The Condition of the Working Class in Manchester (and New England)

by Kieran Healy on September 22, 2004

Snippet of a conversation with a student from my “Sources of Social Theory”: class:

Student: I just wanted to be sure I understood the “Engels reading”:
Me: OK.
Student: I mean, I think I got it — like, he went to Manchester and it was totally gross and everything, right?
Me: That’s about right, I suppose.

And speaking of class warfare, consider the headlines from these two stories, nestled next to each other in the _Times_ right now:

bq. “U.S. Seeking Cuts in Rent Subsidies for Poor Families”: The Bush administration has proposed reducing the value of subsidized-housing vouchers given to poor residents in New York City next year, with even bigger cuts planned for some urban areas in New England. The proposal is based on a disputed new formula that averages higher rents in big cities with those of suburban areas, which tend to have lower costs…

bq. “Legal Loophole Inflates Profits in Student Loans”: The federal government is paying hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary subsidies to student loan companies even though the Bush administration has the authority to cut them off immediately, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

It’s probably worth some Think-Tanker’s time to express the money involved in the former story in terms of the money involved in the latter story, and package it into a 1-liner about the present Administration’s approach to social policy.



Daniel Maskit 09.22.04 at 6:44 am

This seems like it might be covered by one of my proposed Bush/Cheney mottoes:

Taxing the Workers, Representing the Executives

Not a perfect fit, but perhaps the right direction at least.


luci phyrr 09.22.04 at 8:20 am

Prudent policy positions? A good target o’sneer (welfare cheats) is much more, useful…

Bush/Cheney: when a scapegoat’s better than a solution.


bull 09.22.04 at 11:17 am

One-liner indeed. It took me 5 minutes to find the report and check the Dept of Education’s letter referred to by the NY Timse. It appears that anything more than one line and you’d get snagged by the facts.

1st, the Dept of Education notes in its letter to the GAO regarding the draft report that the Dept agrees that the program ought to be “scaled back considerably,” and that the Bush budget for FY 2005 proposes just that. 2nd, the letter notes that it has to undergo a rulemaking process governed by the Administrative Procedures Act. An agency ignores the APA at its peril, bec/ if it does then its decision will be appealed and the courts will slap it right back.

So I guess the question is, do you favor a system of government that ignores required procedures and instead allows agencies to do whatever they feel appropriate?


dmm 09.22.04 at 1:50 pm

The Condition of the Working Class in Manchester

Darn. I was hoping you were going to make some sort of cheap shot about Rio Ferdinand actually having to play a game in exchange for the ninety thousand pounds per week he’s been trousering over the past eight months.


Locutor 09.22.04 at 5:02 pm

Bull sez:
“So I guess the question is, do you favor a system of government that ignores required procedures and instead allows agencies to do whatever they feel appropriate?”

No, I don’t favor it, but that sounds like the Bush administration, all right, especially when it comes to social and environmental policy.


james 09.22.04 at 7:20 pm

Concerning the cutback of housing subsidies.

It should also be noted the new formula (Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998 ) was signed into law by President Clinton. The bill does not call for a reduction in the total amount of government funds spent on housing subsidies. The new formula requires housing authorities to provide documentation of actual expenses as a requirement for receiving government aid. In the past, established housing authorities where only required to provide minimal documentation.

From a seperate NY Times article:

“About four-fifths of the nation’s 3,100 or so public housing agencies are expected to gain money over the next two years, according to preliminary HUD data analyzed by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. Hundreds of agencies in the South, led by Texas and Florida, are poised to gain at least 50 percent.”

This does not support your thesis.


Another Damned Medievalist 09.22.04 at 7:56 pm

[ADM continues to bang head against wall at Kieran’s warping of medieval society.] Brittanica?? How about the Cambridge Medieval History, for Pete’s sake? Or something less wishy-washy and misleading. Some poor History prof is now going to have to go over the whole damned thing again, thus pissing of the student, who “learned” about feudal society and what the Historian asserts is NOT what he learned. [still banging head on wall]

BTW — When was England last in a position of having a choice of central defenders? No one’s seen Rio play for a while, the wonderful Sol has been out, and meanwhile Terry and King (who’s still quite young) are improving. Not to mention Woodgate, although I think there are question marks there.


rvman 09.23.04 at 5:18 pm

Why are we subsidizing 4 bedroom apartments at all? Three bedrooms (one for parents, one for boys, one for girls) is the largest we need to be worrying about. As for the suburbia issue – as I’ve said before, living in expensive areas like New York, Boston, or LA is not a birthright. If you can’t afford to live there, move to Sioux Falls. You can get by on fast food wages there better than you can on $10-15/hr in New York. The Feds should be paying a flat subsidy nationally, based on the national average – this rewards people for moving to cheap places to live.

If the State of New York or City of New York wants to boost that, they should be allowed to, but the Feds shouldn’t be subsidizing New York’s greater amenities or whatever causes people to live there instead of someplace saner. (It shore ain’t jobs – NYC has a higher than average unemployment rate – around 7%.)

The other issue depends on how the law was written – did it guarantee the 9.5% for the term of the loan, or was that adjustable? If the former, it would be rude and self-destructive to cut that – it is no different from the government issuing 9.5% fixed-rate bonds, and now being annoyed that they are having to pay so much. If they were to cut under those circumstances, no one would believe the government’s future guarantees, and the needed rate of interest to get entry to the market would be much higher next time. If the latter, then by all means, cut, cut.


MaryGarth 09.24.04 at 8:24 pm

Hi Kieran–

Have you ever considered having your students read novels by Elizabeth Gaskell and others like her along with Engels? Gaskell’s North and South (and other novels about early industrial England) might be useful… I think novelists were doing some of the most interesting sociology in the 19th century.

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