A Poor Cousin of the Middle Class

by Henry on January 21, 2004

Patrick Nielsen Hayden says about this NYT story

State of the union. The great feminist science fiction author Joanna Russ once remarked to me, “Homophobia isn’t there to keep homosexuals in line. Homophobia is there to keep everyone else in line.”
Caroline Payne is in her condition in order to keep the rest of us in line.

What he said. I feel angry and ashamed.

Update: via Kip of Long Story Short Pier in comments, comes this charming response from the so-called “Independent Women’s Forum.”

I must have a heart made of granite, but I just can’t feel sorry for Caroline Payne, the off-and-on welfare mother/credit-card binger who’s supposed to an example of our nation’s beleaguered working poor, the “millions at the bottom of the labor force who contribute to the country’s prosperity” but don’t get anything back, as writer David K. Shipler puts it in “A Poor Cousin of the Middle Class,” this week’s sob story in Sunday’s NYT magazine—in which Caroline whines about her $6.80-an-hour job at a convenience store.
From the way I read Caroline’s saga, it’s prosperous America that’s been handing out tens of thousands of dollars worth of freebies to Caroline over the years (Shipley is coy about her age), and Caroline who’s given very little back. One big reason that Caroline hasn’t moved up the economic ladder looks pretty simple to me: She refuses to wear her (free, Medicaid-supplied) dentures (check the photo). Sorry, Caroline (and oh-so-politically correct Shipler, who remarks sarcastically that Caroline is “missing that radiant, tooth-filled smile that Americans have been taught to prize as highly as their right to vote”). This may sound harsh, but if you want a job that entails interacting with the public or supervising employees, you gotta have teeth. Ask George Washington

This doesn’t leave me angry or ashamed. It leaves me disgusted. There’s something vicious and depraved (in the strongest sense of the word) in the unwillingness of many US conservatives and libertarians to admit that people can get screwed by the market through no fault of their own. D-squared is fond of quoting Galbraith’s dictum that “the project of the conservative throughout the ages is the search for a higher moral justification for selfishness” – this seems appropriate here. I still think that a principled conservatism is possible in theory – I just don’t see much evidence of it in the US today. A little, but not much.

{ 98 comments }

1

Timothy Burke 01.21.04 at 4:55 pm

The moral issue is obvious–this isn’t the kind of poverty that can be hung on a failure to live by the right values. There’s no “undeserving poor” here to scapegoat. These are Bill Clinton’s “people who live by the rules”, and they’re still losing the game.

In some ways, what’s more pressing is the economic issue. This is a breakdown of Fordism, and it is accelerating. The consumer society only works in the long haul as long as what people put in, they have reasonable hope of getting back out, that if they work at Wal-Mart, they might hope to shop at Wal-Mart. Right now the consumer society is sputtering along on credit card debt; if it runs out of gas for good, it’s going to be because the low end of the service industry has totally broken the Fordist contract. Short-term profits over the long term stability of wealth creation–what a stupid, stupid way to run the railroad, and we’re probably all going to pay for that stupidity soon enough.

2

nolo 01.21.04 at 5:38 pm

Keep in mind too that it’s people like Carolyn Payne who are getting sold down the river any time you hear talk about protecting business from excessive regulation — whether by rolling back consumer and employee protection laws employee protection (or refusing to adopt them at all), or by limiting so-called “frivolous” lawsuits.

3

--kip 01.21.04 at 5:38 pm

Angry and ashamed? And you haven’t even read the Independent Women’s Forum response yet.

bq. I must have a heart made of granite, but I just can’t feel sorry for Caroline Payne, the off-and-on welfare mother/credit-card binger who’s supposed to an example of our nation’s beleaguered working poor, the “millions at the bottom of the labor force who contribute to the country’s prosperity” but don’t get anything back, as writer David K. Shipler puts it in “A Poor Cousin of the Middle Class,” this week’s sob story in Sunday’s NYT magazine–in which Caroline whines about her $6.80-an-hour job at a convenience store.

bq. From the way I read Caroline’s saga, it’s prosperous America that’s been handing out tens of thousands of dollars worth of freebies to Caroline over the years (Shipley is coy about her age), and Caroline who’s given very little back. One big reason that Caroline hasn’t moved up the economic ladder looks pretty simple to me: She refuses to wear her (free, Medicaid-supplied) dentures (check the photo). Sorry, Caroline (and oh-so-politically correct Shipler, who remarks sarcastically that Caroline is “missing that radiant, tooth-filled smile that Americans have been taught to prize as highly as their right to vote”). This may sound harsh, but if you want a job that entails interacting with the public or supervising employees, you gotta have teeth. Ask George Washington…

4

dsquared 01.21.04 at 5:59 pm

One of the major perks of being politically of the left is that none of your mates are people like the “Independent Women’s Forum”.

5

godlesscapitalist 01.21.04 at 6:15 pm

First, let’s get something straight: the woman has an email address . She has an answering machine. She has food, and she has state provided dentures and welfare. She owned a house, a TV set, a washer, a dryer, and a VCR. So she’s not poor by any reasonable absolute standard. Materially speaking, she’s better off than most of the people on the planet.

Concerning her personal decisions – she decided to have three kids , but then left her husband (on the *suspicion* that he was unfaithful). That was the decision that plunged her into poverty. Evidently her kids didn’t care about her, because they could have helped her out.

Yes, she had some terrible breaks – the abusive rapist 2nd husband, the retarded 4th child – but she’s substantially responsible for her own situation, what with the refusal to wear (free) dentures and the abandonment of her first marriage.

In any case, if you want to give charity money to this woman, be my guest. What fiscal conservatives are opposed to is taking that money from other hard-working people by force.

See, the thing you guys don’t get is this: you attack fiscal conservatives as “selfish”, but you’re the selfish ones. You want to spend money on this woman, but you don’t want to pony up your own hard-earned paycheck. Instead, you want to rob someone else to pay for her, and to feel morally superior if they resist.

6

Ophelia Benson 01.21.04 at 6:18 pm

Fordism – just so. I’m always wondering (well not every second, but it occurs to me often) why we so seldom hear about Ford’s obvious but clearly not obvious enough insight, these days. Why the joy of cheap labor always trumps the joy of a prosperous set of consumers.

[Hard-nosed Indy Woman comment is especially interesting in that the article did say why Payne doesn’t wear the dentures – it’s because they don’t fit! I don’t know but I would guess that ill-fitting dentures are pretty damn painful and disabling.]

7

Ophelia Benson 01.21.04 at 6:23 pm

Arrgh, overlap.

The dentures don’t fit, capitalist.

Who’s talking about taking anything? Much of the point of that article was that the wages are too damn low. Are people who get decent wages all stealing them from their employers?

8

Ophelia Benson 01.21.04 at 6:26 pm

Also, you can be destitute and have an email address. You can have a free one, and use library or community center computers. A good thing, to be sure, and a form of wealth, definitely; makes one better off than people who don’t have such access, absolutely; but not a sign of personal wealth.

9

dsquared 01.21.04 at 6:35 pm

See, the thing you guys don’t get is this: you attack fiscal conservatives as “selfish”, but you’re the selfish ones. You want to spend money on this woman, but you don’t want to pony up your own hard-earned paycheck. Instead, you want to rob someone else to pay for her, and to feel morally superior if they resist.

I think you must have brought this baggage in with you sir; you certainly didn’t buy it here. I don’t see one single mention of taxation as a solution in that article, or in this thread.

What everyone appears to have said is that there is something the matter with an economic system that allows a case like this to exist. Nobody’s suggested a solution here, and maybe there isn’t one, but we’ve acknowledged that there is a problem. You’re stuck between denying that there is a problem (your first paragraph), blaming the victim (your second and third) and blwoing smoke up the ass of straw men (your fourth and fifth). In other words, you’re refusing to address someone else’s problem, because you suspect that the solution of it would leave you poorer. There’s a word for that and it rhymes with “elfish”.

10

godlesscapitalist 01.21.04 at 6:36 pm

ophelia:

It would have cost $250 to fix her dentures. Yet she has racked up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt. And it’s hardly as if Caroline hasn’t been given a shot at the public’s expense. From the IWF article:

Meanwhile, just for starters, here’s a list of the government benefits that, according to Shipler, Caroline has received over the years: welfare; Social Security disability for her daughter; Medicaid; public housing; lodgings in a homeless shelter on at least one occasion; a virtually free community-college education that resulted in a two-year associate’s degree in office management and information technology (which Caroline has never used, because she apparently couldn’t get the CEO position she’d been dreaming of–although she did run up $17,000 in student loans in the process); a program that enabled her to buy a house on $1,000 down and another program that handed her $17,000 in grants for repairs to said house; and now, she hopes, $403 worth of job-training designed to turn her into a certified nursing assistant.

Now, here’s what Caroline has done with herself: She’s run up mountains of debt over the years. Shipler doesn’t say whether she ever paid back those student loans, which ran up to $20,000 what with deferred payments, but he does mention that she filed for bankruptcy at one point–after racking up from 10,000 to $12,000 on her credit cards. As Caroline put it: ’’I always wanted things….’I can get spending and overdo things sometimes.’’…Then, as Caroline says, her first free pair of dentures didn’t fit, but she didn’t have the $250 to pay for repairs. Always enough money for credit-card binging, but never enough for life’s necessities. But even now that Caroline has a brand-new set of dentures courtesy of American taxpayers, she still seems determined not to wear them.

As for whether wages are “too low”…well, one could start a company in which you paid a lot of money for unskilled labor. But your products would be expensive, and people would be less likely to buy from your store, unless those higher wages motivated your unskilled workforce to work harder.

But that’s not what’s being objected to here. The people commenting here are talking about regulations and lawsuits against companies, or how the consumer society is “broken” because this individual has chosen to rack up tons of credit card debt.

Don’t get me wrong – if the employer wants to pay her more money, bully for him. But using the state to sue/regulate industries into paying her more doesn’t change the fact that she fundamentally made very poor decisions (e.g. smoking while pregnant, for one).

finally, re: email address…it’s not clear whether she has a computer or not. But she did have a TV, washer, dryer, and a house of her own (as a single mother). That’s not poor. She’s not starving or destitute.

11

dsquared 01.21.04 at 6:37 pm

I’m always wondering (well not every second, but it occurs to me often) why we so seldom hear about Ford’s obvious but clearly not obvious enough insight, these days. Why the joy of cheap labor always trumps the joy of a prosperous set of consumers.

Tragedy of the commons-type argument. Unless you’re like Ford motors and big enough to internalise a significant proportion of the benefit of a wealthy local working class, the marginal benefit to you of cheaper labour is better than your share of the general benefit.

12

godlesscapitalist 01.21.04 at 6:44 pm

Dsquared:

1) “Blaming the victim” is a copout intended to evade all personal responsibility. The woman made bad decisions. She smoked while pregnant, had three kids that she couldn’t pay for, shacked up with abusive men, etcetera.

If she had been a true victim – of violent crime, say – that would be a different story. As it is, she’s made unwise decisions.

2) Robbing hard-working people need not come through direct redistributive taxation. It can also come about through lawsuits and regulations.

3) The “problem” here is that the woman is not rich enough for Shipfield’s (or your) tastes. A TV, house, washer, dryer, etcetera is not enough wealth. You want to make her wealthier.

And Shipfield decries the “ruthless efficiency of the free market”, which is the nonzero sum way of making her wealthier.

Thus, that leaves the zero sum way of making her wealthier – punitive taxation/regulation/lawsuits. If you reject the wealth-creating free market, the only way to make her wealthier is to take money from someone else.

13

--kip 01.21.04 at 6:46 pm

Heck, I know of a homeless person with a LiveJournal. She must not be poor, either, right?

Godless (compassionless, pitiless, loveless, friendless, hopeless):

$6.80 an hour.

That’s the news, right there, and it isn’t pretty. It’s fucking obscene, in this country, at this time, and that’s why I’m angry and ashamed at how we got to this point, and that I share a country and a culture–and a species–with Charlotte Allen, who can so smugly write off Caroline Payne to score cheap, insulting points in favor of cutting her tax bill by another hundred bucks at the next available opportunity.

Force? *Force* you to give up your hard-earned money? Don’t talk to me about force until you own up to the vectors that force people to put in hard work to earn wages grossly below the grossly discounted poverty level.

$6.80 an hour. Jesus. If Walmart is too fucking enamored of its profit margin to do the right thing by the people whose hard work built that margin in the first place, hell. I’d like to think the rest of us are decent enough to pitch in. And trust me: the “force” required to fund that sort of program is unnoticeable compared to the force Caroline Payne lives with every day of her life.

Godless wimp, more like.

14

--kip 01.21.04 at 6:53 pm

Also: we’re told Caroline racked up all this credit card debt. And she has all these appliances, so she must not be destitute. So why care? –No connection seems to be made that maybe some of that debt went into purchasing the appliances she needs; instead, it’s assumed she has the money to buy them, and the debt must have been racked up on who knows what: drugs maybe, or horses, or frivolous trips to Mexico, or steak dinners, who knows. Perhaps the debt–at least part of it?–was racked up purchasing those very appliances which help keep a modern household from slipping into squalor? Perhaps a new definition of destitute ought to take into account hard work at a miniscule wage that doesn’t enable you to “service” that debt-load?

I’m just sayin’.

15

godlesscapitalist 01.21.04 at 6:55 pm

kip:

-Someone who’s “homeless” but takes the time to maintain a live journal is a retard. S/he should get a job and get off the streets.

-You want to pay for her, be my guest. Clearly her wage didn’t prevent her from buying a house, a TV, etcetera. Maybe you can buy her an HDTV.

-Alternatively, why not start a company where you make it your raison d’etre to pay unskilled workers above-market wages. Ben and Jerry’s does it by charging an arm and a leg for ice cream. But somehow I think that reality might smack you in the face when you actually try running a business. Overpaying for people without skills sounds like a great idea on paper, but it is nothing more than charity. Ben and Jerry’s can only survive so long as other sectors of the economy are efficient (and as long as ice cream is a luxury good). For the working poor, they’re going to buy the generic variety of ice cream – the Wal-Mart everyday-low-prices variety that you so disdain.

16

Ophelia Benson 01.21.04 at 6:57 pm

Tragedy of the commons, right. Which is why minimum wage laws are useful (and laws relating to other commons-type expenses such as hazardous waste disposal, etc) – so that employers can’t (legally) compete by cutting wages below a certain level thus making it impossible even for employers who would actually like to pay a living wage.

17

dsquared 01.21.04 at 6:59 pm

“Blaming the victim” is a copout […] The woman […] shacked up with abusive men”

I must remember this one for when the OED decides to update its definition of “blaming the victim”.

18

Ophelia Benson 01.21.04 at 7:00 pm

Oh, blimey. ‘Overpaying’ people without skills is charity. Oy.

19

Airtight 01.21.04 at 7:05 pm

Jeez, godless, do you _really_ think that money is taken from American citizens by the American government in the form of taxes *by force*? This is the type of rhetoric that the right employs in order to try and divert attention from their selfishness – if someone is taking something from you by force, obviously you are a victim, so as a victim you couldn’t possibly be guilty of being a selfish, uncaring person, right?

Right.

20

ahem 01.21.04 at 7:05 pm

she’s not poor by any reasonable absolute standard.

Ah, yes: the ‘lucky duckies’ argument.

As Mark Morford puts it:

“Hey, don’t be blaming us for America’s absurd excesses, where every possible need and every possible craving is so insanely overfulfilled that a culture begins gnawing on itself, creating ridiculous products to meet needs it doesn’t actually have, all of which leads to bizarre self-immolating ideologies no one understands, because we’re all so numb and tired,” said one surprisingly astute mail-room clerk/part-time porn reviewer over at Charmin, a company reportedly developing a hand-quilted quintuple-ply toilet paper that lights up and smells like banana daiquiris.

Godlesss? Heartless, spineless and shameless, more like. But be thankful that the Carolyns of America are keeping you in blow and cheap hookers.

21

Jimmy Doyle 01.21.04 at 7:09 pm

Ahem: You going to start knocking my hobbies now?

22

David W. 01.21.04 at 7:10 pm

-Someone who’s “homeless” but takes the time to maintain a live journal is a retard. S/he should get a job and get off the streets.

May I suggest you find something better to do yourself besides making such insulting comments? Sheesh…

23

kevin 01.21.04 at 7:10 pm

“shacked up with abusive men”

Cause, God knows, abusive men come with warning labels, and there is absolutely nothing like battered women’s syndrome. Jackass.

Here is the simple truth, mate, from someone who has been there: you get unlucky once, you make one bad decision, and you are screwed. I went to high school and college with guys who were about a billion times smarter than you and me and everyone on this thread combined – but because they had to work two jobs to help their family get buy, or because their mom died at the wrong time, or because their work schedule kept changing, or because they got sick at the wrong time, or because they were in a car wreck, or because they got caught with a joint in the tenth grade were done. Once you start the slide, its next to impossible to get back out.

As for the wages, you dip, union organizing is extremely difficult in this country, and thats a result of government and business policy. And the idea that an increase in wages always leads to an increase in costs is something that simply isn’t true in reality. Competition, the increased value of good labor, etc all help make that equation less simple than you want it to be. I might point out that Costco is challenging Sam’s Club for discount warehouse supremacy – and it does it while providing living wages and benefits. Unlike WalMart – where they teach their employees how to apply for food stamps.

Here is the bottom line: we have a system whose prosperity depends in part on people working jobs that leave them in situations like the women’s – subject to catastrophic loss for one bit of bad luck or one bad decision.

24

dsquared 01.21.04 at 7:13 pm

Someone who’s “homeless” but takes the time to maintain a live journal is a retard

Perhaps she is; lots of homeless people are mentally ill or mentally handicapped. But calling her one doesn’t take her off the streets, nor does it change the conditions which ensure that there are lots of people, mentally healthy and otherwise, on the streets. All it does is make you look thoughtless, stupid, and not a little bit nasty.

Go on, why don’t you explain how this is all a necessary result of evolutionary theory, you prick?

25

ahem 01.21.04 at 7:13 pm

Overpaying for people without skills sounds like a great idea on paper, but it is nothing more than charity.

Parsed properly, this reads as ‘Treat your workers like slaves, because you can, and you’ll get rich. Ain’t capitalism great?’

Both morally and intellectually vacuous. Quite an achievement.

26

dsquared 01.21.04 at 7:17 pm

Go on, why don’t you explain how this is all a necessary result of evolutionary theory, you prick?

Just in case anyone was wondering, I’m well aware of the meaning of the phrase ad hominem, but more fearful of the equal and opposite fallacy of “trying to have a good faith debate with people who clearly don’t propose to reciprocate”. With any luck, Godlesscapitalist’s next move will be to call me childish and stupid, tell me that by resorting to insult I (along with Socrates, Doctor Johnson and HL Mencken) have revealed my limited intellect, declare victory for himself, and depart the field. Few tears will be shed. It’s a form of moderation.

27

Matt Weiner 01.21.04 at 7:18 pm

I’d just like to recommend ignoring godlesscapitalist when he shows up. He has lots of time to respond to whatever you put up, and continuing to argue is just banging your head against the wall. I mean, you’re simply not going to convince a believer in the Bell Curve thesis that poverty results from anything other than bad choices by stupid people, to reuse Chris’s phrase from another thread that was hijacked by similar forces.

I realize that this post is a personal attack on another poster, which is the sort of thing that is bad for thread comity in general–but I’ve seen godlesscapitalist take over threads in the past, and I think it’s best to organize a coerced ignoring efforts rather than see CT discussions go to shit.

28

ahem 01.21.04 at 7:19 pm

Go on, why don’t you explain how this is all a necessary result of evolutionary theory, you prick?

It sort of falls through when you promote a cod-Darwinist ideology that would have the working poor die in the gutter; it has the consequence that coddled assholes such as our godless friend contract fatal diseases because they don’t have ‘non-overpaid’ people to clean the ordure from their toilet bowls.

29

--kip 01.21.04 at 7:20 pm

Godless, you pitiless, loveless, hopeless bastard: if you’d bothered to read a little more of being_homeless’s LJ, you’d see she had an accident that left her with some brain damage. The technical details escape me, but mostly involve attention and focus, which have made the few day jobs she’s had since then difficult to impossible for both her and her employers. She does do advocacy work; she is going to be attending college; she’s making the best she can of a really bad hand. She was left homeless thanks to a bureaucratic snafu in her section 8 paperwork–thankfully, that looks like it’s getting cleared up shortly. So cheers to her.

But: “Get a job?” You must want to watch me dissolve in a sputtering rage. –Get a fucking heart. Get a fucking *clue*: There’s one bad day between you and her: _one bad day._ That’s it. That’s all.

30

godlesscapitalist 01.21.04 at 7:35 pm

Heh. Quite the friendly audience. Ok…

1) The woman shacked up with abusive men

Fair enough – in this she really *was* a victim. That said, she made tons of bad decisions – including leaving her first, stable marriage for the abusive guy, smoking while pregnant, selling her house on a whim, refusing her dentures, racking up tens of thousands in credit card debt, and on and on.

I’m fine with society providing some safety net for *catastrophe* (though I think it’s best done by private charitable organizations than the government). But let’s be very clear here: the woman is poor because she made bad decisions, not because of the “ruthless free market”. Probably her worst move was leaving her first husband on the “suspicion” of infidelity after 14 years of marriage, as that was what sent her into this downward wage spiral.

2) Minimum wage laws = higher unemployment and inflation. If you don’t know why, I suggest you check out a textbook or Nobel Laureate Gary Becker’s stuff.

3) Taxes aren’t bad if they’re used to pay for things like infrastructure, defense, police, and so on. That’s just paying for goods that aren’t well allocated by market mechanisms. You know, public choice theory. That has to be sharply distinguished from forcible redistributive taxation, which is another creature altogether (and can take many forms, including lawsuits/regulation).

4) Rather than feeling all high and mighty about citing a homeless person with a live journal as “evidence” that they’re victimized or that it’s “society’s” fault, why not point out the fact that they’re spending time maintaining a freaking live journal rather than getting a job! . I mean, Christ – what happened to personal responsibility? Also – Davies – spare me the sanctimonious outrage over using “retard” as a pejorative, seeing as far more calumny than that has been heaped upon me in this thread.

5) If a company can make a profit by paying workers more than the going rate for labor – fine – more power to them.

But *forcing* them to do so is a bad idea. It’s much better to show that such a company is viable in the first place. If that’s what Costco is doing, great! All that I’m opposed to is the idea that these people are *entitled* to more money. If you think you can do it better – and that these companies are “screwing the worker” unnecessarily, start a competitive business and see whether you can make it work.

If and when you actually do that, you might see that business owners and entrepreneurs aren’t the bloodthirsty caricatures you make them out to be. I’ve never understood how you people can love jobs and hate the people that create them.

31

Robert Lyman 01.21.04 at 7:41 pm

I won’t defend GC, who hasn’t been a model of open-mindedness or courtesy.

But Henry calls conservatives “vicious and depraved,” accuses them of selfishness, and claims that American conservatives are, almost exclusively, unprincipled. He does this without any argument: these people disagree with me and the conclusions I draw from the limited information in the article, and therefore deserve to be dismissed and insulted. If he had limited his comments to the IWF article, he would be on more solid ground. But no: “many” conservatives are selfish and depraved.

Not setting a sterling example, are we, Henry?

The NYT article was deliberately written to arouse sympathy for Ms. Payne. The IWF article is deliberately written for the opposite effect. The truth of this situation is largely unknown to all posters, so the certainty of their opinions is rather striking.

32

Ken 01.21.04 at 7:47 pm

“Tragedy of the commons-type argument. Unless you’re like Ford motors and big enough to internalise a significant proportion of the benefit of a wealthy local working class, the marginal benefit to you of cheaper labour is better than your share of the general benefit.”

Ford Motors didn’t “internalize a significant portion of the benefit of a wealthy local working class”. Ford Motors didn’t profit by jacking up workers’ wages and then selling them cars – that’s just a roundabout way of giving away cars!

Ford Motors profited by offering high wages and getting the best workers available. The best workers turned out to be sufficiently more productive (and less prone to leaving) than average workers for his strategy to pay off.

33

dsquared 01.21.04 at 7:48 pm

Also – Davies – spare me the sanctimonious outrage over using “retard” as a pejorative, seeing as far more calumny than that has been heaped upon me in this thread.

You haven’t seen the beginning of it, you asshole.

In general, your arguments range from “selfish and very bad” to “selfish and at least logically consistent”. Since all we ever wanted to establish was that “Modern conservatives are selfish”, perhaps we can declare this data point settled?

34

bob mcmanus 01.21.04 at 7:53 pm

“It shall be in the days to come. There is food enough for all, shelter for all, wealth enough for all. Men need only know it and will it. And yet we have this!”

“And so much like this!” said I.

So we talked and were tormented.

And I remember how later we found ourselves on Westminster Bridge, looking back upon the long sweep of wrinkled black water that reflected lights and palaces and the flitting glow of steamboats, and by that time we had talked ourselves past our despair. We perceived that what was splendid remained splendid, that what was mysterious remained insoluble for all our pain and impatience. But it was clear to us: the thing for us two to go upon was not the good of the present nor the evil, but the effort and the dream of the finer order, the fuller life, the banishment of suffering, to come… “

HG Wells becomes a socialist, via Brad DeLong.

35

dsquared 01.21.04 at 7:56 pm

Ken: No, Ophelia remembered it right. Ford (in those occasional moments when he wasn’t talking about the Jewish conspiracy) regularly said that one of his aims was to ensure that Ford workers could afford Ford cars.

In any case, I think you have the efficiency wage argument wrong, too. It also makes no sense to talk about Henry Ford “attracting the best workers available”. The whole point of a Fordist production line is that the skill of an individual worker is irrelevant to the quality or level of output of product. What Ford’s high-wage policy was meant to do was to motivate the workers that happened to show up to perform better (through demonstrating reciprocal loyalty, and through making a Ford job something to fear losing). It wasn’t, couldn’t have been about hiring workers of an intrinsically better type.

36

Timothy Burke 01.21.04 at 8:01 pm

I evidently underestimated the range and staying power of the “undeserving poor” trope.

So ok. That conversation is not going to go anywhere, evidently. That still leaves, by my count, an entirely proper socioeconomic concern with the end of Fordism. The beginnings of Fordism are one thing, but in the heart of its heyday in the 1950s, it seems clear to me that a good wage—–>mass consumption cycle was an extraordinary engine for wealth creation and general satisfaction. Whatever your politics, and whatever your views on taxation, and whatever your views on this particular person or any class of people who are poor might be, it seems to me that you ought to be concerned about what happens if a significant portion of American wage-earners get to the point where they’re fairly well locked out of the lower range of the consumer society. That will have large-scale social and economic consequences quite aside from the moral issues it raises.

37

godlesscapitalist 01.21.04 at 8:04 pm

recommend ignoring godlesscapitalist…[because he] respond[s] to whatever you put up

The “aiyiyiyiyi-I’m-covering-my-ears-and-can’t-hear-you” defense. Good idea :)

Since all we ever wanted to establish was that “Modern conservatives are selfish”

Ok, cool, as long as we can concede that leftists are either well-meaning dupes who don’t understand economics…or disturbing people who adore mass murderers like Trotsky. As long as you’re killing and robbing in the name of “equality”, it’s all good, n’est ce pas ?

prick…asshole

You’d think you were trying to hurt my fweelings or something :) But I get the message. Dissent from the party line is unwelcome. Good day then, comrades!

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dsquared 01.21.04 at 8:06 pm

As I said above, few tears will be shed; I consider this a form of moderation. BTW, the characterisation of leftists above is quite wrong; I am a leftist and I am neither ignorant of economics, a dupe, nor particularly well-meaning.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 01.21.04 at 8:21 pm

“Jeez, godless, do you really think that money is taken from American citizens by the American government in the form of taxes by force?”

Not to step into an already ugly thread, but what exactly do you call putting someone in jail for breaking the law if not force? If a hypothetical government threatened those who spoke out against it with years in jail, wouldn’t we all call that taking away free speech by force?

As for the substance of the article, I took away from it that this woman had made a large number of unfortunate choices. As a person who makes bad choices I can sympathize. But I don’t particularly think that particularly justifies revamping our whole system.

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nnyhav 01.21.04 at 8:31 pm

Not much to be gained in caricaturising this as “I got mine, Jack” libertarianism vs “I want your jack” egalitarianism. And blaming the system shares in the defects of blaming the victim.

FWIW, Henry, principled conservatism is currently being covered over at 2blowhards.

One can “play by the rules” and lose. Aside from the tenuousness of the “game” trope (and rulebook: cf. Kafka’s “The Problem of Our Laws”), my read of the general libertarian (not conservative) argument is not about moralising selfishness but adaptive on both small and large scales (democracy/capitalism worst system except all the others, resolving both signal and noise, as neither society nor governance is steady-state; the noise itself permitting the emergence of significant improvements in large and positively skewing the distribution of results in small).

Rawlsian Lotto ticket: Wanna bet that CP’s lot improves via the Humane Society effect?

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Ken 01.21.04 at 8:35 pm

“Ken: No, Ophelia remembered it right. Ford (in those occasional moments when he wasn’t talking about the Jewish conspiracy) regularly said that one of his aims was to ensure that Ford workers could afford Ford cars.”

But that doesn’t mean that enabling his workers to buy his cars was the secret of his profitability. He may have thought that it was, but as described, it was a roundabout way to give cars away to his workers.

“In any case, I think you have the efficiency wage argument wrong, too. It also makes no sense to talk about Henry Ford “attracting the best workers available”. The whole point of a Fordist production line is that the skill of an individual worker is irrelevant to the quality or level of output of product. What Ford’s high-wage policy was meant to do was to motivate the workers that happened to show up to perform better (through demonstrating reciprocal loyalty, and through making a Ford job something to fear losing). It wasn’t, couldn’t have been about hiring workers of an intrinsically better type.”

But it was about hiring the workers that performed better. Higher wages allowed him to pick and choose the workers that performed best. Their “intrinsic type” was irrelevant, except insofar as it affected their demonstrated performance at his assemly lines.

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marky 01.21.04 at 8:36 pm

I hope someone else realized that this woman is SUPPOSED to be a pathetic, unattractive example of the lower classes. She’s SUPPOSED to earn the sniffling disdain of the upper-class and upwardly-fantasizing wives out there.
She’s supposed to show how WONDERFUL Bush is, because he can bring a PATHETIC WRETCH like that on the national stage.

Gag me with a WMD-laced program activity of oblivion.

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loren 01.21.04 at 8:39 pm

I have to admit to feeling some of the force of godlesscapitalist’s concern with bad (or at least, potentially curious) life choices. But what troubles me (as I think it troubles kevin and dsquared at the very least, and no doubt others) is that some people seem to be fairly well-buffered from the undesirable consequences of their mistaken or rash choices in life, where as others get hammered mercilessly for the rest of their lives based on one error of judgement.

The problem? The buffered/hammered distinction doesn’t seem to track any plausible conception of moral desert or legitimate entitlement that I can think of.

Now I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t bear considerable responsibility for their choices in life. But I do wonder if the godless capitalists of the world should think more carefully about why it is that some people suffer badly for their mistaken or expensive choices, whereas others do not. Or at least, they’ll have to do better than simply appealing to natural virtues (“prudence and good character, not luck”) or the sanctity of brute luck (“two wrongs don’t make a right, so don’t touch the status quo”).

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dsquared 01.21.04 at 8:49 pm

Higher wages allowed him to pick and choose the workers that performed best

I’m not sure this would work either. The sunk cost of training a Ford worker in the new assembly line techniques was $100 (in 1920s money!), so it would have been an expensive business if you relied on this sort of trial and error.

There are certainly efficiency wage models which rely on being able to sort more productive units from less productive units, but I don’t think that they’re applicable to Henry Ford’s factory.

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David Salmanson 01.21.04 at 8:58 pm

And just what does one put on a job application for address when one is homeless? or the phone number? or wear to the job interview. Some homeless advocacy groups have started figuring this out and providing addresses and phone numbers for people to use, and there is even one that collects women’s business clothes for interviews and the first couple weeks on the job. That said, these groups are few and far between.

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David Salmanson 01.21.04 at 8:58 pm

And just what does one put on a job application for address when one is homeless? or the phone number? or wear to the job interview. Some homeless advocacy groups have started figuring this out and providing addresses and phone numbers for people to use, and there is even one that collects women’s business clothes for interviews and the first couple weeks on the job. That said, these groups are few and far between.

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ahem 01.21.04 at 9:40 pm

Minimum wage laws = higher unemployment and inflation.

Ah, yes, that must be why unemployment has fallen and inflation remained constant and low since Britain introduced the minimum wage law in 1999. Even though the conservative opposition said it would put a million people out of work.

I’d suggest that you get a better textbook. I’m sure the market will provide.

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Dan Simon 01.21.04 at 10:10 pm

I agree completely with nnyhav’s rejection of the blame game. What “GodlessCapitalist” and his detractors share, in the end, is the conviction that stories like Caroline Payne’s just shouldn’t happen, and that if they do, then someone is to blame. They merely differ as to whether it’s Caroline Payne, or society as a whole, that has demonstrated manifest negligence in allowing her life to be a deeply unhappy one.

I beg to differ. It will always be the case that many people’s lives will be filled with pain, and, as the Talmud teaches, “it is not in our power to explain the comfort of the wicked or the sorrows of the righteous”. We can only try, all of us, to reduce the amount of suffering and unfairness in the world, and increase the amount of happiness and justice, where we can, and when we can, understanding that we will never achieve perfection. (Again, from the Fathers: “it is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to neglect it.”)

Once we accept this premise, then the question is shifted from an emotionally fraught moral one (“who is causing Caroline Payne to suffer?”) to a more practical one (“how best can we work to reduce the suffering of the Caroline Paynes of the world?”). Opinions will still differ markedly, of course, but some of the bitterness of the debate will hopefully have been mitigated, and GodlessCapitalist and his detractors will be able to discuss the relative long-term practical merits of laissez-faire capitalism and the welfare state in a more civil, mutually respectful manner.

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Nicholas Weininger 01.21.04 at 10:44 pm

I hesitate to wade into the above mudpile, but: why are people assuming that bad choices and bad luck are mutually exclusive? “All her fault” and “screwed by the market” are not the only two options here, y’know. My reading of her story leads me to believe that Caroline Payne made lots of bad choices and got a lot of raw deals, and both have contributed significantly to her present state. So her situation is neither 100% her fault nor 0%, and nobody can really say with any certainty where it is in between.

Now, plenty of people get bad breaks, make better choices, and do okay. And the converse is true as well, as loren says in his thoughtful comment. Repeatedly getting into horrible relationships, running up lots of credit-card debt due to lack of spending discipline: these are things millions of people do, and for most of them the results are negative but not disastrously so. To answer loren’s question, I think a lot of the difference has to do with small-scale social support networks; how well-buffered you are from your choices depends largely on who you have close to you that you can call on in time of need.

This dependence may not appeal to egalitarian notions of desert, but it is the inevitable outcome of any free system. There is no way to ameliorate “brute luck” without also restricting genuine choice. The right moral justification for maintaining market freedoms is not that those who make out badly in the market deserve it. It’s that the rest of us don’t deserve to be restricted or stolen from in order to take care of them.

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--kip 01.21.04 at 10:45 pm

Actually, Dan, my moral center is that catastrophes happen, and one of the great things about a group of people pooling their time and talent and resources in something like a government is that it enables you to say hey, a catastrophe happened. Let’s mitigate that puppy.

I’m serious about the one bad day: that’s all it takes to ruin your life, Caroline’s life, godlesscapitalist’s life, my life. A medical catastrophe, an economic catastrophe, an address misapplied to a vital letter, a nail dropping from a horseshoe, a bad choice made for utterly stupid reasons, yadda yadda. And that one bad day has gotten scarier and more likely over the past 20 years, in this country, at least, for most of us. The extent to which someone who’s had that one bad day and can’t get up is blamed by folks like godless is precisely the extent to which folks like godless are in denial about the essentially unfair nature of life: “Caroline was a bad person,” they say. _”She_ made bad choices. _That’s_ why she failed. _I_ am a good person. I make _good_ choices. That’s why I’m going to be _okay.”_

Nah nah nah I can’t hear you.

The extent to which I get angry and lose my temper with this crap is the extent to which I am frustrated (at the moment, at least) with my fellow citizens Oregonians, who seem bound and determined to gut the state budget, a la Alabama. Whee! –Of course, raising taxes to pay for things like medical support and day care isn’t the only way to help us deal with our bad days; we have so many options at our fingertips. We could collectively determine that wages below a certain minimum will not be paid, for instance. To be sure, if we abuse that power and set that minimum too high, we’ll screw things up–but we’ve never once come close that limit, judging by the fact that employment and productivity have climbed after every significant increase in the minimum wage. –In _this_ country, at least. For most of us. Upper Libertaria’s mileage my vary.

My parents, like many others’, I’m sure, had to deal with my occasional whine: “That’s not *fair*!” They, like many others, retorted: “*Life’s* not fair. Deal.” And I’ve never been able to let go of my adolescent riposte: “Which is why we have to *make* it fair!” –Maybe that’s my problem.

Sure, we’ve screwed things up. Gone too far in our attempts to make it fair, on the left _and_ the right (to generalize into meaninglessness). Had knock-down drag-out donnybrooks over the very idea of “fair,” and whose idea gets acted on, and how, and guess what? It’s hard. None of that absolves us of the responsibility to make the world more fair. None of that gives us a pass. None of that lets us quit. –There’s the idea of Stern Daddy government and Permissive Mommy government bandied about as quick memetakes on the Republicans and the Democrats. How about Good Neighbor government? How about Decent Human Being government?

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Nicholas Weininger 01.21.04 at 10:46 pm

Oh, and: what dan simon said. I always take too long to finish posts and miss the good things that other people say while I dither. :-)

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Sebastian Holsclaw 01.21.04 at 11:06 pm

“To answer loren’s question, I think a lot of the difference has to do with small-scale social support networks; how well-buffered you are from your choices depends largely on who you have close to you that you can call on in time of need.”

And remember that from her own mouth she admits that she doesn’t get along with people very well no matter where she works. Who knows if that is the fault of her attitude or some poor training by her parents, but in any case not getting along with people can severely damage your ability to grow a support network.

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Dbeln 01.21.04 at 11:26 pm

Jumping into the fray. Couple of points (erm, well – more than a couple, actually)

1.) Life choices are indeed the main reason the woman in the article ‘dropped out’. Of course, those choices were not independent of the world around her.

2.) However, discussing society, as well as the systems that control it is rarely best done on the basis of one single case.

3.) There are indeed lots of people out there who are bad at making choices – People who either face a difficult starting point in life, or just – to put it bluntly – aren’t very bright.

4.) Our current society provides a huge amount of choices, by any historical standard. This is great for those that are capable of making use of them. (I.e. – a sizable majority.) However, it also provides ample opportunity to go wrong in life. Those that are poorly equipped for choice-making often do. (Even though they do ok by historical standards, they luck out by contemporary ones…)

5.) This leaves the majority with the decision of what to do about the minority.

6.) Helping them out in various ways is the usual response. Either by charity, state support, or both.

7.) The problem with supporting people acting self-destructively is that you run the risk of subsidizing that very behavior that got the person into trouble.

8.) Ideally, this can be avoided by adopting tailor-made forms of support, that help the person in question get out of his/her situation.

9.) If this isn’t possible, cohesion and in the end force, are usually considered – i.e. people/the state step in and take over the running of certain aspects of a person’s life.

10.) A good example of this dilemma is contemporary homelessness – to a significant degree a result of a shift in the willingness of the state to use force in order to take control over people who make “bad choices”. (I.e, we no longer forcibly institutionalize drug addicts and the mentally handicapped and/or diseased to the same degree as earlier.)

11.) The reason dispassionate discussion of this subject is so difficult is the fact that the two major secular religions of today, “Right” and “Left” have some of their axioms threatened by it.

12.) For the Right, this is the axiom regaring the absolute goodness of Free Choice, etc.

13.) For the Left, it is the axiom of empirical egalitarianism that is the main cause.

I could go on, but I’ll break here and go to bed.

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

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loren 01.21.04 at 11:28 pm

nicholas: _”There is no way to ameliorate “brute luck” without also restricting genuine choice.”_

A great deal turns, I suppose, on what a genuine choice is (as distinct from, say, a fair or reasonable or just choice), and why genuine choice is of overriding ethical value.

_”The right moral justification for maintaining market freedoms is not that those who make out badly in the market deserve it. It’s that the rest of us don’t deserve to be restricted or stolen from in order to take care of them.”_

I guess I don’t see why the rest of us deserve everything we can get from the use of our talents on the market — combined, of course, with our good fortune. It seems plausible that we deserve some, perhaps most of what we can get in life, but why all of it? Why is every claim on my stuff equivalent to theft?

(This is, incidently, why I agree with Rawls that beginning our justifications for principles and policies with a comprehensive account of moral desert is probably not the most productive way to proceed: too hard to get everyone on board, because your claim of desert is someone else’s instance of objectionable selfishness or cruelty. But replace “moral desert” with “legitimate expectations of free and equal, rational and reasonable citizens” and the rubber hits the road.)

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Sigivald 01.21.04 at 11:31 pm

kip: Government is simply not a “good neighbor” or “decent human being”. It’s not a person. It’s an institution; one necessarily founded on coercion, and necessarily run on rules rather than “giving people what they ought to have for trying hard” – if it attempts to be the latter, it becomes entirely arbitrary.

That you want government to be a “Good Neighbor”, or act “Decently” is understandable. Thinking that it can do so, and continue to do so over a long period of time, without becoming a monster, is a mistake. (This is all old news; Hayek wrote it decades ago, and it’s still true. Government, to put it simply, not only is not, but cannot be Mommy.)

Throwing fits (this is directed at everyone in general who is guilty, by the way) when someone else says that’s not government’s job, or calling them names for not being compassionate enough with other people’s money is, to put it mildly, counterproductive. GC may well be wrong, or poorly stating his case, but the counter-“argument” seems mostly to be merely opposed cant, rather than actual argument.

(More relevantly, I don’t see that the post description of someone failed by “The market” applies. Caroline managed to throw away huge piles of money on houses she’d owned… by having to pay penalties for prepayment on the contracts she signed, and having to pay back pro-rated grants from the Government… in order to get the education she wanted from the Government for her child.

Notice a theme here? Government grants and state schools combined with poor choices on her part, and Henry’s saying the market screwed her?

She herself said she never got anywhere, and people didn’t say nice things about her, for most of her working life. And the market is blamed for this, not anything about her? I don’t wish to blame the victim, but what alternative is there that fits the available data? The market didn’t screw the other people working crappy jobs, uniformly.

If one asks the Godless Capitalists to not blame government for every ill, perhaps it would be best to, in turn, not blame “the market” or “big business” for places where government fails? (Her Medicare dentures didn’t fit; dentures provided by the market, of course, would have been fixed for free, or the provider would have lost customers and been sued. The state has no such incentives.

But we’re left with “market failure” as the explanation for her problems – if only stupid companies wouldn’t care about stupid things like stupid customers wanting to deal with employees with teeth!

Caoline is a good person and thus does not deserve to be poor; if she is poor, the market obviously failed to renumerate her properly for being good. We’re back to Hayek and The Constitution of Liberty again; neither market nor state can nor should even attempt to renumerate for “goodness”. If you think they should, please provide a mechanism for measuring such, and a way to make the scheme not collapse. Lots of luck.

At very least, stop blaming only The Market and Capitalists for tragedy; the Welfare State makes plenty of its own as well.

Come on, guys. Blaming everything on Capitalism is as bad as pretending the State has no legitimate interests in the social sphere; it’s just more acceptable to the CT readership.

(Kudos to the Times for recognising that not everything is the fault of Plutocrats, at least, at the end of page 2.)

(On kip’s talk of fairness… the question is, as you say, what do we mean by fairness? Fairness of result or fairness of treatment by controlled institutions or what? The former should be recognised as impossible, the latter as necessary for liberal government. “Fair” as anything beyond “rules that apply equally to everyone [as appropriate in context]” becomes exceedingly difficult, and while I understand the reasons why one might think we “need to make the world fair”, I’m not sure that urge is actually good, if carried out. States are a dangerous (if necessary) thing, and the more power they have, the more dangerous they come. And, of course, using them to make things more “fair” gives them not only power, but often arbitrary power. That’s a possibility to think very long and very hard before endorsing.)

Ah, rambling. Sorry.

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Dbeln 01.21.04 at 11:34 pm

“the project of the conservative throughout the ages is the search for a higher moral justification for selfishness”

Well, I recon Ayn Rand would agree.

As pointed out above, the major motivation of the left is usually either:

1.) Filling the Priest-caste role. I.e. – declaring all others sinners tends to make the accuser end up on top himself… Quite the coincidence.

2.) Getting “The Rich” – a.k.a. someone else – to pay for something you want. (Either for direct benefit, for personal aggrandizement, or both…) Narurally, the money is to be obtained using, yes, force.

3.) If you react to the term “force” as used above, keep in mind that civilization itself rests on the systematic and judicious use of violence. This observation is not meant as an indictment of civilization, but rather as a challenge to the notion that “violence is always bad”, yaddayadda.

This time it’s nightynighty for real – promise.

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

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rogerg 01.21.04 at 11:54 pm

The problem with the working poor is the opposite of “a failure to live by the right values,” as Timothy Burke puts it — it is the failure to abandon moral values. To make money in this system, you probably have to adapt the kind of concentration camp guard values exemplified by “Godless capitalist” — you have to be so selfish you’d let your retarded daughter be raped by your ex husband if preventing it cost you any money, you have to be so ruthless that you systematically cheat your credit card company — something on the order of what Enron, WorldCom, or other big companies do routinely — and you have to be blind enough to think that your success (a success measured only by money) is the same as goodness. Plus, it was built by your own effort — a laughable myth, useful for diverting people from the fact that such executives as Larry Ellison are really worth the whole sum of Caroline Payne’s monthly paycheck per minute. Right.

To counter that system, no argument or government program is going to work. What works are unions, alliances between various progressive groups, a willingness to use civil disobedience as ruthlessly as businesses do (see the systematic violation of banking law before the repeal of the Glass-Steagle act), and a complete contempt for things like the Independent Woman’s Forum.

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roger 01.21.04 at 11:57 pm

Oops. I meant “pondering if in fact such executives as Larry Ellison are really worth the whole sum of Caroline Payne’s monthly paycheck per minute.”

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Nicholas Weininger 01.22.04 at 12:14 am

loren: I’m starting from a couple of moral assumptions that you may not share, namely

(a) choice (with its corollary, consent) is indeed a supreme value in itself, and

(b) need is not a claim.

Moral desert in the sense of positive entitlement is not, I agree, a very useful concept– anyone who claims to know what people deserve in a positive sense is being arrogant. Much easier and sounder to delineate a sort of negative desert: my claim to my stuff comes not from positive entitlement but from the negative right to be left alone, and that’s a right that cannot be overridden by another’s need, due to (b) above.

Which doesn’t mean that others’ needs shouldn’t excite sympathy and voluntary effort: just that they don’t create claims.

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Conrad Barwa 01.22.04 at 12:27 am

D-squared is fond of quoting Galbraith’s dictum that “the project of the conservative throughout the ages is the search for a higher moral justification for selfishness” – this seems appropriate here.

True, but similar problems exist for Liberals and Social Democrats as well I would assume. After all a major part of the self-rationalisation for any socio-economic system is to explain how failure is generated and what the correct or what should be the received behaviour towards those who are judged failures for whatever reason. A major part of the ideological underpinnings of any society, rests on these explanations/rationalisations being believed or accepted by a critical number of its members at any one time.

I am intrigued by the argument expressed by some that Liberals or Leftists who would not find the cited example as a satisfactory state of affairs, are somehow just trying to pass the buck off onto some poor hardworking fellow citizen. Apart from the obvious fact that non-fiscal measures like employment regulation, housing policies, an effective social services system that come to mind; even any fiscal transfer would for the most part be paid out of general taxation. Unless one has some sort of bizarre belief that only strict fiscal conservatives pay taxes or that only hardworking people get taxed; I can’t see how this is consistent at all. Since the great majority of us are all taxpayers, and I am disinclined to believe that those in the higher ranges automatically put in huge amounts more of marginal work-effort; the problem is not that leftists want somebody else to dole out money, so much as many of their solutions involve everyone putting up a share. The latter option will be no more palatable to fiscal conservatives or neo-liberals, but it hardly gives the impression that only one set of people end up paying for these measures.

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Jason McCullough 01.22.04 at 12:53 am

Wait a minute, so the new conservative standard for the “deserving poor” is now “never fucked up in their entire life”? That’s the vibe I’m getting here. Christ, IMHO the poor fuck up less than the rich, based on what I’ve seen.

“It will always be the case that many people’s lives will be filled with pain….”

That’s the American can-do spirit, right there!

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Jason McCullough 01.22.04 at 12:56 am

“And remember that from her own mouth she admits that she doesn’t get along with people very well no matter where she works.”

The issue is that this, like a million other things in the article, wouldn’t matter a damn if she was decently well off to start with. Plenty of executives “can’t get along with people very well.”

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loren 01.22.04 at 1:10 am

nicholas: true, I’m not inclined to accept unfettered choice as a moral primitive: this seems to me to assume to much.

I do think there are strong arguments for a right to be left alone, but I suspect we’d disagree on the content of that right. For instance, I’d offer bodily integrity (no torture or coerced organ donations) as a basic right, but it isn’t obvious to me that freedom to earn whatever I can get on a market follows easily from, say, a right not to have other people use my body in certain ways against my will.

These two things might be logically related, certainly: taxing me to offset someone else’s bad luck might be an unacceptable use of my body against my will (taxation as forced labor). But I think that argument needs to be made, not assumed.

I agree that needs do not obviously generate claims. They might, they might not. But I see no good reason to reject, out of hand, the possibility that citizens might, upon reflection, agree to treat some sorts of need as the basis for certain kinds of legitimate claims.

We might, of course, deny that _any_ such claims are legitimate, regardless of consensus or majority decisions: they simply cannot be just, because they offend our moral primitive: unrestricted liberty to do whatever I want with my body and my property. But this just invites the question: why _that_ moral primitive? Why not a less sweeping conception of choice?

If we simply assert the obviousness of our assumption, then the dispute becomes one of competing articles of faith — the dispute is religious, not political. But if we want an account of justice that admits of widespread acceptance, then we’d try to avoid critical dependence on such articles of faith.

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marieclaire 01.22.04 at 1:27 am

Injustice. It comes in so many forms and framed with such good intentions. Since Caroline gets to have her story told, here’s mine (I hope your volcano is spent) Obviously there are people who need help for a while–that was the original intent of welfare, wasn’t it? Did it really intend for able-bodied adults to be supported, even in their reproductive activities, by other hard working (often childless) adults forever? My dad worked in the shipyards and once went on strike that lasted for months. Sometimes we kids ate only Wheaties with syrup and except for family, asked for no government assistance. Unlike Caroline, I’ll spare you the gory details. But many of us with no more than she, and often less, have never begged and had no more auspicious beginnings. I worked for years for little more than she makes; I had dreams, I had desires, I had dental bills, I had tuition and I had credit cards. But I had no debt like hers and a horror of relying on the money of strangers. Is there such a thing as personal responsibility? I, too, am deeply suspicious of the “system” but not every welfare recipient is a desperate, heroic Jean Valjean. Are you all sure you are picking the right poster child?

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sidereal 01.22.04 at 2:00 am

No protagonists in this one.

Whoops. . except for dan simon. Missed the ounce of sense in the sound and fury.

Caroline Payne’s poverty only exists relatively. She’s apparently lived and is living a long life, has had multiple children — one of whom is relatively healthy and safe despite a mental handicap, can provide for her basic needs, has shelter, and has many things to look forward to. The major cause of her suffering is that she lives her life in the shadow of the most obscenely wealthy people in history. Permanently surrounded by gratuitous displays of wealth, health, and comfort, she is constantly reminded that her life does not add up. That doesn’t mean that her suffering doesn’t exist, or that good people shouldn’t try to ameliorate it. It means that her suffering isn’t assuaged by giving her more money. And even if it were, the proper route would by no means be an anonymous budgetary leviathan.

That said, the self-righteous blowhards who need to dump on Caroline and insult her and her children to make themselves feel better are heartless pricks, undeserving of whatever divine grace they happen to believe in.

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Jon H 01.22.04 at 2:09 am

gormless capitalist wrote: “and a house of her own (as a single mother)”

Uh, no, she had a little piece of the house. The bank owned the vast majority of it. You do know how that works, don’t you, Mr. Capitalist? It’s called a mortgage.

And the house cost only $37,000, less than many SUVs. The downpayment, $1,000, came from her tax refund.

But she had to sell it (barely breaking even) and move, so she’s in an apartment now, in a housing project in Indiana, and making $5.45 an hour.

Lucky Ducky!

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Maynard Handley 01.22.04 at 2:35 am

I’m torn by this story, and dan simon seems to have the best answer.

“Once we accept this premise, then the question is shifted from an emotionally fraught moral one (“who is causing Caroline Payne to suffer?”) to a more practical one (“how best can we work to reduce the suffering of the Caroline Paynes of the world?”).”

The reason I’m torn is that I know someone much like this woman who has, likewise, completely ruined her life, and continues to do so. In her youth she was beautiful and earned perhaps a hundred thousand a year — which was not saved but spent on immediate pleasures — why buy practical $50 shoes when you can buy brand-named $500 shoes? Pursued by many men, she was unwilling to make a choice based on his sense and decency, but held out for perfection, which of course never arrived. Of course the youth faded, the money ran out, and she is living hand to mouth. But still she appears to have learned nothing. Anyone criticizing her decisions, in the most constructive way possible, will be given an earful — with the natural consequence that everyone who knows her is terrified to give her advice and leaves her to stumble on, making stupid purchases, wasting time on what are clearly inappropriate jobs for her. She’s still attractive, and still has a choice of men. But the decent, homely, guy who was willing to help her out was scorned, while she went for the bad boy, good looks, leather jacket, (probably selling drugs IMHO), a pathetic look at 20, and beyond pathetic at 40; and that of course ended in tears.

So how is one to respond to a story like the above? Of course it is human to feel sorry for her misery. It is also human to feel anger and frustration at her, at what seems to be a deliberate attempt to undermine every opportunity life throws at her.

All I can offer is perhaps a variant on that old canard, better education. There is a tradition in the US of shielding children and teenagers from the realitiesof life. They are not told how much real things (mortgages, medical insurance) cost, they are not told what the wages they can expect for different jobs (including taxes) really are. They are not told the realities of just how miserable their lives can be if they make bad decisions. What they are told is homilies about how you can be anything you want, how children are a joy, how being “yourself” is the most important thing, how if a company doesn’t want to hire you because of your tattoos/clothing/personal interactions, well it’s their loss, but god forbid you change. They are told that compromise, whether for your spouse or your employer, is “selling out”.
All this strikes me as less than helpful. Happily married couples know that compromise is simply being a decent person, it’s not a political statement. Likewise happily employed people understand that in any collective endeavor, sometimes you get your way, sometimes you don’t. Finally being taught patience, the ability to accept some discomfort for the big payoff, whether that is staying in school, or saving for a downpayment by living in a dowdier apartment and driving a lousier car, or simply saying no to ever buying on credit, can only help.

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hope 01.22.04 at 4:22 am

I am disgusted by the notion that some people in crappy circumstances are deserving of help but others, who you may believe made bad choices and are stupid, do not.

How does a person’s responsibility (or lack thereof) for his or her own poverty (or whatever) diminish our collective moral responsibility to take care of each other? If the house is burning because the owner got drunk and forgot to douse the cigarette before retiring, should the fire fighters leave him there to burn?

The idea that there are deserving poor and undeserving poor implies that your value as a human being depends upon the quality of your choices or the degree of your intellect or the content of your character. Those things are important, but at the end of the day, even the biggest, most unrepentant dumbasses among us are deserving of dignity and respect and a little help when we can’t quite get it all together on our own.

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Jason McCullough 01.22.04 at 6:39 am

“The idea that there are deserving poor and undeserving poor implies that your value as a human being depends upon the quality of your choices or the degree of your intellect or the content of your character.”

These are kind of the central tenets of “vulgar conservatism”, unfortunately.

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Dbeln 01.22.04 at 7:52 am

“I am intrigued by the argument expressed by some that Liberals or Leftists who would not find the cited example as a satisfactory state of affairs, are somehow just trying to pass the buck off onto some poor hardworking fellow citizen.”

The standard sales-pitch for increased taxation is that it is going to be payed by “The Rich” – a.k.a. “someone else”. A very substantial part of the left’s political appeal is indeed (not surprisingly) that it promises large number of people Free Money, that we are going to extract from those bastards with trust funds who feature prominently in this thread. The latte-drinkers is another story, but we can save that for another time.

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

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Dbeln 01.22.04 at 7:56 am

Erm, that should be “payed by”. Me furregneirr.

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

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Dbeln 01.22.04 at 8:34 am

ack: “Should *not* be”.

Well, back to the subject: What to do about people who, by chance or a relative lack of innate ability, or both – just luck out. As people point out above, most people feel something should be done. A couple of suggestions:

1.) Mandatory / Universal health insurance. Has few or no negative effects on private behaviour. Large benefits for society, in that a very large number of bad choices are eliminated – I.e. the bad choices that it is the most painful for surrounding people to watch.

2.) Workfare/Work requirements. People who are bad at making choices are generally bad at the long-term planning, etc. Offering cash without demanding that the recipient either starts working, or begins an education can often make matters much worse, especially where the external social support structure is fragile.

3.) Extreme cases.
Heavy Drug addiction, mental illness, etc. Here, more heavy- handed intervention than is the case today could be beneficial, as these people often cause disproportionatly large damage not only to themselves, but also to their surroundings. In short, this often means re-institutionalization.

4.) Minimum Wage/Negative Wage/Immigration Control

Personally, I feel there might be some room for an increase in the minimum wage. Why? Because I suspect there is a rebate currently being paid by low-performers in our economy because their negotiation skills (requires good verbal skills) are disproportionately much lower than their production skills. (Often menial work)

When we hit the point at which the minimum wage starts putting low-performers out of work, and if that point is still at too low a level, “matching” might be an option. I.e, the state might match every dollar you make with 20 cents, etc. This is a form of welfare that really poses no danger of promoting sloth – however if designed poorly, it could introduce threshold effects.

In some states (Read: California), immigration control also plays a part. Importing large amounts of unskilled labor is bound to:

a) Push wages in low-skill jobs downwards. (Or cause unemployment with a prohibitive minimum wage.)

b) Strain the same social services low-skilled workers depend on to make a living.

Thus, limiting unskilled immigration is also a way of improving the lot of people with low incomes.

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

73

dsquared 01.22.04 at 9:14 am

And remember that from her own mouth she admits that she doesn’t get along with people very well no matter where she works. Who knows if that is the fault of her attitude or some poor training by her parents

Sebastian, there’s a third possibility. Have you ever been really, really unhappy, for a period of months? You tend to find that it makes it a lot more difficult to “get on” with other people.

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Dbeln 01.22.04 at 10:00 am

“Sebastian, there’s a third possibility. Have you ever been really, really unhappy, for a period of months? You tend to find that it makes it a lot more difficult to “get on” with other people.”

Just to make it worse, there is serious potential for a downward spiral here as well…

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

75

Dbeln 01.22.04 at 10:09 am

…just can’t stop posting. Noticed this in the original post:

“Homophobia isn’t there to keep homosexuals in line. Homophobia is there to keep everyone else in line.”

Caroline Payne is in her condition in order to keep the rest of us in line.”

In *what* line? There is no argument here – just the standard semi-conspiratorial reference to Da Man, keeping good people down, yaddayadda. Is this what passes for profound insight on the left these days?

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

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Katherine 01.22.04 at 1:52 pm

For a while I’ve thought we should cut a deal where we do a one time increase in the minimum wage, then index both it and the capital gains tax to inflation.

(Of course, we can’t afford the tax cut so much now since he-who-must-not-re-elected is making “bad choices” and racking up debt at an alarming rate. And it wouldn’t deal with the incresae in rental housing price or health care, which go much higher than inflation in many places.)

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Ken 01.22.04 at 2:03 pm

“The problem with the working poor is the opposite of “a failure to live by the right values,” as Timothy Burke puts it — it is the failure to abandon moral values. To make money in this system, you probably have to adapt the kind of concentration camp guard values exemplified by “Godless capitalist” — you have to be so selfish you’d let your retarded daughter be raped by your ex husband if preventing it cost you any money, you have to be so ruthless that you systematically cheat your credit card company — something on the order of what Enron, WorldCom, or other big companies do routinely”

Actually, to make money in this system, you have to entice other people to give you money. You can do that by fulfilling any one of their myriad wants and needs (well, almost any of their wants, under our system). Make other people happy, and you’ll be rewarded. Not a bad system, overall.

“I am intrigued by the argument expressed by some that Liberals or Leftists who would not find the cited example as a satisfactory state of affairs, are somehow just trying to pass the buck off onto some poor hardworking fellow citizen. Apart from the obvious fact that non-fiscal measures like employment regulation, housing policies, an effective social services system that come to mind; “

You mean the housing policies that jack up the cost of housing and make it less likely that people of modest means can afford to live somewhere without resorting to charity?

My preferred housing policy is: let developers buy land, build houses, and sell them without a whole lot of hassles or multiple rounds of Mother May I or mandatory features (minimum lot sizes, for instance) that jack up the costs, then have the police protect every neighborhood, no matter how cheap.

Meanwhile, employment regulation is often not our friend either. Employers should be able to offer 40 hours per week, and even more, without having to give “benefits”; that one requirement limits lots of people to 37 hours to their detriment.

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Dbeln 01.22.04 at 2:20 pm

“The problem with the working poor is the opposite of “a failure to live by the right values,” as Timothy Burke puts it — it is the failure to abandon moral values. To make money in this system, you probably have to adapt the kind of concentration camp guard values exemplified by “Godless capitalist” — you have to be so selfish you’d let your retarded daughter be raped by your ex husband if preventing it cost you any money, you have to be so ruthless that you systematically cheat your credit card company — something on the order of what Enron, WorldCom, or other big companies do routinely”

I found this kinda funny, given that 90+% of people who succeed are the very law-abiding, old-fashioned-morality-type squares who the latte left have so much contempt for. Also, it is worth noting that large segments of the underclass are hardly notable for their ultra-high adherance to altruistic values and trust…

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

79

Katherine 01.22.04 at 2:35 pm

“Housing policies” do not necessarily equal rent control. It could have meant ending exclusionary zoning.

Regressive local taxes don’t help either, of course. I think the primary problem with housing policy in this country may be that it’s written by people who already own homes in the right places, and against renters and people who want to move in.

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Ken 01.22.04 at 3:32 pm

“Regressive local taxes don’t help either, of course. I think the primary problem with housing policy in this country may be that it’s written by people who already own homes in the right places, and against renters and people who want to move in.”

That’s my conclusion too. That motivation in turn seems to have two drivers.

The first is that it has consistently been the case that cheap neighborhoods are routinely denied proper police protection, and dangerous predators flourish there. Any cheap housing near you can make you fear that your own neighborhood will put your home into the “unprotected” category.

The second is that by limiting housing, the value of your own house goes up, and you stand to make a profit. On the other hand, when your kids try to move out and get their own place, they’ll have lots of trouble doing so without your help. On the gripping hand, for lots of parents, having their kids continue to be dependent on them seems to be a feature, rather than a bug; I’ve run across lots of parents that fundamentally hate the idea of their kids getting to grow up and live independently without having to beg from the parents or take orders from them.

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Conrad Barwa 01.22.04 at 3:58 pm

Ken –

My point was that there are a number of other possibilities at solving this problem apart from just throwing money at it; and the way some modern conservatives immediately jump to this conclusion tells us less about what these solutions could be and more what the former are really worried about. I don’t know what the housing policy is or what the regulatory structure in the US is either as I don’t live there but it seems to me that improving the situation of those like Carolyn would involve something other than just handing the whole thing to the market and just letting private charities clear up the mess. I understand from the little I know about domestic US history, that something along these lines did exist in the era of small govt from the 1890s to the interwar period and it wasn’t all that much of a good time for the working poor. The basic problem is that what is being faced here is really how to manage risk at the societal level; understandably since risk is a capital Conservatives, Liberals and Leftists all vary on how this should be done. Unsurprisingly the former want to generally privatise risk as an asset and break up the market for it into segmented layers; whereas just as predictably, the latter propose collective solutions that involve a more unified and inclusive market – the difference can be seen as one seeking to minimise absolute costs, the other seeking to minimise relative costs. I don’t mind having a discussion along these lines without lapsing into the increasingly popular paranoia that all Leftists/Liberals are some type of evil leprechauns who run around trying to nick the pot o’ gold that hardworking conservatives have acquired through arduous and backbreaking labour (or so they say anyway).

It would also be nice if the typical Conservative response doesn’t fall into the recurring typologies that AO Hirschman outlines in his “Rhetoric of Reaction” which takes three basic forms: (i)the perversity thesis according to which any purposive action to improve some features of the social or economic order only serves to exacerbate the condition one wishes to remedy, (ii) the futility thesis which argues that attempts at social transformation will be unavailing, that they will simply fail to “make a dent” and finally (iii) the jeopardy thesis that insists the costs of any proposed change or reform is too high and endangers some previous or existing desirable ends/accomplishments. This is also something I don’t mind debating or talking about; however it is not as if none of these criticisms had not already been anticipated and factored in by many liberals/leftists so treating them like some sort of errant children that are just being unrealistic is not likely to bring forth an understanding response.

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Ken 01.22.04 at 4:11 pm

“I understand from the little I know about domestic US history, that something along these lines did exist in the era of small govt from the 1890s to the interwar period and it wasn’t all that much of a good time for the working poor. “

Well, nothing in the 1890’s was all that much of a good time for the working poor or even the working middle class or the working wealthy, at least compared to the present day. That just goes to show that the policies put in place since then have so far failed to completely halt the march of technological progress and economic growth.

In the 1890’s, poor people of course lived in poor housing, since that is all they could afford. But, had restrictions been in place to forbid the construction or use of poor housing, then the poor in the 1890’s would have wound up with no housing, or at least no housing that they could live in without resorting to charity. While they (and everyone else) were in a bad position compared to their present-day counterparts, it stands to reason that they were better off with their poor housing than they would have been without it.

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Ken 01.22.04 at 4:15 pm

“This is also something I don’t mind debating or talking about; however it is not as if none of these criticisms had not already been anticipated and factored in by many liberals/leftists so treating them like some sort of errant children that are just being unrealistic is not likely to bring forth an understanding response.”

Then let me introduce a fourth argument: even if the policies favored by our friends on the left succeed in improving the situation of the poor, our favored policies of minimal interference in the marketplace will lead to improvements in the kind and in the cost of available products and services that improve the lot of everyone, including those of modest and less than modest means, more effectively, and enable continued improvements over time without limit.

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Jason McCullough 01.22.04 at 5:09 pm

Ken, allow me to summarize: “the poor must suffer today to help the middle class of tomorrow!”

Note: also applies to the prescription drug investment arguments.

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Conrad Barwa 01.22.04 at 5:17 pm

Then let me introduce a fourth argument: even if the policies favored by our friends on the left succeed in improving the situation of the poor, our favored policies of minimal interference in the marketplace will lead to improvements in the kind and in the cost of available products and services that improve the lot of everyone, including those of modest and less than modest means, more effectively, and enable continued improvements over time without limit.

Historically speaking, I think the evidence would show that without these policies from the Left and some from the paternalist Conservative right, that this would not be the case. However, the argument is not that no improvement would occur in absolute terms; but that it would be greater than the policy packages which don’t abandon everything to the marketplace or that they would somehow lead to a net reduction in benefits on an aggregate basis. Needless to say, I don’t think there is a decisive case either way; which is why so many of these debates are ideologically driven rather than purely technically so.

Re: the 1890s etc. so your argument is that every major improvement for working people and the middle classes since then has been due to technological growth or the unimpeded market and owes nothing at all to various welfare interventions? If this is a correct interpretation of your point, I think it is well sort of misguided to say the least.

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Dbeln 01.22.04 at 6:54 pm

“the 1890s etc. so your argument is that every major improvement for working people and the middle classes since then has been due to technological growth or the unimpeded market and owes nothing at all to various welfare interventions?”

For a sizable majority that is probably the case. After all, the reason that most of the world was dirt poor 150 years or so ago (We had our last famine here in Sweden around then…) was hardly due to a lack of redistributive effort… Still, for the 10-15% of the population that’s on the bottom of the ladder, the welfare state has most likely meant a large improvement, as well as an efficiency gain in certain areas. (Risk management in health care, etc.)

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

87

Davis X. Machina 01.22.04 at 6:54 pm

“How best can we work to reduce the suffering of the Caroline Paynes of the world?”

Thanks, Dan Simon, I just wanted to see that again.

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Odd Ray of Hope 01.22.04 at 9:45 pm

Perhaps Ms. Payne has been held back in part by mental/emotional health issues? The episode with the removal of her teeth seems very, very odd. It seems her parents neglected her emotionally, and know she married early into a bad marriage and later into an abusive one, so there is some reason to wonder about the emotional grounding she received as a child. She has had some (meager) opportunities, but lost the benefit of them with some questionable and hard to understand decisions.

If mental health is part of the picture in this particular case, then the best response to situations like this might be something other than changes to economic structures.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 01.22.04 at 10:36 pm

“Ken, allow me to summarize: “the poor must suffer today to help the middle class of tomorrow!”

Note: also applies to the prescription drug investment arguments.”

Yup, the left returns to its silly, unfounded tropes. Wealth does not in itself require exploitation of the poor. And the existance of poverty does nothing to indicate that exploitation created it.

90

ohshenandoah 01.22.04 at 11:47 pm

I am an advocate of Quality Child Care.

A friend from Finland once told me that “it is morally wrong to stay home and raise your children, when the professionals do a much better job!” (Of course the Scandinavians still believe in the social contract, that we jointly surrender 40% of our salary to raise everyone’s living standard.)

Carolyn could not get child care for her retarded daughter when she was put on shift work. The plant rotated workers between three shifts. “The social workers never considered asking the factory to keep Carolyn on day shift” and Carolyn left the best paying job she ever had, because she could not get child care.

People with poor emotional intelligence do not understand that they are making choices; they lack impulse control and they are driven to replicate emotionally charged relationships from their childhood.

Carolyn Payne “never had enough love as a child” and she’ll take any love that is offered, even if it is toxic.

Is there an equation that compares the cost of laundromat to cost of owning washing machine? When you have children? When you have a uniform that you have to wash 2-3 times a week?

Finally, credit card debt: When I got out of college, I was working in a prestigious museum. I had good health care, but I was charging groceries on my credit card. The deficit between my cost of living and my salary was costing me 15% interest.

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SGL 01.23.04 at 6:06 pm

“If mental health is part of the picture in this particular case, then the best response to situations like this might be something other than changes to economic structures.”
Well, duh. Good to see somebody gets it.

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Tom Womack 01.23.04 at 7:27 pm

Why on Earth, in ninety-something comments, has nobody pointed out the abject lunacy of a regulatory system that allows someone who’s never earned $30k in a year to rack up $30k in credit-card debt?

Or is it absolutely axiomatic that you can’t regulate private agencies handing out credit on extortionate terms?

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SGL 01.23.04 at 8:00 pm

Tom, that’s an excellent point. The reason it doesn’t get regulated adequately, of course, is that both the big credit-card companies and the lowlifes who operate subprime lending companies spend a lot of money on lobbying and campaign contributions.

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Sebastian holsclaw 01.23.04 at 8:45 pm

There is bankruptcy. Hey an area where I think government regulation is ok. And I might even be willing to admit that the 5 year ago ‘crack-down’ on bankruptcy was ill-advised.

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Felix Gant 01.24.04 at 4:54 pm

Dear dear … I’m in the middle – this case is an indictment of us all, poverty is relative, and we should do what we can to save ourselves AS WELL AS to save others … and what a lot of personal abuse is flying past me in both directions. Calling each other names generates heat, but little light.

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visitor 01.24.04 at 5:09 pm

Caroline Payne’s poverty only exists relatively. She’s apparently lived and is living a long life, has had multiple children — one of whom is relatively healthy and safe despite a mental handicap, can provide for her basic needs, has shelter, and has many things to look forward to. The major cause of her suffering is that she lives her life in the shadow of the most obscenely wealthy people in history. Permanently surrounded by gratuitous displays of wealth, health, and comfort, she is constantly reminded that her life does not add up. That doesn’t mean that her suffering doesn’t exist, or that good people shouldn’t try to ameliorate it. It means that her suffering isn’t assuaged by giving her more money. And even if it were, the proper route would by no means be an anonymous budgetary leviathan.

Well, I personally take time to try to ameliorate suffering, spend my own money on it, and teach it to my children.

Sigh, I’m also one of those damnable conservatives. But I do believe that compassionate action means time and money from your own pocket as well as serving in groups and tax funds.

I just dislike people swearing at me because I disagree over the structure that gets people to the least suffering.

At least I put my time and money into what I believe.

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Ken 01.24.04 at 9:26 pm

“Why on Earth, in ninety-something comments, has nobody pointed out the abject lunacy of a regulatory system that allows someone who’s never earned $30k in a year to rack up $30k in credit-card debt?”

Because there’s no lunacy I can see in a “regulatory system” that fails to treat those over 18 as children. There shouldn’t be any agency with the power to “allow” or “disallow” people over 18 to borrow money from a willing lender and legally obligate himself to pay it back.

Next, I suppose you’re going to tell me that people over 18 should have an agency with the power to forbid them, for their own good, to…

(jeez, I’m running out of examples that haven’t already been implemented or seriously considered! What’s wrong with this country?)

Obviously, there are a few people out there that really aren’t able to handle the demands and responsibilities of adulthood. Maybe we should allow people to petition DCFS to revoke their adulthood and place them with foster parents…

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ScottXYZ 02.16.04 at 6:54 am

If we’re trying to figure out who or what to blame for this tragedy – try taking a look at how much money is made by the CEOs and shareholders of Walmart and Tambrands who paid Caroline Payne less than 7 dollars an hour for 20 years – and take a look at the bank that held the $90,000 mortgage on Caroline Payne’s $37,000 house.

(Also try looking at the callousness of the Tambrands managers who couldn’t adjust her schedule to allow her to take care of her own children – and the idiot spineless doctors and caseworkers who couldn’t bring up this simple suggestion.)

Do the math. An “economy” isn’t going to function if the paper-pushers get millions dollars while the people who do the real work get $200 a week.

There’s plenty of money to go around. It just isn’t going around anymore – it’s all in a few people’s bank accounts now.

Pay everyone ten bucks an hour to do what they do best. Couldn’t work much worse than the current mess called “capitalism”.

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