer of "Seinfeld" probably had the best description of George Will: a good-looking man, but not all that bright.

    Posted by: Vincent on March 6, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

    vetever,

    I haven't really got time to do this, but I will anyway.

    I've lost most of my high school Spanish, partly because I learned Italian afterward and Romance languages are really easily confused. And the drivers have learned "Por favor, mueven se para atrs," but that'd be more or less it.

    Gee, dude/dudette, what's a "Miz Middle-Class Waterfowl" in your neck of the woods? I make about 1100 take-home a month. Just regularly raking it in, I am. I am on the bus all the time because I don't drive, which puts me more or less in the demographic of the people you're talking about, though Lord knows they work a lot harder than I do.

    And did I say that the day-laborers I see on the buses I still take are "happy-go-lucky"? Nope. I said that they were obviously working their butts off, but didn't look as though they were being ground into dust. Now here's the thing: A lot of non-white minorities here do look as though they were being ground into dust, who are in much better situations than these folks. People are aggrieved who aren't suffering nearly as much as my Mexican bus-mates are, or my Pakistani neighbors in Emeryville, or my Korean neighbors in San Rafael.

    Those are the families you know about, because those families are interviewed in the media, their kids go to class with you or your kids, they work at the bank with you or your Aunt Susan.

    Um, no. Have no kids, went myself to about the whitest high school in upstate NY, if that matters, have no aunt named Susan or anything else, go into banks as infrequently as possible, and that you talk about "those families" being interviewed gives a reasonable idea of what you, at any rate, think of them. "Those people," after all. Let's just pretend they don't exist. They haven't measured up to the abjectitude rationally expected of them. Sorry idiots, yes?

    Posted by: waterfowl on March 6, 2006 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

    Bellumregio at 11:01 if we could put your comment to music I think we would have a hit!

    Posted by: Neo on March 6, 2006 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

    vetiver,

    Sorry for misspelling your moniker. This is by way of correction.

    Posted by: waterfowl on March 6, 2006 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

    I'm pleased to see that you're sublimating your envy into boilerplate jargon rather than indulging yourself in the violent lynchings your forebearers favored.

    Kudos to you!

    Posted by: vetiver

    There is nothing to envy. I only have disdain and disgust for men that father children then walk away which appears to be a common practice in poor black families. So you can delude yourself into believing unprotected sexual activity makes you a man. It only shows your own ignorance. Real men take responsibility (Oops! There that silly 'R' word)for their actions and help raise their kids.


    Posted by: Fat White Guy on March 6, 2006 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

    Let me ask you folks to can the smarm and snark for a moment and imagine yourself in the living room of the persuadable Repub voter. Imagine further that this person is from southern Ohio, her family voted Democrat for 3 generations, and she switched to the Repubs because she liked Reagan's optimism contrasted to Jiminy Carter's feckless ineptitude. How would you convince her that the $7 trillion we have spent on the War on Poverty has not subsidised fifth generation crack whores who have no intention of ever looking for a job in their lives, who have a kid every 18 months because that's her cash crop. Tell our persuadable voter why 10% of all black men between 18 and 35 are in prison, why 30% of all black males between 16 and 35 are on probation or somewhere in the criminal justice system. Now tell that voter what a racist yaboo she is, not nearly as sophisticated as you Dems, because she believes a little self discipline should be required before we ladle out any more benefits.

    Posted by: wks on March 6, 2006 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

    Poor has moved though, yes?

    Its now bad housing, education, crime and healthcare. 3 out of 4 are linked to your neighbours to some extent. Not sure throwing money at the problem, will help.

    At the end of the day you can gauge whether that is a trap or not by the performance
    of various migrant groups.

    One has to ask: why some migrant groups are able to move up fast enough that states no longer deemed them 'disadvantaged minorities' and try to quota their university access?

    One cannot argue that on initial entry they don't have the problems of other poor.

    ------

    My solution is assistance linked to passing random testing showing no ciggies, alcohol or drugs on receipt of assistance.

    Plus a involuntary sterilization program for men who run from child support/their families and women who have more than 1 abortion after the 20th week.

    Plus near-automatic death penalty for pimps and drug sellers/smugglers, followed by the sale of their organs (after testing) to raise funds
    for further testing.

    -----------------

    Make sure that pregnant teenagers must bear their unwanted children. They don't have maturity, money, or, typically, a father. It's a recipe for a family life from hell.

    Posted by: frankly0 on March 6, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

    If you know many kids with like an attitude like that, involuntary sterilization is also an option.

    Posted by: McA on March 7, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

    Is Will seriously trying to pretend that this is a new view of the poor?

    Apparantly he's never read any Charles Dickens...

    Posted by: E. Nonee Moose on March 7, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

    To continue, pj_in_jesuslands list of why people are poor...

    And some people are poor because they are mentally ill.

    And some people are poor because they are borderline retarded and have difficulty learning basic job skills.

    And some people are poor because they are addicted to drugs.

    And some people are poor because they are violent and impulsive. Some have really bad attitudes.

    And some people are poor because being poor is all they know. They can't visualize themselves in college or in high school or in their 20s. They don't know how to set goals for themselves.

    Indeed, the roots of poverty are complex.

    Given that, why is it so hard for liberals to consider the possibility that in some cases, specific behaviors make it harder to get out of poverty, such as the middle class values of 1) graduate from high school, 2) stay out of touble, 3) get married before you have babies, 4) don't have babies before you are 20?

    The reasoning on this thread embodies Rush Limbaugh's worst stereotypes: Surely Democrats could learn that a "winning" campaign strategy requires policies that appeal to a majority of the population instead of insulting them.

    Posted by: PTate in MN on March 7, 2006 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK
    Given that, why is it so hard for liberals to consider the possibility that in some cases, specific behaviors make it harder to get out of poverty, such as the middle class values of 1) graduate from high school, 2) stay out of touble, 3) get married before you have babies, 4) don't have babies before you are 20?

    None of those is a purely voluntary behavior. All of them are strongly influenced by wealth and the availability of various resources both within and outside of the home (both 3 and 4, resources, outside of the home, to which the Right, largely, seeks to restrict rather than promote access.)

    Liberals don't have a problem recognizing that all of these play a role in poverty. Liberals have a problem with the Right, in the form of people like George Will, characterizing these and other contributing factors to poverty as things which government has no power to influence. Government has the power to assist people with resources that promote success in school (#1); government has the power to assist people with resources and programs that have demonstrable effect on helping them stay out of trouble -- and the ability to structure the format of "trouble" so that when young people get in it, it is either more or less likely to recur (#2), government has the power both through education and directly provision of resources, and even moreso through guaranteeing safe, anonymous access to resources, and by other means, as well, to enable and assist young women to choose whether or not they become pregnant or have children (#3 and #4). All of these are within the power of government to influence -- and in most cases, the Right tries to change government policy in the most harmful direction, while pretending the government is impotent.

    Posted by: cmdicely on March 7, 2006 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

    All of them are strongly influenced by wealth and the availability of various resources both within and outside of the home

    Posted by: cmdicely on March 7, 2006 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

    Actually, if you start from the assumption that you can not have sex until age 20+, 3) and 4) are under control. 2) is 90% under your control (95% if the cops are tough on gangs) and 1) is almost 75% under your control (or 90% if you include parent's control).

    Perhaps this is chastity based safe sex has some advantages... it attacks poverty as well as disease.

    Whereas if everyone in your society believes 'everybody is doing it at 15' you tend to get a few more social problems...


    Posted by: McA on March 7, 2006 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

    Sure, plenty of immigrant families manage to move beyond 14-hour days and 7-day weeks of busing tables and/or mowing lawns and/or cleaning hotel rooms within one or two generations....What makes you think that's the norm? .........any damage to spend time with the native-born, multi-generational trapped -- tutor some kids, volunteer at a clinic, something like that.......

    Posted by: vetiver on March 6, 2006 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

    Seen both when I was in the US for 3 years (with the advantage of not being White), and it would be tough to argue that the native-born, multi-generational trapped weren't lazy by migrant standards or convinced that they were entitled to far more.

    I'd question whether supporting an entitlement mentality in sections of the poor hurts people more than the physical benefits of some help.

    You wanna help the African-American community catch up to Latino's?

    Bring in lots and lots of African migrants (screened for degrees or skills)on work permits, convertible to green cards after several years without government assistance or significant unemployment. After ten years, they'd be a success story and actively countering stereotypes in America. You need more Condeleeza Rice's and Colin Powells in that community.

    You could even make them Christian refugees from Nigeria given the current persecution.


    Posted by: McA on March 7, 2006 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

    A lot of non-white minorities here do look as though they were being ground into dust, who are in much better situations than these folks. People are aggrieved who aren't suffering nearly as much as my Mexican bus-mates are, or my Pakistani neighbors in Emeryville, or my Korean neighbors in San Rafael.

    My apologies, Miz Middle-Class Waterfowl, but I have no idea what you're talking about here. Non-whites who are being ground into dust don't ride the bus? Pakistanis aren't aggrieved?

    You declared that you knew, from your bus rides, that Mexican immigrants (mostly men) were doing just fine with whatever wages they got. I questioned your authority for making that statement. So sorry that you were unable to come up with any corroborating data.

    As far as your whinging about your monthly income, your hardscrabble upbringing -- cry me a river, sweetpea. You're white? You're a native English speaker? Your folks had the genetic foresight and/or the nutritional and financial wherewithal to make sure you have all your own pearly-white teeth? You didn't have to actually abandon your family to go to college? Congratulations -- you've won the global lottery. Whatever grievances you're hoarding are nothing compared to what your busmates face.

    So, Miz Middle-Class Waterfowl -- besides your Mexican busmates, you say you have Korean and Pakistani neighbors. How often do you talk to them? (Assuming you're not referring to the staff at the corner deli.) What are their names? Their kids' names? How many generations have they been here? Does that matter to you? Do they have any family they're hoping to bring to the U.S? And how do you feel about that?

    You got yourself out of whatever backwater shithole you grew up in, and all credit to you. But you seem to think that your burden is as bad as it gets, which is bullshit.

    Pay attention. Stop being such a fucking priss-pot.

    Posted by: vetiver on March 7, 2006 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

    You wanna help the African-American community catch up to Latino's?

    Hold on. Reality check.

    In 2000-2003, the last 4 years covered by the 2006 Statistical Abstract of the United States, Hispanic household median income dropped from $35,429 to $32,997; Black median income dropped from $31,690 to $29,645 (all in 2003 dollars). Individually, Blacks actually are ahead of Hispanics in income; Black males had a median income of $21,986 in 2003, Hispanic males $21,053, Black females $16,581, Hispanic females $13,642.

    Similarly, the poverty rates of individuals in the to groups are similar (in 2003, Black 24.4%, Hispanic 22.5%).

    When examined by families, rather than individual or households, again, Blacks, as of 2003, were doing (barely) better than Hispanics; with median family income of $34,369 for Blacks vs. $34,272 for Hispanics, although a greater percentage (22.3) of Black families than Hispanic (20.8) families were below the poverty line in 2003.

    So, really, when you talk about recommendations to make Blacks catch up to Hispanics, its meaningless chatter. Blacks and Hispanics are in about the same place to start with, and, while both are doing worse in the Bush economy, Hispanics are being hit, by many measures, harder than Blacks.

    Posted by: cmdicely on March 7, 2006 at 4:26 AM | PERMALINK

    I think GW fits nicely into this category, and yet he's not poor thanks to old wealth beyond most of our dreams. Otoh, if GW had been born to a hardworking poor family it doesn't take much imagination to figure out where he'd be today. In fact, I think I passed his doppelganger on the way to work - he was sitting on the street corner with a paper bag at his side.

    Blows Will's proposition out of the water I think.
    Posted by: ExBrit


    The single greatest predictor of success in the US is the SES of one's parents. The ladder is mostly broken.

    We've become a nation of hereditary privilege which encourages those lucky enough in their choice of parents to belive that they somehow are deserving of their inherited status in the Ruling Class.

    The incubators of this are, of course, exclusive private schools. A class defined by whom they can 'exclude' from any hope of participation.

    Having 5 generations of mostly unearned wealth behind one does seem to confer certain, shall we say, advantages which operate regardless of ability, personal possession of anything approaching virtue or intelligence.

    My years in the Trust Department of the flagship bank of a Texas Bank Holding Company (now defunct - natch - went down in flames in the Great Reagan Crash of '82 after an ill-conceived merger) offered many and varied opportunies to view this phenomenon at close range.

    Posted by: CFShep on March 7, 2006 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

    Freedom Fighter:

    Trying staying out of poverty working full time at Wall Mart or Best Buy. The Lord may hear the cry of the poor, the Catholic Churuch may have the doctrine of preferential option for the poor, but you don't and can't be bothered with any religious doctrtine or govenment policy that doesn't oppress people and reward the powerful.

    Posted by: RP on March 7, 2006 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

    "i think it's called social darwinism. the poor are poor because they deserve to be.

    With all due respect, mudwall: Social Darwinism? Try Calvinism...
    Posted by: Gregory"

    Gregory, if you are so ignorant of the history of ideas and religion as this, you should refrain from makiing comments. Just because there is a meme in our society that Calvin's ideas = fate does not mean it is so.

    While I'm on the soapbox, the remark, "the poor are always with you" does not mean, as the poster above seems to think, to ignore them. It means that your opportunity to serve them is always present.

    Posted by: Ace Franze on March 7, 2006 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

    Gregory, if you are so ignorant of the history of ideas and religion as this, you should refrain from makiing comments. Just because there is a meme in our society that Calvin's ideas = fate does not mean it is so.

    What on Earth are you talking about, Ace? The Puritans who were among the original settlers of what would be come the United States did indeed adhere to Calivinst doctrines. Nor is it inaccurate to say that they believed in predestination, nor to say that they unfortunately adopted the belief that material prosperity was a sign of God's blessing.

    In other words, the notion that the rich are inherently morally superior to the poor, and that poverty is evidence of moral deficiency, is, indeed, an unfortunate legacy with which the United States is still afflicted lo these centuries later.

    Posted by: Gregory on March 7, 2006 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

    Ace, more from Wikipedia:

    Though it is often over-emphasized by its detractors, Calvinism is perhaps best known for its doctrines of predestination and election.

    And, as I already noted, Wikipedia notes that "The single theological movement most consistently self-described by the term "Puritan" was Reformed or Calvinist." If you are so ignorant of the history of ideas and religion as this, perhaps you should refrain from makiing comments.

    So yes, the Puritans adhered to a Calvinist belief in predestination and election, viewed material success as a sign of righteousness, and viewed povery as evidence of moral failing.

    Posted by: Gregory on March 7, 2006 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

    What I am talking about Gregory, is your ignorance of what Calvin said, which was not that persons are "predestined" to wealth or poverty. What he taught was that God's loving attitude toward mankind, as exemplified and enacted in Christ, is not subject to change or to the deserts of any given person. So "Calvinism" is not appropriate shorthand for some notion of fate, or karma, in which history has been somehow pre-set.

    That you and the Puritans have cartooned such ideas for the benefit of your arguments does not change them.

    Posted by: Ace Franze on March 7, 2006 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

    vetiver,

    Oh, whatever. I didn't claim a "hardscrabble upbringing"; I couldn't, because I didn't have one. (Unless you count growing up eating Spam as "hardscrabble." Now I live in a place where there's a dedicated Spam shelf in the local supermarket, and stacked blocks of lard next to the chicken aisle. What goes around comes around?)

    Was not "whingeing" about my income, only pointing out that you put me in a social class on zero evidence. I know well enough that the difference between me and the average new immigrant is that I could make more any time I felt like it and s/he couldn't.

    "Won the global lottery"? Well, of course I have. But so has anyone living in this country, relative to most of the world's population.

    Oh, and I said I have had Korean and Pakistani neighbors, not that I do now. The Pakistanis I knew were in Emeryville, where I lived more than a decade ago; the Koreans, in San Rafael, where I lived a few years ago. (A Guatemalan family was two doors down in the same apartment complex.) I did know their surnames, though under the circumstances it wouldn't be prudent to post them, would it?

    How do I feel about immigrants bringing family members to the US? Just fine, so long as they themselves are here legally.

    Pay attention. Stop being such a fucking priss-pot.

    Now that is classy argument. Excellent!

    Look, my main point is just that people come here because "here" is a lot better than "there." And as "there" is only a rumor or an AP report to native-born minorities, "here" can look really lousy, whereas if you've been there, done that, got the T-shirt, "here" has some quite definite positive attractions.

    I remain mystified, incidentally, that Spanish-speaking immigrants are (for college admission purposes) an affirmative-action group, while native speakers of, oh, Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean are not. I can only put it down to prejudice. (It's especially unfair to the Brazilians, who have the misfortune not to be sufficiently Hispanic. They got colonized by speakers of the wrong Iberian language, so they don't count.)

    Posted by: waterfowl on March 7, 2006 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

    cmdicely: "Liberals don't have a problem recognizing that [a lack of middle class values & associated behavior plays] a role in poverty. Liberals have a problem with the Right, in the form of people like George Will, characterizing these and other contributing factors to poverty as things which government has no power to influence."

    I basically agree with your very nice analysis of the ways in which government policies can influence the development of middle class values and behaviors.

    But I have to qualify your claim that "Liberals don't have a problem recognizing that all of these play a role in poverty" SOME liberals don't have a problem with that. I would be one such liberal, and you, perhaps, are another. But many liberals do have a problem acknowledging the value of middle class values, as this thread illustrates. Say, "be married when you have kids" and some liberals will feel obliged to defend the 75% of black children who are born to unmarried mothers. They will respond, "I was raised by a single mother, and I turned out all right! You don't need to be married to be a good parent!" Or they might go completely off-task and respond "Gay people can't marry!" Or they will blame an individuals lack of middle class values on society: "The Federal government's stupid War on Drugs has locked up 16% of adult black men! WHO can these black women marry when they choose to have children?" (This statement, of course, is a two-fer since, in the process of dismissing value #3, "be married when you have children", it also tosses out middle-class value #2, "stay out of trouble." Using drugs is an activity that qualifies as "trouble." And responding "we need to legalize drugs" is not a viable answer.)

    The moment a conservative starts talking about the roots of poverty and the responsibility of individuals, liberals go mad. We foam at the mouth. It is true that liberals must always be vigilant because conservatives, in general, ARE racist, selfish, belligerent, and/or ignorant people who embrace policies that will produce only evil outcomes. But if we are going to implement government policies to reinforce simple values and behaviors that can lift people from poverty, we 1) have to win elections again, 2)have to stop attacking those basic values and behavior that lead to individual success, and 3) need to accept that people have some responsibility for their choices, 4) need to stop enabling self-destructive behaviors.

    I believe our energy should be directed towards the many working poor families who DO practice middle class values and are still poor. Their plight is outrageous.

    Posted by: PTate in MN on March 7, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

    waterfowl: "I remain mystified, incidentally, that Spanish-speaking immigrants are (for college admission purposes) an affirmative-action group, while native speakers of, oh, Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean are not. I can only put it down to prejudice. (It's especially unfair to the Brazilians, who have the misfortune not to be sufficiently Hispanic. They got colonized by speakers of the wrong Iberian language, so they don't count.)

    Waterfowl has made what I consider excellent points on this thread, and gotten slammed for those points in what I would describe as low, ad hominem attacks. I know that waterfowl is perfectly capable of defending his or her self, but I just want to add my support.

    This particular point is another good one.

    Posted by: PTate in MN on March 7, 2006 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

    Historically, what the poor really need is (1) a plague to reduce their numbers and thus make the unskilled labor they have to offer more valuable, or (2) a frontier, where the promise of easy wealth and unconstrained upward mobility beckons because of natural resources that may be exploited with a minimum of permissions and control by the upper classes back home.

    Actually, the poor of Ireland were very fortunate to have the U.S.A. to go to, a land of vast resources and space to grow. Once in the U.S., however, it was most often the middle class or working poor who migrated Westward. It takes a definite amount of energy to be a pioneer. My biggest complaint about the environmental movement is that too often it is nothing but a reflexive obstructionist attitude by the rich who are perfectly willing to preserve a comfortable stasis that protects nature but severely limits the growth needed for human opportunity.

    Morally, Martin Luther put it best when he said that the rich must provide for the welfare of the poor, but the poor must provide services that are acceptable to the rich. I have worked most of my life in and around low income communities as an educator or in criminal justice and nothing irritates me more than able-bodied people ages 21 to 65 who continually finagle themselves into environments where they can consume goods and services without bothering themselves to produce a good or service for anyone.

    I myself have been prone to the "artistic" fallacy, which supposes that my writing is inherently of great worth to the world and should justify my material consumption, but for the fact that stupid editors and publishers unfairly deny my true worth. As Luther noted, the product one offers has to be "acceptable" to the consumer, not just some over-valued hobby of ours at which we really may be mediocre. The Netherlands for a long time had a policy of letting artists be subsidized to produce stuff that the free market would never treasure, and a whole lot of government warehouses promptly filled up with "art."

    It is a consummate pain in the behind to have to leave the house in the morning and go provide a good or service that society truly is in need of. It is soul-destroying and considerably cramps my personal style. However, time is up and away I must go, coffee in hand, retirement date beckoning from the distant future. . .

    Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 7, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

    "able bodied persons 21 to 65 who finagle their ways into consuming and not producing"

    Sounds like Washington Work Force - a part of the national Work Force developed by the Repugs in the Welfare Reform Act of 96 - run out of Rutgers, the Work Force units in this nation have been a transfer of payments from the poor to a group of administrators, many of them Repugs - they administer grants to "help the disabled and poor" - top heavy salaries, health care benefits - go to a lot of retreats, fine wine and dining to pat each other on their collective backs about all of the fine work they are dribbling out to their "clients".

    Similar to the ripoffs of the Javitz-Wagner-O'Day federal program to provide employment to the disabled - High administrative costs, high CEO payments - low payments to the "clients"

    Be sure to call the Millionaire Club for spring cleanup, Michael L Cook, or just drive down to Belltown to pick up a few of the guys on the street - You so want to help.

    Posted by: thethirdPaul on March 7, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

    ttp, that should have been "Millionair Club" - work out in the "air" and feel like a "million" - Many a working poor has passed through the doors of the Club in Seattle, WA.

    Posted by: stupid git on March 7, 2006 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

    A lot of white, divorced, formerly middle-class mothers out there might take issue with this reduction.

    Posted by: Jeff II

    And their children.

    Posted by: CFShep on March 7, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK


    I basically agree with your very nice analysis of the ways in which government policies can influence the development of middle class values and behaviors.

    I must point out that I disagree that these are "middle class values and behaviors", since virtually no one I know in the middle class (myself, emphatically, included) has adhered to all of them in their youth and, unless "don't get into trouble" means "don't commit a crime more serious than an infraction, get caught, and prosecuted", almost none have adhered to any of them except the age of first childbirth, adn there are plenty of exceptions even there.

    But I have to qualify your claim that "Liberals don't have a problem recognizing that all of these play a role in poverty"

    I would all what you are doing "disagreeing" rather than "qualifying".

    I would be one such liberal, and you, perhaps, are another. But many liberals do have a problem acknowledging the value of middle class values, as this thread illustrates.

    I think this thread illustrates nothing of the sort; I think there is precisely zero evidence of liberal disagreement that any of the four "values" (or, perhaps more accurately, intermeidate outcomes) offered can influence poverty.

    I see many issues taking a stand against Will's position that this is a moral defect which government is impotent to address.

    Say, "be married when you have kids" and some liberals will feel obliged to defend the 75% of black children who are born to unmarried mothers. They will respond, "I was raised by a single mother, and I turned out all right! You don't need to be married to be a good parent!" Or they might go completely off-task and respond "Gay people can't marry!" Or they will blame an individuals lack of middle class values on society: "The Federal government's stupid War on Drugs has locked up 16% of adult black men! WHO can these black women marry when they choose to have children?" (This statement, of course, is a two-fer since, in the process of dismissing value #3, "be married when you have children", it also tosses out middle-class value #2, "stay out of trouble." Using drugs is an activity that qualifies as "trouble". And responding "we need to legalize drugs" is not a viable answer.)

    Why? Guns are a lot easier to cause direct harm to others with than drugs, but they are legal, regulated, and harms committed through them tightly punsihed. We allow them to be legal due to the (quite arguably, largely mythical in the present environment) belief that doing so provides some modicum of protection from a more dangerous result, tyranny. Similar, we could decriminalize and regulate drugs, strictly punish harms to others associated with them, and more effectively provide aid to people with problems to get off of them, destigmatizing addiction and treating it as the medical condition it is. We don't, and we selectively punish more harshly, both through formal guidelines and discretion within them, the types of drugs blacks (or perhaps more accurately, the poor, who are more likely to be black) tend to use.

    You are simply asserting nonviability to absolve society of responsibility. Criminalization is a choice society makes, and whose predictable results -- not merely incarceration, but the types of crimes that are directly tied to prohibition just as they were with alcohol, are
    a cost society has chosen to accept and impose on communities. You cannot waive away responsibility for that.

    The moment a conservative starts talking about the roots of poverty and the responsibility of individuals, liberals go mad.

    More accurately, the minute conservatives start using the fact that some people -- through, perhaps, some degree of choice, or through circumstance -- are poor because they have failed to acquire the habits and values which might (or might not) help them get out of poverty as an excuse to toss blame instead of finding ways to fix the problem that affects more people than just the subset of the poor who may be culpable.

    Posted by: cmdicely on March 7, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

    There's a lively little...er...tap dance...done on Will's pompous 'behavioral poverty' piece over at Tapped.

    Posted by: CFShep on March 7, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

    One of the brilliant ways conservatives like George Will market right wing, free market ideology is by reducing the cause of poverty to poor personal choices. It's a simple explanation that people can relate to immediately.

    But the causes of poverty are much more numerous and complex, because:

    People don't choose to get cancer and watch their savings evaporate in doctors' visits and medications;

    People don't choose for their parents to get alzheimers and see the nursing home suck their savings dry in $6,000 monthly installments;

    People don't choose for levee builders and inspectors to fail their responsibility to protect their neighbors;

    People don't choose to go to delapidated schools funded inadequately by local property taxes;

    People don't choose to be abandoned by the family breadwinner after having two kids.

    Liberals have no problem recognizing that personal choices do, indeed, have an important effect on individual economic success. We raise our children just like conservative parents to be responsible citizens in all respects. The difference is that we recognize that life's circumstances frequently create financial crises that are beyond the means of families to cope with. These are investments for which citizens in many countries around the world feel they get excellent returns.

    If government has the means by which to mitigate these problems -- by funding schools, by making low-cost generic drugs available, by offering tax breaks for eldercare, why shouldn't it do this? If we can afford to provide tax breaks for companies like Exxon-Mobil, subsidies for drug companies, contracts for Halliburton why is an investment in people viewed as providing such a low return?

    The costs for failing to invest in people -- unemployment, crime, broken families, the burgeoning prison population -- are so high. Liberalism is not so much "throwing money at problems" (the typical right-wing characterization) as it is in investing in solutions to the critical social problems we face.

    Posted by: pj_in_jesusland on March 7, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

    That you and the Puritans have cartooned such ideas for the benefit of your arguments does not change them.

    Look, Franze, if the Puritans -- who are undoubtedly a sect of Calvinism and thought of themselves as such -- didn't follow his teachings, or perverted his meanings, or "cartooned his ideas," so be it, but that hardly affects my accurate summation of the Puritan Calvinist belief, or means that I, by reporting this belief, am cartooning Calvin's philosophy.

    I gather that we're in agreement that the Puritan philosophy is an odious thing. I'll cop to bein inelegant in attributing that philosophy to Calvinism as opposed to Puritan Calvinism or simply Puritanism. But the fact is that the Puritan philosophy was derived from Calvin's insistence on predestination and election. You might just take a freakin' chill pill before throwing charges of ignorance around, pal.

    Posted by: Gregory on March 7, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

    cmdicely: "I must point out that I disagree that these are "middle class values and behaviors", since virtually no one I know in the middle class (myself, emphatically, included) has adhered to all of them in their youth and, unless "don't get into trouble" means "don't commit a crime more serious than an infraction, get caught, and prosecuted", almost none have adhered to any of them except the age of first childbirth, adn there are plenty of exceptions even there"

    These behaviors are a standard list used by social scientists to evaluate "middle class values." You don't have to agree with it. "Don't get into trouble" includes "don't commit crimes for which you can go to jail" as well as "don't be violent and untrustworthy." Sometimes the list includes, "get a job". And the list is cumulative--it is the synergistic effect of all four (or five) that wastes economic prospects.

    People with more family resources can cushion the self-destructive behaviors of their young. Alas, the poor don't have those cushions. But it becomes harder and harder for anyone to cushion the blow as the violations increase. You either need to be fabulously rich, like the Bush's, or you need to rein it in. I assume that you and your friends--who didn't graduate from high school OR didn't stay out of jail/beat up their friends OR had babies when they weren't married OR were less than 20 when they had their babies--had lots of help getting through a rough time.

    Meanwhile, an upper middle class ad exec having a snort of cocaine at a party for fun turns into a generation of black men in jail.

    As the adage goes, a sniffle in the upper classes becomes pneumonia in the poor.

    Posted by: PTate in MN on March 7, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

    George Wills editorial is a mixture of errant historical analysis and misdiagnosed ascertains on what causes poverty. Mr. Will suggests that we are in transition from an old paradigm which views poverty as systemic to a new paradigm which focuses in on individuals shortcomings as the cause of poverty. While it is true that American society focuses in on the latter reason, the old paradigm never existed.

    Our society has always looked at behavioral, cultural and other assortment of internal frailties to explain why social problems exist. Even during the Great Depression, unemployment was explained as being due to people not willing to take any type of job available to them. The poor houses of the 1800s, charity workers trying to reform the poor and a meager public welfare system are all evidence of the historical antecedents of poverty being explained as individual failings.

    George Will expresses this paradigm quite well when he states that poverty results from a scarcity of certain habits and mores punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, etc. that are not developed in disorganized homes. This culture of poverty theory made popular in the late 1950s is not new to the thinking processes of most Americans. Unfortunately our programs to address poverty are centered on this theory, which explains their failings.

    Does Mr. Will seriously suggest that if all Americans suddenly lead an exemplary life that poverty would cease to exist? By studying those who are more likely to be in poverty, we only uncover those who are the most vulnerable to our economic system. If these slothful people suddenly changed their habits and left poverty, they would only be replaced by a new group of people whom we can study and see how they are different from the rest of us. That way, we can blame these differences as the reason for their impoverishment.

    Such a recipe has never worked in addressing the condition of poverty in America, yet it remains the primary way of addressing poverty. This is the old paradigm as well as the new paradigm. Until we actually dive into a new way of thinking about this problem little will change.

    Posted by: Mike V. on March 7, 2006 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

    You know, there are more people in the "millionaires" club in America (Ok, inflated dollars we are talking) than any other nation, somehow maybe even myself, but I won't take crap from anybody on all the "advantages" I had in getting to this point. There is damn near no working class job that I haven't done--farm hand, ditch digger, railroad track repair gang, roofer, salesman, able bodied seaman, taxi cab driver, night shift motel clerk, motorized newspaper delivery, bus driver, jail guard, rural school teacher, concrete demolition, forest fire fighting and reforestation work, and so on.
    When I was 38 I had a net worth of minus six thousand dollars, a $50 car, and did not have a suit to marry my present wife in. She bought me one. Twenty years later and now I have a few things. How? The miracle of America. Work. Work.
    Work. I have a Sikh neighbor who started with nothing here about the same time as me and he now has a bigger house than I do. He works.
    Yeah, anybody can get cancer and be ruined, if they choose to be. In this country we get to make a lot of choices about life style and our decisions of whether to have our teeth fixed, or whether it is even worth it to have them fixed. My parents didn't choose to throw all their life savings into desperate attempts to live six more months. A lot of people don't. If your parents choose to spend $6,000 a month for nursing home care, good for them. I'm glad they have the money. I don't see many 90-year-olds sleeping under overpasses, so when the cash runs out, obviously somebody is taking care of them. The only people I've seen under those overpasses are people under 65 who have other priorities than working or even taking care of their own health.
    I've been through periods of hard unemployment. The key is to never stop working at something, even if it is lowly work, and never stop trying to improve yourself.
    If you want to put a smart-ass label on my philosophy, call it Social Darwinism. In America nobody really stops you from being at least modestly successful. You stop yourself. You decide, "I'm a loser, I'm a useless failure, I deserve to be extinct." NOBODY OUT THERE IS TRYING TO MAKE YOU FAIL.
    Why do immigrants die trying to get to this country? Because they know what I say is true!

    Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 8, 2006 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK




     

     

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