Why People Ignore Poverty





Ms. Appleby is professor emerita of history at UCLA and co-director of the History News Service.

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Alabama's Gov. Bob Riley has astounded friend and foe alike by proposing a tax increase of $1.3 billion to lift the heavy tax burden from the state's poor. Admonishing critics that the New Testament teaches us "to help those who are the least among us," Riley is attacking an entrenched system of inequity in his state.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has denounced a Senate bill to extend an increased tax credit for children to the nation's 6.5 million low-income families, and has buried the measure in another round of tax cuts for the affluent.

Advocates for the poor such as Riley are pushing against the same obstacles that 18th-century opponents of slavery confronted: acceptance of an evil because of its familiarity. It's hard to be outraged by a condition like poverty that's been around for millennia.

It was once the same with slavery. While enslavement was always considered a deplorable fate, people accepted it as an ineradicable evil, like dying. Then, with remarkable suddenness, the idea of abolition aroused a cadre of reformers who unsettled public complacency in less than a century. In 1780, Pennsylvania abolished slavery, its legislative body being the first in the world to extinguish a system as old as the Bible. All the Northern states followed Pennsylvania's example, most of them providing for emancipation gradually according to the enslaved person's age.

"A House divided against itself cannot stand," Abraham Lincoln said on the eve of the Civil War, adding presciently that "this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free." But the same Lincoln quoted scripture to say that the poor will always be with us. After all, Thomas Robert Malthus's powerful theory about population growth taught that poverty was the inescapable lot of the mass of men and women.

Breaking through this penumbra of resignation about poverty has not proved easy. The 19th-century English radical William Cobbett was the first to denounce the cruelty of those jobs that kept sober and industrious workers fully employed but did not pay them enough to feed their families. Working against the grain, Cobbett excoriated his contemporaries for favoring public handouts over adequate wages. Cobbett's working poor have now attracted the attention of today's activists who promote the living wage. More than a hundred jurisdictions have passed living wage ordinances for employees. But the level of general, public concern about poverty has not changed much. Most of us merely deplore it in dinner table conversations before asking someone to pass the lamb chops.

Barbara Ehrenreich detailed the privations and humiliations of the working poor during the booming 1990s in Nickel and Dimed, a book that made it to the best-seller list. Though not quite a second Uncle Tom's Cabin, Nickel and Dimed has also been turned into a play. Still, earnest sympathy for the plight of those who work full time and yet find themselves below the poverty line gets diluted into the conviction that little can be done.

Yet we could join Gov. Riley in his campaign to help "the least among us." We could reject the idea of minimum wage laws in favor of living-wage legislation that guaranteed all who work a decent living.

Those who argue that raising wages would generate price increases ignore the fact that those making $20,000 or less a year would be more than compensated by their wage hikes -- and that the rest of us can afford to pay more.

Social Security taxes -- the most onerous payroll deduction for the poor -- could be made graduated. The cost of these graded rates could be recouped by raising the cap of $87,000 on the income base for which Social Security taxes are levied. And there are other ways to attack the problem, were there but a will to do so.

The rise of evangelical Christianity fueled the antislavery movement as did the Enlightenment's ardent embrace of liberty. Romantic literature played a part too, creating a realm of imagination where avid readers of novels could fantasize a different reality,such as that of being slaves themselves. The ideal of personal freedom has proved a double-edged sword in the campaigns to end slavery and poverty. Freedom stood in stark contrast to slavery. Few ever imagined that they could escape slavery if shackled. But with poverty the case is different. People believe that, if poor, they would use their freedom to lift themselves out of poverty's abyss. The demand upon the imagination regarding poverty is greater and involves a more searching self-examination. It's hard to consider our own talents as merely the kind of gifts that society chooses to reward or to reckon how poorly we might have coped with the handicaps of want and the consequences of inadequate schooling and health care.

What will ever prod us to confront poverty as our forbears did slavery? What will it take to awaken our slumbering consciences? We've had the quickening of religious fervor in the past decades, but today's Evangelicals have yet to evince any concern for the lot of America's working poor. If not from them, where will the empathetic outrage emerge that says "there but for the grace of God go I"?


This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.


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Kat Fox - 8/14/2004

testing


Kat Fox - 8/13/2004

was not implying that "all" poor people are lacking virtue. It has been my experience over the years that poverty is caused by one of the following (and sometimes several in combination):

You sure as hell could've fooled me. Your post drips of blame the poor mentality. You are part of the reason why poor people are oppressed, I might add.

1. Growing up in a family that is poor because of poor decisions. (My experience.) This is unfortunate, but as long as there are public schools and scholarships for the poor to attend college, this is a problem of relatively short duration.

From your white, male middle class perspective (and you do sound like a white male), you can't fathom how horrible inner city public schools are and how they are havens of violence and drug abuse. Having to go to one of these glorified prisons everyday does not set the stage for higher education, I can tell you.

2. The most common cause of poverty among adults that I have seen is drug or alcohol abuse. Yes, poverty may encourage solace in the bottle or the joint, but a fair number of people see beyond this short-term pleasure, and go looking for ways to improve themselves. I have also noticed an astonishing amount of this intoxication-based poverty from the children of the upper-middle class, who get stuck in this destructive pattern in junior high or high school, and never get out.

Here is a blatant example of classic 'blame the victim' mentality. You stigmatize poor people as drunks and druggies, fundamentally flawed and unable to make rationale decisions and think for themselves. This is yet another symptom of what I mean when I say you have no perspective because it sounds as if you have never experienced poverty personally and have never actually witnessed those who toil away at low paying jobs, as well as toiling away trying to get a higher education, all against incredible odds. This would be pretty hard to do while one is in a drunken stupor, I might add.


3. Getting pregnant before marriage, especially before graduating high school. This is a major cause of poverty, because it makes all other forms of self-improvement a lot more difficult. Schools are working a lot harder than they did when I was young to make sure that unwed mothers finish high school, but even then, a high school diploma won't get you all that far. Unfortunately, doing something about this problem involves dealing with the predatory male problem, and that might require teaching self-control, self-discipline, and telling the entertainment media to stop promoting casual sex.

You've finally said something that made sense. I agree that most men are sexual predators and opportunists who trap young womyn into premature sex, which results in disease and unwanted pregnancy. A possible solution would be stiffer jail terms for these pedophile predators that could serve as a deterrent for many of these men. An even better solution would be to castrate them, since they are little more than rapists anyway.

4. Growing up poor and black or Hispanic is certainly a factor, though I suspect not a decisive one. Inner city public schools are often hellholes; I have known a few people that taught in them, and there is definitely more work required to overcome the disadvantage of growing up in such a neighborhood. Unfortunately, affirmative action programs really only help the kids who have already overcome this barrier well enough to be looking at college; they don't do anything for the kids who are just of average intelligence growing up in cesspools, for whom college isn't even on the table.

Congratulations on contradicting yourself again. First you say that as long as there are public schools poor kids will thrive and next you're saying that public schools are toilets. This tells me that you don't really know what your are talking about, do you?


5. Divorce can take a comfortable middle class family and turn them into a lower class family with surprising speed. Think what it does to a poor family. This is one of those areas where the left did its best to encourage easy divorce--and is now surprised at the results. Contrary to a lot of feminist rhetoric, marriage was NOT a system for oppressing women--it was a method for keeping men responsible for their actions. That it didn't work perfectly is true; what has replaced it has worked even less well. Professor Elizabeth Fox-Genovese was on a panel some years ago where she expressed her opinion that feminism had been a great boon to people like herself, with high status jobs. For many women, living in trailers and dependent on welfare, feminism had been a disaster.

Actually, the real disaster is men like you who oppress females on a daily basis, and plunger down everyone's throat that dependence on a man is by far more preferable to anything else, even if that man happens to be violent and abusive. Thanx to 'easy divorce' womyn are empowered to break free of their abusers and rebuild their lives and the lives of their children free of abuse and economic terrorism. Men were never responsible for their actions before the womyn's movement, anyway, so this argument does not stand up. The real problem that you fail to address is the wage disparity that exists between men and womyn. If this wage gap were closed, no womyn or children need ever live in poverty, regardless of marital status.


Tina Braxton - 7/13/2003

NY Guy, whoever you are,

Ms. Young's statement is quite coherent, also free from the sort of spelling and grammatical errors that conspicuously pepper yours. Her statement provides both justification and proof, though one might wish to look up the proof to check its construction and verify the details.

Your statement, on the other hand, contains nothing of value. You have no way of knowing who Ms. Young is, whether or not she is or has ever been poor, or what kind of community she lives in. Regardless of her identity and background, in her brief statement, she has demonstrated a certain knowledge of both history and poverty; your "answer" does not even contain any reference to either subject, nor does it find any flaw in her arguments.

You refer to the "adult, real world." But your tactics resemble those of a spoiled, bratty child, and the content of your statement has no connection with reality.

It's no wonder you don't choose to reveal your name.


Clayton E. Cramer - 7/11/2003

"By implying that all poor people are not as virtuous as you were in that terrible year of 1975, you contribute little."

I was not implying that "all" poor people are lacking virtue. It has been my experience over the years that poverty is caused by one of the following (and sometimes several in combination):

1. Growing up in a family that is poor because of poor decisions. (My experience.) This is unfortunate, but as long as there are public schools and scholarships for the poor to attend college, this is a problem of relatively short duration.

2. The most common cause of poverty among adults that I have seen is drug or alcohol abuse. Yes, poverty may encourage solace in the bottle or the joint, but a fair number of people see beyond this short-term pleasure, and go looking for ways to improve themselves. I have also noticed an astonishing amount of this intoxication-based poverty from the children of the upper-middle class, who get stuck in this destructive pattern in junior high or high school, and never get out.

3. Getting pregnant before marriage, especially before graduating high school. This is a major cause of poverty, because it makes all other forms of self-improvement a lot more difficult. Schools are working a lot harder than they did when I was young to make sure that unwed mothers finish high school, but even then, a high school diploma won't get you all that far. Unfortunately, doing something about this problem involves dealing with the predatory male problem, and that might require teaching self-control, self-discipline, and telling the entertainment media to stop promoting casual sex.

4. Growing up poor and black or Hispanic is certainly a factor, though I suspect not a decisive one. Inner city public schools are often hellholes; I have known a few people that taught in them, and there is definitely more work required to overcome the disadvantage of growing up in such a neighborhood. Unfortunately, affirmative action programs really only help the kids who have already overcome this barrier well enough to be looking at college; they don't do anything for the kids who are just of average intelligence growing up in cesspools, for whom college isn't even on the table.

5. Divorce can take a comfortable middle class family and turn them into a lower class family with surprising speed. Think what it does to a poor family. This is one of those areas where the left did its best to encourage easy divorce--and is now surprised at the results. Contrary to a lot of feminist rhetoric, marriage was NOT a system for oppressing women--it was a method for keeping men responsible for their actions. That it didn't work perfectly is true; what has replaced it has worked even less well. Professor Elizabeth Fox-Genovese was on a panel some years ago where she expressed her opinion that feminism had been a great boon to people like herself, with high status jobs. For many women, living in trailers and dependent on welfare, feminism had been a disaster.


NYGuy - 7/8/2003

Kent,

Thank you for your thoughtful replies and desire to exchange ideas. This is different from trying to convince someone else we are right.

I learned from your approach and I see what you are saying, which I had not considered before. As I mentioned I presented my serious approach to our discussion and hope it has been helpful.

I accept your desire for all of us to be better citizens and sincerely try to make this a better country. I think the exchange of ideas that you, Ralph, Bill and I have been trading were civil and as such we all benefited, even thought there might be some difference of opinions and approach.

If you ever get your house painted let us know. What colors are you looking at:).

Cheers and good luck.


Kent - 7/7/2003


NYGuy,

There is much in your post that I agree with, but first let me assert that the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security is the largest government expansion since the 1947 National Security Act that established the modern Department of Defense, the United States Air Force, and the Central Intelligence Agency. I cannot say for certain whether or not it's larger, but at its current pace, I expect it to be.

You, Bill, and me agree in respect to what we're seeing is a dynamic situation, and none can truly be prognosticators of the future--although that hasn't stopped us from trying to be. You are correct to highlight attention on the global economy, but note my concerns over reconciling economic globalization with national interest and identity. These two goals are not mutually exclusive; they can work together harmoniously, or they can threaten one another. Think about, on the leftist side, the rioting over GATT, the WTO, etc. (measures which I do support, so I guess I have one foot in the 21st century?). My complaint about the Bush administration is that he is pursuing a global policy that is destructive to the more immediate national interests and identity, and that in the long run will cause much more substantial problems then the ones we're facing today.

Again, you're right about the fact that American manufactures sell to a global market. What I'm focusing on, however, is that by raising the minimum wage substantially, these manufacturers will be able to tap a vast domestic market as well--something akin to when the New Deal electrified the rural South. This will allow them to profit while at the same time promoting the American national interests.

We must avoid any suggestion that the ideas and solutions we're debating are mutually exclusive. The objectives you seek and promote can, and must be brought in line with what me and others have advocated. That is where we will find a durable, lasting solution to the problems we face as a nation and as a world leader.


YSN - 7/7/2003

Clinton's CEA's policy recommendations aside, Clinton went out and created jobs, at a modest, but continuous pace, for eight solid years.

It would be an obscene. jerk-about piece of meat that would suggest that, if the numbers of unemployed fell to 7-8 million, those efforts would have stopped.

Of course, I do not mean to cast aspersions on the character of Clarence Smith, which is indubitably fine, if solely for its interest in Government, an interst sorely lacking in the general populace.


NYGuy - 7/7/2003

Kent,

According to your comments we should not have fought WWII. I think that Roosevelt “enlarged government more than any other administration in American history" if you properly benchmark the statistics by showing what percent it was of a measure such as GDP.

Kent said:
"Again, it seems that you've bought into the notion that Bush wants less government when, in fact, everything he has done has had the effect of enlarging the government, in many instances more than any other administration in American history. You must follow through, match the rhetoric to the reality of what's going on. Think Bill, the Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, the bureaucracy to monitor the tax cuts and medicare reform, the military and the War on Terrorism, reconstructing Iraq, threatening war in Iran and North Korea, and now a humanitarian mission in Liberia--but he's gutting the revenue base to pay for it through his tax cuts. It's a prescription for disaster."

My recollection is that the adoption of Keynsian fiscal stimulus policies enabled us to pay for the war and then have outstanding economic growth in the 50's. Yes I know there was pent-up demand, etc, but from the stimulus side I think the comparison is valid.

I think both you and Ralph should heed Bill's counsel that we are dealing with a dynamic situation. I would add it is not only in economics but also in technology. As I read the arguments about "minimum wage" I think that it is such a small part of what is going on in the world today, and leads me to conclude that you both are using arguments more applicable to the old days when companies sold most of their goods in the U. S. and only a small amount was exported, mostly through Export agents.

Today we have global markets. And, using the oft-quoted rule of thumb of Geofrey Moore of Intel, “technology doubles about every 1 and ½ years.” This means that other companies, and countries have to be up to date with their technology or they fall way behind because of the fast pace of technology. We are now being told that China’s use of broadband is exploding. If we understand that in order to do business in far away places we also have to improve our communications in all areas of technology, which in turn exports many of the democratic ideas of America. It also means that any country that does not upgrade their technology just falls behind and their competitiveness and ability to defend themselves is greatly weakened. Iran may be a confirmation of these changes, we are far away from Iran, but there is unrest among the students to have the best tools for their studies as well access to a more diverse life style. I would include freedom as part of their aspirations which they are learning about because of the current technology which is only about 30 years old. Our position in both Iraq and Afganistan also is important as it is causing many nations to rethink their priorities.

I have been tweaking this board with the “GW is a genius” mantra, but if you think about it there is something to consider in the definition, “hitting a target no one else sees.”

Forget GW for a moment, but as I watch what is going on I see new emerging targets, (not war targets) and I believe our response is not only good for the U. S. and makes us safer, but also offers greater opportunities now for peace then in the past decade where we were timid and relative isolationists. Critics call it empire building, but I submit they cannot see the target, and can’t propose any other targets or solutions.

Those who pay taxes will get tax relief. If they put it into savings that will still help the economy since others can and do tap into savings for investments. The individual may not put the money into bonds, but the saving institution does. Investments give a bigger bang for the economy through the multiplier effect than just consumption. If tax payers spend even a small percent of the total amount they received, it will give a greater boost to the economy than any effort by those who don’t pay tax, since they effect consumption and create opportunities for additional investment. It is a win-win for the American economy.

You underestimate the strength of this great country to recover, which it is now occurring. There are other factors in economics beside specific numbers. Confidence is one of them and GW has been a great leader who has supplied us with that. As a result the stock market has been strong this year. Since just about all taxpayers have investments this “wealth effect” not only gives more confidence to the tax payers, as it puts more money into their investments, but it will also cause businesses to make additional investments.

I am sure you will counter with an argument that unemployment is still high. But, we must remember the large number of people who are coming to this country and further distort an already suspect economic indicator. And we have had some unusual factors effecting employment this year and in the past 2 years. But for now, the economy is beginning to recover and with the tax cut will get even stronger. For both the market and businessmen, our fiscal year begins about August-September. That is when budgets for next year are put together, and estimates of the economic growth for calendar year 2004 are made. This task should be approached with greater confidence becasue of the above factor. Therefore my conclusion is that “dynamic” growth is upon us.

The above is my serious approach to what is happening. But since the game on this Website is “blood sport”, I would recommend that you and Ralph come into the 21st Century :).

Cheeers.


Kent - 7/7/2003


Bill,

Come on! What's been the stated rationale behind every comment uttered by a Bush administration official in relation to the tax cuts? To stimulate the economy! To encourage investment in the economy! To create jobs! That is intervention; that is the government enacting policies to promote economic development. As for the use of the word initiate, don't quibble. The tax cut was the result of deliberate actions taken by many people, it was not a passive effort.

Bush wants you to get a tax cut and then run out and spend the money. It's essentially a sound concept, but what I've been arguing is that it's doomed to fail because it targets the wrong audience. The middle-class will sit on it and not budge, the rich will invest it elsewhere because, unfortunately, the good 'ol U.S. of A. is not a very good investment at the moment.

Again, it seems that you've bought into the notion that Bush wants less government when, in fact, everything he has done has had the effect of enlarging the government, in many instances more than any other administration in American history. You must follow through, match the rhetoric to the reality of what's going on. Think Bill, the Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, the bureacracy to moniter the tax cuts and medicare reform, the military and the War on Terrorism, reconstructing Iraq, threatening war in Iran and North Korea, and now a humanitarian mission in Liberia--but he's gutting the revenue base to pay for it through his tax cuts. It's a prescription for disaster.


NYGuy - 7/7/2003

Harrison,

I was pleased to receive your latest comment. You indeed have a lot to be proud of, starting with your father and moving back through time. Somehow we got off on slavery, but you reinforce a point easily overlooked that many early Americans opposed, and fought against slavery, and worked to overcome it. Further they succeeded.

I was puzz]led by your references to labor reform, which as you say did occur later, but unfortuneatly discussions get intense and we passed each other like ships in the night. My point is that Americans have two outstanding traits, one is a desire to be free and the second is a desire to improve themselves, particularly with the opportunities this country offers.

I believe most of the early poor Americans got out of poverty after one or two generations. But, we continue to fill up the poverty rolls with new poor people so it appears we are not making any progress.

I was sorry to learn of your father's death when he was apparently so young. And I would guess you were also a toddler. My father died when I was a year and a half and it is an ache that never goes away.

It sounds like you were fortuneate enough to get a good step-father. I did also, he was one of the most decent men I ever met. He volunteered for the Army and spent the last three months of WW1 on the front lines. He was also a union man and a Teamster when one drove horses not trucks.

Since I grew up in a union family I am well aware of the sacrifices men, and women, made to get decent labor laws that protected workers, increased their benefits and reduced the long working hours. I knew people got killed because of the goons the businessmen hired, but this was the first time I had heard of the use of a machine gun, although I am not surpised. There were some very brave men who fought for these rights.

One of the things I learned from my "wasp" wife is a sense of fairness which you also exhibit. But, since some on this board have stated this is a blood sport and anything goes, I play by the rules laid down. But I was wrong with my comment on Columbia which is an outstanding school as well as other little digs.

Well it has been a pleasure corresponding with you. And I can truthfully say, "my day in not wasted I learned something new because of you."

All good wishes,

Cheers


Ralph E. Luker - 7/7/2003

Bill,
I got your "damned point."
Your favorite sophomore


Bill Heuisler - 7/7/2003

Ralph,
We nearly always disagree and I've come to like and respect you. But sometimes you misread/misinterpret/misunderstand my words to the point where I begin to suspect your motives. Are you trying to make me rip out my hair?

Now concentrate a moment and try not to let your political biases and love for class-envy get in the way. A tax cut is a reduction in the money that will be taken from taxpayers in the future. A tax cut is passive - not an initiative, not an act. That's my damned point, Ralph.

If it's retroactive, checks are cut, but that's obviously not my point. You wrote, "their privileged brows". So those who work with their heads shouldn't be paid? And professors? So what do you do for a living, dig ditches? Or are you still hung up in the passe jargon of the sixties? Like I said, you seem nice, but please take out your petty Marxist class-hatreds on someone else. Such sophomoric naivete should be beneath you.
Bill Heuisler


Ralph E. Luker - 7/6/2003

Bill, I could at least understand your point until you got to this: "A tax cut is not "initiated", but inaction - money remaining in worker's pockets." Good Lord, you'd think that GWB, Dick Cheney and the fellahs they shared their tax cut with had earned their money by the sweat of their privileged brows! Economic nepots and despots of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your capital gains!


Bill Heuisler - 7/6/2003

Kent,
You really got my attention with this one. You wrote, "The tax cuts initiated by the Bush administration, what is that besides government interference? Reducing taxes as a means to induce investment in the American economy."

When police arrested Dillinger were they interfering with banks? A tax cut is not "initiated", but inaction - money remaining in worker's pockets. Letting people keep their money doesn't induce anything, it's the natural order of things. Government is servant, not master, and has no prerogative to our money.

How have you strayed so far, my friend, that government inaction becomes intervention?
Bill Heuisler


Harrison Bergeron - 7/6/2003


NYGuy:

Between 1798-1900, those on my grandfather's side of the line were working as prosperous yeoman farmers in Ohio; those on my grandmother's side were probably sipping tea with members of your wife's family while decrying the evils of slavery--my grandmother was R. W. Emerson's granddaughter.

Perhaps I was in error in respect to your earlier comments on the immigrant experience. I was primarily thinking of the post-Civil War experiences of the eastern and southern European immigrants who arrived in this country in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

You know people like my stepfather's father who worked in the coal mines of central Illinois and faced machine gun fire from strike breakers hiding in the cornfields. He later benefited from the federal government's recognition of labor's right to organize, right to strike, etc.


Kent - 7/6/2003


Bill,

You wrote: "My point is that government interference in a thriving, growing marketplace causes more harm than good. In a strong economy government is the problem, not the solution."

Sit down if you must, because we actually agree on this (Hooray for common ground!). But let me ask you this, with the exception of the 1990s economic boom--which is proving now to have been somewhat superficially driven--when have we had a "strong economy" since the early 1960s? Additionally, this whole notion of "government interference," all it represents is collective action by the American people. What the phrasing suggests is that you've bought into the line of reasoning that implies a fundamental disconnect between the "government" and the "people." That is perhaps how it currently, but it is not the way it should be. The rise of voter apathy, the corruption in politics is fueling the "government is the problem not the solution" mentality. Have you noticed how such issues are raised during election cycles, but no one does anything to substantially address the problem when they have an opportunity, and the means, to do so?

What this suggests is that the powers that be do not want to see participatory government in this nation, its risky and difficult to control. They blow smoke up our rears but little else. As I noted in a post the other day, the mentality that is prevelent today is not different from the elitist views held by the old Hamilitonian Federalists, all that has changed is the rhetoric. At least Hamilton was honest about it.

The sad thing is that many have noted these problems, and have reacted in one of two ways: either they've withdrawn completely from the process and stand mute as it crumbles around their ears or they've attacked the government in a kind of schizophrenic frenzy asserting the fiction that the government is separate from the people, and that "less government" is the solution. You know, it's as if they want the "state" to "whither away" and some sort of idyllic utopia will emerge as a result. Get the allusion, Bill? Spooky, huh?

The tax cuts initiated by the Bush administration, what is that besides government interference? Reducing taxes as a means to induce investment in the American economy. If you think through the view I'm advocating, the government maintains a much more limited role in that it passes legislation increasing the minimum wage, and then simply enforces its authority as needed. The rest occurs as a result of normal economic activity. What's more, as a result of this sort of initiative, government programs providing rent supplements can begin being phased out; food stamp programs can be downgraded; as the working poor are able to purchase a modest level of health insurance, Medicaid programs can likewise be curtailed. That's less government!!

The Bush tax cuts, on the other hand, require constant government attention; they are passed, then they expire, then they have to be extended, then they expire again, then the debate has to take place as to whether or not they will be made permenant. Or, Prescription meds are covered until your total reaches a certain point when benefit coverage suddenly stops. Then coverage resumes when the total amount has reached an even higher level. Bill, who going to have to monitor this bureaucratic morass? Does this really strike you as less government? It's a process that requires constant babysitting on the part of some level of government bureaucracy.

This is why I find the current administration so frustrating. The spew out that rhetoric conservatives want to hear, but then do the opposite. The inability on the part of audience to analyze and actually figure out what's going on aids them in the process. For example, think about the abortion issue and how those who support severe restrictions if not and outright ban on the procedure also claim they want "less government." Imagine for a moment the kind of bureaucratic infrastructure that would have to be implemented to enforce such a ban. It would be Orwell's 1984! If a ban occurred and, with a wink and a nod, it wasn't enforced, then it would reveal what a farce our system of government had become. Neither scenario is a pleasent one, is it Bill?

Remember the common ground I'm constantly seeking? I think I'm finding some--correct me if I'm wrong. I do not think government is a panacea, neither do you. I am not a fan of welfare programs that allow for stagnation and discourage individuals from independently improving their own lives, neither do you. I think the most productive solutions to the most challenging problems will be primarily found in the private sector, so do you.

Where we differ apparently is, in my view, that the government must play a vital role in directing--note the distinction, I said "directing" not "doing"--such activity. For example passing legistlation that substantially increases the minimum wage--something you disagree with; but, on the other side of the coin, I would also favor repealing all of the farcical Bush tax cuts (which you support) and, instead, zeroing out the captital gains tax--I'd be willing to bet you like this idea.

Let me ask you Bill, why does it have to be one or the other? Why not both? The end result is the same, recipients on both ends of the scale are benefited and both will result in pumping money directly back into the economy. Money coming into the economy from both ends will flow directly toward the middle.

That's when I'll get my house painted. Hell, I might even upgrade and buy a bigger house; and get rid of the 1990 Honda that I've been holding together with duct tape and chewing gum; get rid of my twelve-year-old VCR and get a DVD player. Hey, I'll buy a plane ticket to Tuscon and we can continue this conversation face-to-face (but until I can afford that, keep responding!). Let's see, what do else I need....

Take care, and stay out of harms' way.




NYGuy - 7/6/2003

What ever you say oh exalted one.

But, seriously, Ralph this discussion has taken many turns and people who read the posts can make up their own minds.

Perhaps an important difference in our opinions is on your point:

"recognize that addressing systemic poverty may require collective effort with government authorization and organization"

I have not come to the conclusion that poverty in the U. S. is systemic. Maybe it is my experience in NYC. Each day I see and admire people who are working hard to get out of poverty.

On the other hand I do know that it is difficult for black people to get out of poverty, particularly single women with children. And from what I have read the recidivist rate is high. I believe the poverty rate for black women with no husband is 16%. I was surprised when I found that the poverty rate for black Men with no wife was single digit, believe 5%.

Hear is were the difficulty comes in. It was the black women who broke the barriers in offices in NYC about 15-20 years ago. They were the first to be accepted in large numbers by banks particularly, and other businesses in NYC. And the trend continues. I met and worked with many who were single parented and had children. Their desires for their children was no different than any other group. And I now see more of them going to night school to get a better education. So I am stuck between what I see and the conclusion that poverty is systemic. I know I have concentrated on the black community, but I don't think the same problems apply to other groups.

Meanwhile the poverty rate in LA is 28%, but we see Asians moving into these areas and setting up successful businesses. I believe the problem is that blacks do not have the proper leaders, but more are coming forward trying to instill pride and belief into their brothers.

I will share this with you, my grandson is enrolled in a charter school organized and run by a black principal and at this time the school is probably 95%+ or - black. The principal wants to create a school that will demand excellence from the students. The school is now better than the local public school, That is why my son enrolled him. Actually they are working to get other non-blacks to enroll, and many whites are considering it since they want their children to get the best eduction too. Men such as this principal will, I believe, reverse the trends in poverty in the black community. And more black leaders are moving in this direction.

I see your point that it is a difficult and long road. I am not sure what the government can do to help. Welfare is not the answer in my opinion. You can take a horse etc. etc.

On the other side of the coin I see the rapid progress the Asians are making. When I travel through their neighborhoods I see 1-2 schools that prepare students for their SAT's. I don't ever remember seeing such schools in black areas. That does not mean they don't exist. Asians now have a higher percentage in college than their class group.

I am not sure of the hispanics, but they tend to have strong families which helps one to get out of poverty.

Sorry to ramble on. Let us hope for the best for all Americans.

Enjoy your posts,

Cheers


NYGuy - 7/6/2003

What ever you say oh exalted one.

But, seriously, Ralph this discussion has taken many turns and people who read the posts can make up their own minds.

Perhaps an important difference in our opinions is on your point:

"recognize that addressing systemic poverty may require collective effort with government authorization and organization"

I have not come to the conclusion that poverty in the U. S. is systemic. Maybe it is my experience in NYC. Each day I see and admire people who are working hard to get out of poverty.

On the other hand I do know that it is difficult for black people to get out of poverty, particularly single women with children. And from what I have read the recidivist rate is high. I believe the poverty rate for black women with no husband is 16%. I was surprised when I found that the poverty rate for black Men with no wife was single digit, believe 5%.

Hear is were the difficulty comes in. It was the black women who broke the barriers in offices in NYC about 15-20 years ago. They were the first to be accepted in large numbers by banks particularly, and other businesses in NYC. And the trend continues. I met and worked with many who were single parented and had children. Their desires for their children was no different than any other group. And I now see more of them going to night school to get a better education. So I am stuck between what I see and the conclusion that poverty is systemic. I know I have concentrated on the black community, but I don't think the same problems apply to other groups.

Meanwhile the poverty rate in LA is 28%, but we see Asians moving into these areas and setting up successful businesses. I believe the problem is that blacks do not have the proper leaders, but more are coming forward trying to instill pride and belief into their brothers.

I will share this with you, my grandson is enrolled in a charter school organized and run by a black principal and at this time the school is probably 95%+ or - black. The principal wants to create a school that will demand excellence from the students. The school is now better than the local public school, That is why my son enrolled him. Actually they are working to get other non-blacks to enroll, and many whites are considering it since they want their children to get the best eduction too. Men such as this principal will, I believe, reverse the trends in poverty in the black community. And more black leaders are moving in this direction.

I see your point that it is a difficult and long road. I am not sure what the government can do to help. Welfare is not the answer in my opinion. You can take a horse etc. etc.

On the other side of the coin I see the rapid progress the Asians are making. When I travel through their neighborhoods I see 1-2 schools that prepare students for their SAT's. I don't ever remember seeing such schools in black areas. That does not mean they don't exist. Asians now have a higher percentage in college than their class group.

I am not sure of the hispanics, but they tend to have strong families which helps one to get out of poverty.

Sorry to ramble on. Let us hope for the best for all Americans.

Enjoy your posts,

Cheers


Ralph E. Luker - 7/6/2003

NYG,
My point was that saying that eliminating slavery was an individual effort done without government aid points your whole argument in bold relief. Emancipation could not have been accomplished merely with individual effort. It was a collective achievement which could not have been accomplished without the authorization and organization of the government. It isn't a big jump from that fact to recognize that addressing systemic poverty may require collective effort with government authorization and organization, even if it is the passive effort of granting tax relief to people below certain income levels.


NYGuy - 7/6/2003

Hi Kent and Bill,

Can I jump in here; I was in the garden all day.

Kent you mentioned the great depression. I know the history and you are right it was a big mistake. But that is because one of the new ways of looking at depressions was being proposed by Keynes, but it did not get a lot of attention. Later Roosevelt agreed with fiscal stimulation of the economy and it worked. Then after WWII the Harvard School heavily promoted Keynes ideas. My analysis is that this is like a doctor, (Hoover) not having any antibiotics to save the patient, but when they became available and were used by a later doctor, (Roosevelt) it worked. As such I don’t regard this period as a political one.

You mentioned a few concerns that I believe are just part of our life today. In both medical benefits and pensions, the private sector is forcing its employees to bear the costs. Medical insurance is not insurance. The insurance company merely administers the programs and as costs for the insurance companies go up they pass it on to the employer and he is now trying to pass it on to the employee. You will note that most companies don’t provide medical coverage for retirees anymore. An as for pensions, you put your own money in and make your choices. These practices have now been expanded to other types of organizations.

Since so many employees have their own stock plans and company stock many of us were hurt by the market drop as well as by “those cheating, greedy bastards” who betrayed so many employees.

Meanwhile business, particularly banks and other financial organizations, has been using fees and surcharges for a long time in an effort to improve profitability. You see it in late payments, overbalance fees, special fees for certain type of cash transfers, etc. Local governments are now using the same techniques.

These are now some of the new realities of life.


As for states budgetary problems they have been growing for a long time. As people demanded more social programs, and the unions extracted more wages the cost of business has grown dramatically and outstripped revenues. I loved JA’s wanting to look to Washington for relief. Kent, as you said, Washington is “us”. I don’t want to pay for the desire of California to give so much away in the form of benefits and new social programs. That is why local communities are having financial problems and have to learn to live within their means or raise taxes. It depends not on what people want, but what they want to pay for.

I did mention the large number of those who pay taxes. To get an estimate we start with the 2% rich who get all the taxes and then go to the other end of the spectrum and add in the approximately 14% who are in poverty and don’t pay taxes. That leaves 84% of the workforce that will be getting tax refunds. Seems like this larger group will do more to stimulate the economy. Giving it those in poverty 14%, or who don’t pay taxes won’t have the desired effect.

Kent your reasoning to give more money to someone less fortunate is admirable. But as I mentioned before, you are more motivated and have a greater investment in yourself, so I would prefer that you made the decision on how to spend your money.

You may be right about the renter, but these are complex situations, with many smart people in that position, and you never know what they will do. If they just go to McDonald’s it will not do as much for the economy as it would if you painted your house. So you cannot say for sure that giving money to others is better then your spending it.

In my analysis I consider that we are now in the 23-30th year of the Technology Revolution. As a guide I think of the rough estimate that technology doubles every 1 and ½ years. This has tremendous potential for businessmen to improve their productivity. This not only means fewer jobs, unless more are created, but demands a higher trained employee. Thus mere changes in minimum wages probably won’t have much effect on the decision to hire. My hope is that the rapid advances in technology will lead to greater communication among people, and hopefully a more peaceful world.

We can’t ignore the number of immigrants, legal and otherwise, coming into this country. You have to consider that the money you want to give up may be spent on them. There is nothing wrong with helping people if you want to, but then you can’t complain that it costs too much to your pocketbook. Life is not fair.

Meanwhile I believe GW has provided the leadership for the stock market to rise sharply this year. I am sure you and many others have investments through your retirement plans. As the “wealth effect” improves it gives businesses and workers more confidence. Meanwhile, with the tax cuts beginning it should provide additional stimulus to the economy.

I understand your concerns and recognize the difficult period we have been through. Many economists think tax cuts are simulative and I do also. Hope for the best for you Bill and myself.

I am optimistic that things will be better in the years ahead if we execute the right political decisions. But that is a topic for another day.

Cheers


NYGuy - 7/6/2003

PAC wrote:

My wife’s family came over on the second boat and was at Concord, Lexington, Bunker Hill, the Mohawk Valley, etc. Glad we could give your family a chance for freedom and opportunity. What happened between 1798 and 1900? Our family was busy eliminating slavery, helping others and building this great country. This was an individual effort and I don’t ever remember any government aid. Can you supply me with some facts?

Ralph wrote:

Do you expect other people to take seriously what you say?
Your family eliminated slavery without any government aid? If that is so, get me all the supplementary documentation. We've got to rewrite the middle 1/3 of 19th century American history.

PAC Analysis of his own statement, not an abridged version:

Harrison and I have had several exchanges and he was making the point that nothing was done without the help of Government. In the exchanges I admit I engaged in some playful comments, but I disagreed with his position that the government was always involved when the immigrants got out of povety. Since he provided me with his genealogy I noted that he gave no information about them for the period 1798 –1900. One can not resist an opening and I wanted to show that there were Americans, even back in the early days of our country, who could act independently and not rely on the government So I made the above reply. May sound like a strange concept to some that American’s could act with government approval, but it is true.

My reply was, “Our family was busy elimination slavery, helping others and building this great country,” during this 1798-1900 period. Ralph’s understanding was “Your family eliminated slavery without any government aid.”

While one can admire the rhetorical skill of an adversary, it does not follow that one has to accept his argument.

My wife's family did set up the first school for Black children in Conn. Believe it was for blind children. In their movement West they set up colleges and religious organizations that helped others and were actively opposed to slavery. “And of course historians know that the Quakers in the North actively opposed slavery going back to the Revolutionary war.

And as for the German's who immigrated to this country they had high ideals, and recognized human dignity and sympathized with the blacks who were in slavery. They volunteered in droves to fight in the Civil War, and my grandfather volunteered when he was 17. I do understand the disagreements about the reasons for the Civil War, but the fact remains my grandfather remained, and reenlisted, even after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, as did just about every other German immigrant of the period.

I guess I have to modify my comment thought. Yes my grandfather did get Government assistance, they give him a rifle and a couple of pair of shoes, so he could march up and down the East Coast and engage in some of the fiercest battles of the Civil War.

My question to Harrison was what did his family do during this period.

Ralph,

It is always good to hear from you and your challenging questions are always appreciated.

Cheers


Ralph E. Luker - 7/6/2003

NYG, Did you really say this?
"Our family was busy eliminating slavery, helping others and building this great country. This was an individual effort and I don’t ever remember any government aid. Can you supply me with some facts?"
Do you expect other people to take seriously what you say?
Your family eliminated slavery without any government aid? If that is so, get me all the supplementary documentation. We've got to rewrite the middle 1/3 of 19th century American history.


NYGuy - 7/6/2003

Harrison,

My wife’s family came over on the second boat and was at Concord, Lexington, Bunker Hill, the Mohawk Valley, etc. Glad we could give your family a chance for freedom and opportunity. What happened between 1798 and 1900? Our family was busy eliminating slavery, helping others and building this great country. This was an individual effort and I don’t ever remember any government aid. Can you supply me with some facts?

I described people such as you in my reply so we can ignore the “riches” part of the rags and riches story.

Harrison wrote:

As an historian, I am very familiar with the immigrant experience in America and you're correct about the hardships they faced. The point to remember however is that they did not improve the quality of their lives exclusively by the sweat of their brow. The federal government's provisioning for labor's right to organize, labor's right to strike, a minimum wage, the government's imposition of regulatory measures mandating safety in the work place, the passage of the GI Bill for returning veterans after WWII, etc. That's where you'll find the difference.

PAC:

Glad you benefited from the German immigrants who arrived in this country before your ancestors and fought for your liberty. No I am not talking about the Pa Dutch but about the earlier group that went to the Mohawk Valley. Don’t remember any government handouts in Indian country.

But those German poor, including my family, who came in the 1840’s + did come and promoted many of the social ideas you speak of.

Harrison:

“The point to remember however is that they did not improve the quality of their lives exclusively by the sweat of their brow. The federal government's provisioning for labor's right to organize, labor's right to strike, a minimum wage, the government's imposition of regulatory measures mandating safety in the work place, the passage of the GI Bill for returning veterans after WWII, etc. That's where you'll find the difference.’

PAC:

You say you read about these groups who benefited from government handouts. Funny I read just the opposite. The 1800’s German’s loved this country because their homeland was not a democracy and they were free here and had great opportunities to get out of poverty. As I explained they refused government aid and set up their own self-help activities. I think you might have also overlooked social security, another of their brilliant political concepts.

Now let me get this straight, was it these poor German immigrants who brought about the social programs you said by being on the picket lines or was it your family taking about poor people and feeling sorry for them that brought about all the social change?

PAC:

Another ancestor was Irish, a group that I believe is one of the best examples of pulling themselves up. As a historian you no doubt know that the plight of the Irish in Ireland. They lived like animals and in many case had little food and shelter. I forgot again what government programs pulled them out of their misery. Was it the “No Irish need apply society” of earlier settlers, of which your family might have been one, that presented them with a helping hand?

PAC:

I am well aware of the high cost of sending my children to the top colleges, Universities and graduate schools in this country and in the world. As a descendant of poor immigrants I am so proud of what they have achieved. I mean no disrespect, but they regarded Columbia as a safety school. But that’s what you get as a parent, a bunch of snotty elitist kids. I never liked that attitute, especially in my own kids. My ancestors are turning over in their graves.

Harrison:

Maybe I am also an exception to the rule; but I'd be willing to bet that they're more like me than the immigrants and others you refer to.

NYGuy:

You are the exception, that is why this is such a great country.

Cheers my friend. You have a lot to be grateful for from the boatloads of poor people who came to this country. But what we are all happy about is that you and I are both Americans. I hope that does not offend you.:)

Cheers


Bill Heuisler - 7/5/2003

Kent,
We're talking past each other. You see everything through the prism of doing something for the poor through government interference in the economy.

My point is that government interference in a thriving, growing marketplace causes more harm than good. In a strong economy government is the problem, not the solution. Minimum wage increases force employers to pay more, whether merited or not. Employers will not stay open to lose money, therefore something must give. Think about the process, not the intent.

Which leads to lowering taxes and raising fees:
That's been attempted here in Tucson. And politicians have been punished here in Tucson. Government will never have enough and will spend every dime they appropriate - even if only to insure an increase the next fiscal year. Government is spreading its tentacles throughout our lives and we are being asked to fund things our parents would,ve laughed at.
Bill Heuisler


Kent - 7/5/2003


Bill,

You state that my comments favoring minimum wage increases are

"Wrong on three counts. Each increase in the minimum wage in the past twenty years has caused a corresponding loss of jobs at the entry-service and manual-labor level."

Obviously I disagree with your assessment and here's why. Let's consider the minimum wage increases that have been instituted over the past twenty years--they have not even kept pace with the cost of living. In other words, in spite of calling them "wage increases," that practical effect has been wage reductions as far as the wage earners are concerned. Yes, there have been jobs lost as a result, without a noticeable tangible gain. But when you're dealing with a wage increase of $4.75 p/hr to $5.15 p/hr, that small adjustment may well lead employers to shift to new techology and lay off workers, but that scenario would have eventually played out whether or not there was a wage increase. Another thing, the sort of small, insignificant wage increase we've seen has not been enough to noticibly change the living conditions of the working poor, thus those who've lost jobs, have not been able to find new work. Consequently there has in many instances been a net job loss.

It's akin to me getting an annual 2% cost of living pay increase when the cost of living increases annually by 4%. The numbers on my check stub get higher, but I'm still in the hole. Twenty years ago, the minimum wage was somewhere around $2.90-$3.10 p/hr, today it's something like $5.50 p/hr. Do the math Bill, for a 40-hour a week job, that's $220.00 a week, $880.00 (of course it's less after taking out the FICA tax) a month. How do you expect a person to live on that kind of money with rent at $500.00 p/month, a car payment, insurance, utilities, and other costs. Get two jobs? Three jobs? What if they have a family to support as well? It's unrealistic to say the least.

If we see the kind of jump in the minimum wage that has been suggested by many others and is in fact being implemented in some states as we address this issue, then significant, positive developments will occur. In other words, the dynamic that President Bush hopes will happen by cutting taxes on the upper end will begin to take shape, the working poor will have the income boost that will allow them to not only make a difference in their own lives, but in the larger economy as well.

Point is, what Bush is advocating is not working and will not work as long as the consumer end of the economy remains soft. That's what has to be addressed. The problem has never been on the investment side of the equation--it has always been on the consumer side.

What are your comments on my points about "lowering taxes" and "raising fees" instead. I'm sure you've seen the same little drama played out in your state. Don't you see how this will correspondingly fragment society even further?


Bill Heuisler - 7/5/2003

Kent,
As NY Guy said, economics is not a zero-sum game. Each action in an economy has a dynamic - tax cuts decrease tax avoidance, for instance. Minimum wage increases are Liberal pablum; they feel good and give the politicians something to crow about. But they hurt the poor and cut government tax revenue.

You wrote, "A minimum wage increase will dramatically increase the buying power of the working poor, and that money will immediately be pumped into the economy."

Wrong on three counts. Each increase in the minimum wage in the past twenty years has caused a corresponding loss of jobs at the entry-service and manual-labor level. The working poor with the most to lose suddenly find their employer installing automation and cutting jobs and services rather than having to increase their payroll costs. The money lost to the now unemployed entry-level worker is invested in infrastructure or advertising and that cost is written off as business expense at the end of the year. So, (SSI) tax revenue is lost from the unemployed worker and income taxes from the net income of the business - a classic example of good intentions causing unintended consequences.

When you teach economics or subjects touching economics you cannot ignore the dynamics - the cause/effect of every action.
Why does a savvy merchant lower prices when business is bad? Because he knows the lower prices will attract more business and he will make up in volume and incidental sales (see "loss leaders") what he loses in profit-margin. The same dynamic takes effect when government interferes in market decisions. Weigh the significant loss in jobs against the minimal increase in a few paychecks and you will see how minimum-wage increases of $12.00 to $14.00 would not only increase unemployment, but would decrease tax revenue.

Lower taxes on business. Growing businesses hire more people who pay more taxes. It's so damn simple you wonder sometimes...

Fires still increasing. Pall of smoke actually changing weather patterns - probably delaying monsoon rains. Great sunsets.
Best, Bill


Harrison Bergeron - 7/5/2003


NYGuy wrote:

"Probably the large majority of college students today fit into to that category."

Are you kidding? Have you seen the cost of going to college these days? Being poor and going to college do not go together.

NYGuy also wrote:

"I bet if you did your family genealogy, or that of your friends, you would find many examples of people pulling themselves out of poverty and eventually permitting people such as yourself to go to college."

Let's see. My father died while working on his Ph.D. at Columbia University; my grandfather was a Professor at Columbia University in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. In a family will dated 1798, my ancestors lived in Pennsylvania and, in that will described an estate that included a multi-storied home, a carriage with six horses, and a provision freeing an indentured servant named Sarah.

Maybe I am also an exception to the rule; but I'd be willing to bet that they're more like me than the immigrants and others you refer to.

As an historian, I am very familiar with the immigrant experience in America and you're correct about the hardships they faced. The point to remember however is that they did not improve the quality of their lives exclusively by the sweat of their brow. The federal government's provisioning for labor's right to organize, labor's right to strike, a minimum wage, the government's imposition of regulatory measures mandating safety in the work place, the passage of the GI Bill for returning veterans after WWII, etc. That's where you'll find the difference.

What I find so ironic is that many of those who benefitted so much from government programs and largesse in the past are now leading the chorus denouncing "big government" and have no qualms about gutting those very things that allowed their parents and grandparents to benefit so much from coming to America.

The problem is that such critics have bought into the "rags to riches" myth and are too ignorant to recognize how much they've personally benefitted from government intervention. As the current Bush administration continues its efforts to gut the New Deal, maybe their kids will prove smarter. Unfortunately, that won't happen anytime soon.



Kent - 7/5/2003


NYGuy,

The problem is of course that the Bush tax cuts should have never been made in the first place. The rationale behind them was entirely wrong--it harkens back to the Hoover administration at the start of the Great Depression back in the 1930s when the government misidentified the problem, thus proved incapable of addressing the problem.

Given your interest in American history, you should devote some of your time to this particular subject. Throughout the early phase of his administration, Hoover expected that good will and volunteerism were sufficient to get the economy moving. By 1932, he was acknowledging his mistake and admitted that relying on volunteerism on the part of business interests simply was untenable. That's when his administration took steps toward a more direct role of the government in economic matters setting the stage for FDR's New Deal. It didn't work for Hoover, it won't work today. Yet the current administration is determined to follow the same path, and it frightens me to no end as I look toward the future.

Another important fact that needs to be elaborated on which highlights the absurdity of the Bush tax cuts relates to the budgetary crises numerous states are having to confront. As G. W. Bush is cutting taxes at the federal level, GOP controlled states are in lock step repeating the Republican mantra of "no tax increases" (except for Alabama). States controlled by the Republicans are slashing state budgets. Consequently, to make up for the lost revenue, legislatures are not raising "taxes," they're raising "fees."

So instead of raising taxes in a manner that allows the burden to distributed more evenly, the cost of car tags shoots up from roughly $55.00 per year to $85.00; the cost of a car inspection, from $23.00 to $40.00. Now imagine your a person who can barely afford the car you drive; suddenly, you find your car tags need to be renewed, or it needs to be inspected--which by law you're obligated to do--and you can't afford these higher fees. Yet, at the same time, you need your vehicle to get to and from work. Do you risk getting pulled over by a cop? Your solution might be to sell the car and take public transportation. Perhaps living in New York City its hard for you to relate to this with the subway system and all, but that sort of option for the working poor simply is not viable in my neck of the woods.

States cut the amount of money sent to public school districts, and property taxes on homeowners skyrocket; state contributions to universities are slashed, and university-related tuitions and fees likewise increase across the board. What if you're a student and can't afford the increases and you have to quit school? What do you do? Get a job? What job? Haven't you heard, even Wal-Mart isn't hiring this summer!! I recently read that the universities in New York City and state are having to gird for massive dropout rates in the fall because of the tuition increases. Is this really going to solve the budgetary crises state universities are facing as the student populations decline?

As a state employee--working for a state financed college--the state is now entertaining a reduction of how much money they contribute toward employee health insurance benefits for me and my family. I currently pay and estimated $200 per month, deducted from my paycheck, for health insurance for myself and my family. If the GOP has its way in my state, I will have to pay $400 per month to keep the same basic coverage I now have. Can you honestly name any tax increase that would hit someone like me, a comfortable middle-class American, as hard as a $200 monthly increase? What do you think, should I just do without insurance? Should I just roll the dice and go party with the pittance that Bush's tax cut is offering in light of the phenomenal "fee" increases my state government is heaping on me? Should I gamble with the health of my family (you know, kids never get sick. Seldom have accidents on playgrounds injuring themselves--insurance, I don't need insurance. I'm being sarcastic in case you're not sure).

The way out of this morass is not to give me a tax cut, nor is it to give people like Bush and Warren Buffet a tax cut. Efforts should be directed toward initiating a significant (albeit phased-in) minimum wage increase to the neighborhood of $12-$14 per hour. The government should consider tax cuts/rebates to businesses to help offset the expense borne out by such an increase.

A minimum wage increase will dramatically increase the buying power of the working poor, and that money will immediately be pumped into the economy. Renters will become homeowners; more cars will be bought, along with refrigerators, washers and dryers, DVD players, etc. Critics of this sort of proposal scream about how this will result in jobs being lost--wrong, jobs will be reshuffeled. While some jobs are lost, others are being created.

Critics also often scream about how this sort of solution will drive up inflation. While initially that may be the case, the Federal Reserve can restrict that with an increase in interest rates (did you note the wimpering reaction to the Fed's recent intrest rate cut to an historic low? Obviously, rate cuts are not working). Additionally, the money spent by the beneficiaries of the minimum wage increase will work its way into the economy, driving inflation up on one end as more money is pumped into circulation; interest rate increases, however, will encourage those like me who want to save more, to do just that. Thus taking money out of circulation on the other end which will lead to a leveling effect in respect to inflation.

To increase the minimum wage, however, will place the burden of responsibility and initial expense on the businessmen, who would rather contribute millions to Bush's reelection fund rather than invest it in the future of America in a tangible way. Think about, they'll bitch and moan about a minimum wage increase, but won't think twice about paying $100,000 a plate at a Bush fundraiser. It makes me sick.

The Bush administration stands as the most destructve administration in American history, both in the realm of foreign and domestic policy. I am not the only one who has said this on HNN; and as strong as this comment may seem to you and some others who are reading this, I will stand by it and argue it on a factual basis.

All I have to say at this point to you and any one else willing to take this challenge is (quoting you know who): "Bring 'em on."


NYGuy - 7/5/2003

Kent,

I can't help but remember something from economics, "there is no such thing as a free lunch."

I can see your point on holding back on your spending, but we are dealing with a zero sum game, so the government would have to take back your tax credit, and give it to the renter. Or you would have to pay more taxes, which is what the democrats want to do, so they can give the money to the renter who does not pay taxes.

Meanwhile, you are an educated person who paid for college tuition, lost time earning wages, etc. so you already have a large investment in yourself, which you may not have recouped. As for the renter he may be being paid off the books so doesn’t get any tax rebates, he may be getting Medicare, food stamps and may actually live in public housing. The politicians would probably want to use the higher taxes to increase the renter’s medical benefits, while your medical costs are going up and are paid by you.

It is fine that you feel that, “we are the government”, however another thing I both learned and have experience with is, “You can’t fight city hall.”

So what are your choices?

1) Keep the tax rebate and you control how it is used.
2) Give the money back or pay more taxes to the government, lose control over where your earnings go and hope for the best.

Certainly the poverty issue is a case in point. It involves immigration; giving benefits to them such as Medicare, free schooling, meeting special educational needs such as multiculturalism and English as a second language. This leads to places in the U. S. where English is a second language, something that has been resisted since our beginnings and a major unifying force for our country. It also encourages greater immigration into this country. Look at me, I started with my native language, Mongolian, and that is why I get criticism on my poor English.

There are difficult choices here and who should make them? In France they want everyone who becomes a citizen to accept France’s history and culture. They are now finding that the tail is wagging the dog as their Muslin population grows. Could that be a problem for us? Or could we have a situation such as they did in Quebec?

Anyway in my opinion the tax issue and who spends it is critical to what this country will be in years to come.

Put the money in the bank. GW is getting the economy going and you should be able to paint your house over spring vacation.


Cheers


NYGuy - 7/5/2003

Charles,

I just loved your post. When I put in the comment on "Saturday Night Live" it was mostly a joke since my kids always told me how funny it was. When my wife and I would watch it nothing was funny.

But knowing how much my kids loved the program, as you seem to also, I thought I would have a little fun. I was particularly thinking of the point/counterpoint where the response was, "Jane you ignorant slut" I think it was Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin.

I think that your comment, "I had completed discredited my self" is priceless and I apologize. The only thing is I can't stop laughing.

Thanks,you have made my day.

Cheers


NYGuy - 7/5/2003

Harrison,

You say:

"the vast majority of those mired in poverty stay mired in poverty and the same has held true for their children and their children's children. That's the rule that has been borne out throughout American history as well as the histories of other nations."

Mire = a troublesome or intractable situation.

While I can agree that as a point estimate one can be mired, positing that it is a dynamic situation seems less likely, particularly over a 273 year period.

Poverty like unemployment cannot be reduced to zero since many who are poor lack the capacity to get out of poverty, mental, physical problems etc. But the ability of such people to reproduce themselves over a period of time is not reasonable because of their defects. So I don't see how a single family can be "mired" in poverty for 273 years. This analysis can include many more families but the results will be the same. Therefore I don't see how you can make such a claim for the U. S. I don't know about the rest of the world, perhaps because many countries do not provide their citizens witht the freedoms and opportunities that we have in this country you could be right.

Therefore could you please explain to me the basis of your statement?

Thanks,

Cheers






NYGuy - 7/5/2003

Harrison,

Thank you for a thoughtful response. As you say, the catch phase "rags to riches" get misinterpreted, and in point of fact one could say it is not true. The Horatio Alger Society, http://www.ihot.com/~has/, however does give many examples, but as you correctly point out these were more the exception not the rule.

Let us first break down “rags to riches” into two parts:

1. First let us talk about the “rags” part.
2. Later I will discuss the “riches” part.

From Rags:
What we are really talking about are people who have little economic wealth and are trying to get themselves out of poverty and achieving a comfortable and successful life for themseves and their family. Probably the large majority of college students today fit into to that category. And, as people become more interested in genealogy that fact becomes more apparent. I bet if you did your family genealogy, or that of your friends, you would find many examples of people pulling themselves out of poverty and eventually permitting people such as yourself to go to college. Of course we did not have definitions of poverty in the past, even though many people were living very sparse lives and did not have the medical benefits of today’s poor.

The church has always been important in getting people out of poverty since the beginnings of our country. Meanwhile many of the immigrants who came to this country not only helped each other out of poverty, but also had pride in themselves which helped them to succeed. Look at the Irish and we see an extremely poor group of people who lived in hovels in Ireland, but came to this country with nothing but hope and determination and pulled themselves out of poverty, and one of them did become rich and a President, My ancestors were poor Germans who came to this country because their country was still a monarchy and they admired this great land of the free and the opportunity it offered. They brought with them their dignity, pride, work ethic and determination, and, as with other Germans, refused hand outs by the NY City welfare groups and formed their own support groups for the poor and pulled themselves out of poverty. And of course there were the poor Italians who came to this country and left their shovels behind after being told the streets were paved with gold. One of these poor old Italians who came to this country, was able to tell his grandson, in broken English, not only were the streets not paved with gold, but I had to pave them. He did, however, get himself out of poverty and sent three children to college. He passed on to his children his pride, dignity and work ethnic

I would also remind you that being economically deprived is not the same as being mentally or spiritually deprived. I came from a different generation and I remember one comic saying,” I didn’t know I was poor until someone told me.”

This story was so true during the 1930’s when we had a major depression, the dust bowl and extremely difficult economic condition followed by a World War. Many of this generation were also WW1 heroes who had to march on Washington because they were so poor. But it also, I believe, defined the difference between people of that time and now. They were never poor in spirit. They believed in themselves, they were mostly happy, they understood life is difficult and unfair and they met the challenger with courage and strength. That is the mentality of a winner and the people of that generation went on to save the world in WWII. And, they never complained. And many eventually got out of poverty and still had that flame burning inside them that in the U. S. you can better yourself. That spirit was passed on to their offspring, and although they were not part of the privileged rich who went to prestigious colleges in the 1930’s, they were able to fulfill there own dreams and send their sons and daughters to the top colleges.

I live in New York City and I see that spirit everyday with those who spend long nights and years in college to get themsewlves educated and out of poverty. Of course there were some setbacks, when people on welfare were deprived of their dignity and became victims, which completely wiping out their spirits.

The Riches:

When we look at riches we see a different group of people. While some people did go from rags to riches, most of the “riches” was the result of being born into established families, many dating back to the beginning of our country. The successful businessman usually came from a business family or was born into an educated family, which wanted to preserve and increase its riches. These are the people who went to the best schools, knew the right people, had the proper contacts etc. They ran the country and generally did not come from poor beginnings. Very few got into their society which at one time was defined as being “the 400”. But to their credit they did in many case try to help the poor.

So I can’t cite many “rag to riches” stories but I can tell you about a great country that gave hope and opportunity to poor people who had the character to take advantage of these opportunities. Having known many of these people, I learned that to be a winner you never beat yourself and keep trying. Life may deal you some bad luck, but that does not mean you are poor in spirit, and this is why the “rags to riches” myth is true.


Kent - 7/4/2003


Bill,

The middle-class target is, as both of us seem to agree, is a much smaller pool. For example, I'm a college professor and yes I get paid. But, over the past couple of years, I've received only a 2% cost of living increase, but my health insurance benefits have increased at the same time. Thus, I've actually received a net loss in terms of my pay. Now, with the prosepect of future insurance cost increases, when I get my $200 from the president's tax cut, even if my house needed painting, I wouldn't do it. That would be something I'd hold off on until some point in the future when I was more confident about the economy.

Now, if I were on the bottom end of the scale and I were renting a two-bedroom apartment and some sort of measure were introduced that increased my income by say $100- $200 per month, every penny would be spent immediately, as soon as I got into my hot little hand.

As to the question "who will direct," the government of course. That does not present a problem for me, because we are the government. We pay attention to what's really going on and watch what happens. If policies are defined and it turns out to be a lie, nail the politician(s) who lied, that's the way the system works. Fact is, we all have to work together to make anything happen. If you withdrawal from the process, taking "your" money with you, the system fails and we all lose.

The problem is we play into the unscrupulous politicians hands when we buy into the distractions they throw our way, whether is focusing on (left to right, if you know what I mean) "corporate greed," and the "environment," or "affirmative action" and "abortion." These are things that will never have a completely satisfactory resoultion, yet the pols bait us with them every election cycle and we fall for it. Then we're disappointed with nothing of substance actually happens.

Since the era of Watergate, we as a nation have bought into that blather about the "government's not the solution, it's the problem." Think about that statement honestly Bill. If, under our Constitution, WE are the government, then WE'RE the problem, not the government.

What we have to do is look for the common ground we all share and start working together toward the middle ground. That is why I value conversations with people like you (and increaingly, NYGuy) more so than someone who I already know who agrees with all of my points.

Gotta go, July 4th and all, you know. My wife's gonna kill me. I check in tomorrow.


NYGuy - 7/4/2003

Kent,

Good argument, but rich people are only a small part of the economy and the greater amount of people getting a tax break are not rich, which the democrats won't define because it hurts their rich bashing arguments and politics. And remember, anyone who pays taxes gets money back, so these non-rich folk throughout the country help stimulate their local economies, which is a pretty smart idea to generate a broad based recovery.

A lot of economic success is confidence and with Pres. Bush's leadership and tax policies investors are already more confident. This has resulted in a strong stock market recovery this year which is increasing the "wealth effect" which will benefit most of these same tax paying individuals who will also get refunds, and result in their feeling even more confident. Thus with GW's stimulative tax policy now starting to kick in, his economic vision is beginning to get us out of the Clinton Recession, (which Clinton failed to prevent, although Greenspan warned him).

We have also started to realize that pouring poor people in the top of the bottle, while others are getting out does not solve the poverty problem. Giving more attention to our borders should correct this debilitating practice.

We are also getting rid of the Welfare state which produced drug dealers, drug addicts, unwed mothers, children with no hope, etc. As you may know, women with children, but without a mate are some of the largest groups in poverty, and unable to get out, although many have.

So my conclusion is that GW's policies are putting us back on track which will greatly help our poverty problem while he is generating not only a stonger economic climate, but also a safer world.

We will find out who is right or wrong over the next six months.

Cheers


NYGuy - 7/4/2003

Ralph and Kent,

You both have presented ideas that are worthy of being debated. The problem the rest of us have is that UCLA has given a
professor emerita of history at UCLA to JA who is unable to define what she is saying, posts an incoherent article and in the process boarders on politically incorrect race baiting.

Why then did HNN permit this article to be published if no one can interpret what she is saying and needs two other capable historians to introduce reasonable questions about poverty in AL, which we don't even know if she is aware of, and certainly has not articulated. Perhaps you both should write a reasonable article on this topic using reasonable and professional standards of reasearch, even though that might not be a requirement for HNN.

I believe both of you, Bill, myself and many others would agree that poverty is a complex subject and anyone who has looked seriously at poverty have never seen such pie in the sky speculation that the people in a former slave state have not progressed since those days and treat poverty the same as they used to treat slaves. This is particularly arrogent when in California we have several counties where poverty is as high as 28%. Who then would you accuse of having a slave mentality, the people of Alabama or the author of this ariticle and the people of CA?

One of the wonderful characteristics of poor people is that although many did not have a PhD, they did have both common sense and wisdom. They adivsed that charity begins at home and they advised that one should not watch what someone else is cooking since they are likely to have their own pot boiling over. That is the case in CA. Poverty is 4 times greater in CA than in AL.

Do you, Ralph and Kent, mean to tell us that since CA has so much more poverty, and greater problems than AL, and is in a mess, we should somehow take this article seriously?

Now, CA wants to give driver licenses to illegal immigrants to bring in more poverty victums, while they refuse to raise their own taxes so that the large number of poor people in their state can have a decent life. And, adding insult to industy, many of the rich hollywood type people in CA want to deny the poor people access to the pacific ocean, which all Americans are entitled to, because of their selfishiness, and slave mentality about the poor.




Bill Heuisler - 7/4/2003

Ralph,
The answers to your questions are in my post on July 2 at 7:19.
Read and then reply, my friend.
Best, Bill


Bill Heuisler - 7/4/2003

Thanks Kent for the good wishes,
Our mountains burn fuel that should've been cleared and warn of good intentions gone badly awry. But that's another subject. Good intentions gone awry encapsulates what's wrong with managing an economy for any reason other than economic.

First you say about tax cuts:
The wealthy will"...save it for their children's college fund ...mushrooming credit card debts, their mortgage, or some other such thing. They are not going to run out and buy a new car, or upgrade from a 2500 square foot home."
You comment that these pursuits have no (or little) "tangible economic benefit"

Do college professors not get paid? Students buy lunch? Workers in the Credit card industry get their houses painted? Do you think money not put directly into a cash register is somehow lost? You know better. Think about it: a dollar paid in credit interest, or to a mortgage banker, does not enter the labyrinth or disappear into some horrible corporate machine. Corporations are people. That dollar pays an employee who buys something or pays it to another employee of another enterprise and on and on. At each point that dollar is taxed - in some cases that dollar accrues more value through interest. The idea that only low-income spending will help the economy is as foolish as the idea that someone else should decide where I spend my money.

Which leads to the second - more onerous - subject.
You also state:
"What individuals such as Professor Appleby, Ralph Luker, and myself are suggesting is to direct opportunities to those on the bottom end of the economic scale."

Who shall "direct" these opportunities? With whose money?
Ralph defines Socialism as "control of the means of production". The history of Socialism has no such neat parameters. When a government decides a portion of my hard-earned money must be redistributed to some "deserving" person without my consent or advice, that may not be Ralph's Socialism, but it is mine.

Planned economies do not work as well as free economies (Sweden vs the US). When economies grow, each level grows (there is no permanent economic underclass in any free country - India and the US). And lastly, reducing the burden of government increases the economy (Russia's new flat tax & England under Thatcher).

You can argue that Smith's motives are dated, but his underlying message was that the citizen knows how and where to spend his money better than the King.

Maybe it'll rain next week.
Best, Bill


Kent - 7/4/2003


Bill,

First things first. Glad to see you're posting again. I was genuinely worried as I watched the news about the fires blazing near Tuscon.

Both you and Ralph are correct about investment and consumption as dual driving economic forces. The fact is that a merchant/businessman is not going to produce something that cannot be sold--if demand is soft, production will also be soft, and so goes the rest of the economy. Therein lies the problems with the economic policies of our grand and illustrious leader (not!), President Bush. He has initiated tax cuts to those in upper income brackets who already possess most of what they need, and are not likely to go on a spending spree because the receive a modest boost in the range of $200 to $2000. The vast majority who receive that sort of tax break will either save it for their children's college fund, or they will apply to their own mushrooming credit card debts, their mortgage, or some other such thing. They are not going to run out and buy a new car, or upgrade from a 2500 square foot home to a 3500 square foot home. In other words, they are not going to spend the money (i.e. invest) there money in ways that will lead to a tangible economic benefit.

As for those receiving tax cuts on the upper income scale, much the same holds true for them. Let me ask you Bill, I know you read the WASHINGTON TIMES, but have you ever looked at the advertisements around the articles? Do you recall one that has some guy asking what does Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden have in common? They bought gold. They invested their money in something that retains value better than most other things when economic times are bad. Think about, what is this guy, by implication, asking those to read the ad to do? Follow the lead of Hussein and bin Laden and buy gold!! The larger point however is that those who have money to any significant degree are, today, less likely to invest in the American economy because it's going down the toilet--and it's the president who's pulling the plunger with his innane economic policies and his absolutely reckless and aimlessly wandering foreign policy--"on to Iran, on to North Korea, no, I mean, Liberia."

What individuals such as Professor Appleby, Ralph Luker, and myself are suggesting is to direct opportunities to those on the bottom end of the economic scale. They're the ones who will spend the money as soon as it touches their hot little hands--because they're hungary, and they really want what they do not have. They are not at all like the cautious middle class American. Such an idea is in no way "pimping socialism" and you are simply wrong in saying it is--and no matter how often or how many times you say will not make it become true. What it does represent is using what is best about a capitalistic, free market economy to serve the greater good--which is exactly what Adam Smith had in mind when he wroth ON THE WEALTH OF NATIONS.

Smith wrote at a time when the prevailing economic theory was mercantilism which directed the flow of capital to enhance the power and authority of the state. To achieve this goal, the king granted monopolies and special favors to a privaleged few who cooperated with the government toward this end. The result was an exclusionary system that benefited only those closest to the king and denied the same opportunities to others interested in engaging in similar economic activities.

What I find ironic is that all that has changed between the pre-1776 and post-1776 periods (note: 1776 as in date of publication of Smith's book, not American independence) is a change in terminology--not substance. In other words, in spite of what you may believe, Smith's ideas have been largely ignored. What we have today is still the old seventeenth-century mercantilistic system, only those in charge have co-opted terms like "capitalism" and "free-markets," etc., to describe what it is they're doing. And, just like your "pimping socialism" remark, just because these guys say its capitalism, doesn't mean it is.

The fact is that as you cite economic theorists, or any other theorist like Adam Smith, you have to always keep their ideas in the context of the time at which they were written. Smith was not writing a tome for the ages (as your comments suggest), he was presenting suggestions for a new way of doing things, because the old way was not benefiting the majority. He called for deregulation to the point of no regulation because the Navigation and Trade acts were proving to be detrimental. I suspect if Smith were alive today, he would be revising his ideas accordingly.

If you have not read it already, here's a book you may be interested in: Frank Bourgin, THE GREAT CHALLENGE: THE MYTH OF LAISSEZ-FAIRE IN THE EARLY REPUBLIC. If you haven't read it, and you do, let me know what you think about it.

Hope it's raining in Arizona.


Harrison Bergeron - 7/4/2003


NYGuy wrote:

"Many of us live in the real world, know about poverty and
recognize that there are ways out of poverty and millions
have succeeded, that is what makes America so great.
American history is replete with many such success stories
as well as both the attitude and attention to the poor."

"American hisotry is replete with many such success stories"?!?! I would be curious to know if NYGuy could actually support this assertion with some specific examples. One of the more pervasive myths (i.e. distortions") in American history is that it is replete with "rags to riches" stories, when in actuality what we've seen is primarily "cotton twill to tweed suit" stories. This is not to say that there are not some true success stories, it's simply to note that these latter cases are the exceptions to the rule--the vast majority of those mired in poverty stay mired in poverty and the same has held true for their children and their children's children. That's the rule that has been borne out throughout American history as well as the histories of other nations.


Harrison Bergeron - 7/4/2003


NYGuy Wrote:

"Many of us live in the real world, know about poverty and recognize that there are ways out of poverty and millions have succeeded, that is what makes America so great. American history is replete with many such success stories as well as both the attitude and attention to the poor.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/4/2003

Bill,
As you know, socialism is the common ownership of the means of production. Joyce's essay doesn't advocate that. "Pimping socialism" as a term for dismissing what she actually says, therefore, seems off target. First, read; then, reply. Do you actually think that Alabama should continue to tax annual incomes beginning below $5,000? Isn't it obvious that, without reorganization, Social Security as it is currently structured is both regressive and bound to collapse of its own weightlessness? Are the only revisions to the tax code that you approve those which benefit only those persons who don't need them?


Bill Heuisler - 7/3/2003

Ralph,
Why not engage the issue? Getting sleepy? Your ever more attenuated responses have become decidedly unresponsive.

Professor Appleby pimps Socialism in the name of coerced charity because - while historically futile - it's evidently the decent thing to do among Leftist elites. You respond to my critique by defending your favorite Republican Governor's confidence game and eventually descend to such verbal indelicacies as:
"...people with very limited incomes are most likely to put that income back into the marketplace instead of socking it away into additional investments."
Thereby revealing ignorance about markets - free or otherwise.
You see, "Socking it away into additional investments" is a self-evident oxymoron.

Finally, Ralph, flailing the air with last-minute stipulations reveals only confusion or desperation. Admit it, the Professor is wrong - both her premise and her solution.
Bill Heuisler


Ralph E. Luker - 7/3/2003

Bill, Your tit is no tat. I thought we were _assuming_ a free market.


Derek Catsam - 7/3/2003

Poverty in 1960: over 25%
Poverty in 1968: About 12%. (More than 50% reduction)
In between, LBJ declared a War on Poverty.
Some of that can be credited to the economy of the 1960s. Most of it, however, to LBJ's "War on Poverty." Especially poverty for the elderly, which was virtually eradicated under LBJ's watch and as a result of his policies.
State intevention may not be a panacea, but it certanly can help.


Derek Catsam - 7/3/2003

Poverty in 1960: over 25%
Poverty in 1968: About 12%. (More than 50% reduction)
In between, LBJ declared a War on Poverty.
Some of that can be credited to the economy of the 1960s. Most of it, however, to LBJ's "War on Poverty." Especially poverty for the elderly, which was virtually eradicated under LBJ's watch and as a result of his policies.
State intevention may not be a panacea, but it certanly can help.


Bill Heuisler - 7/3/2003

Ralph, Ralph, Ralph,
If consumption drives markets, why are people in North Korea and Zimbabwe starving? There must be a system of incentives to fund, produce and supply the goods to be consumed. Stalin seized two whole harvests from Kulaks to feed his cities and export to Europe for currency. Raw consumption and neglect of production resulted in the destruction of the Russian bread basket and the deaths of millions by starvation. Remember, maggots can only consume, but something has to die first.

May I suggest "Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith? This work, a summation of the Scottish Enlightenment, fuses the work of William Robertson, Lord Kames and David Hume into a treatise on human goodness and industry and its impact on civilization. Worth the time.
Bill Heuisler


NYGuy - 7/3/2003

Kent,

If you can't add anything to this discussion than what am I to think. Oh I forgot your little sermon:

"How dare you. You know nothing about any of these people whose comments you respond to, and that's the only way you can think of to slap them down. Instead of writing so much you should start reading, and something other than the Limbaugh Letter or Anne Coulter's latest collection of idiocy."

It is alway nice to encounter a genius who does not heed his own advice, but it is good to see how he divines other peoples reading habits from looking at the boob tube.

I will not accuse you of anything, since obviously that annoys you, but I can think of the old saying, "don't do what I do, do what I say." Now this may not apply to you, mr. clairvoiant, but it does apply to many elitist professors I know.

I have certainly learned a lot from you and your response to JA's question: "why people ignore poverty" was brillant.

I now feel so humbled before such scholarship. Can I just ask you one question, are you one of ja's favorite students. Your reasoning and scholarship are so similar.


Kent Trumann - 7/3/2003

NYGuy - Your arguments are anecdotal blather based on bogeymen you erect - the privileged, protected college students who haven't lived in your "real world." How dare you. You know nothing about any of these people whose comments you respond to, and that's the only way you can think of to slap them down. Instead of writing so much you should start reading, and something other than the Limbaugh Letter or Anne Coulter's latest collection of idiocy.


NYGuy - 7/3/2003

Sadly,

No wonder you are down in the mouth, you keep looking at the dark side. I guess from your comments that you are some monk traveling from town to town to give food, comfort etc. to the poor to make such a statement as you do:

“The politics of greed espoused by the right substitutes for any meaningful dialogue on how the richest country in the world cares so little for its poor.”

If you are not a traveling monk then why don’t you provide some analysis for what you say, JA is an emeritus Professor of History and can get away with meaningless statements to her class, but what is your authority. Does your meaningless statements make you feel good and superior to everyone else. What a weakling, you are indeed poor in spirit. You should meet some poor people to cheer you up. Better still why not read Robin Hood’s comments again:

“Comparing poverty to slavery has to be some sort of joke.

Tell us about the Fugitive Poverty Laws that drag people who have escaped from poverty back into it. Show us the scarred backs of the poor who have been whipped for trying to escape from poverty.

What's next reparations for poverty...oh wait a minute...we already have that with the income redistribution schemes of the Federal gov't.”

How about this, go to California and carry the fight to open all ocean property to the poor, rather then limiting its use to those rich, powerful people like yourself who grieve for the poor.


Suomi Man - 7/3/2003

The responses to this article show how callous many Americans have become. The politics of greed espoused by the right substitutes for any meaningful dialogue on how the richest country in the world cares so little for its poor. The right worries more about how taxes "redistribute wealth" while assigning blame to the victims of poverty.
Now wonder Bush enjoys high approval ratings at the same time he guts education, health and veterans programs in the name of tax cuts for the wealthy. We suffer the same lack of concern for our citizens in need today as mid 19th century Americans did for slaves. Precisely the point of Professor's Appleby's article


NYGuy - 7/3/2003

Ralph,

Shss. It is the multiplier of I + C that drives markets.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/3/2003

Shh-h-h. Don't anyone tell Bill, but it is consumption that drives markets.


NYGuy - 7/3/2003

Mary,

You say:

"The slavery analogy acknowledges the difficulty of addressing problems we have "always" had with us; it also indicates that with a will, people can do something about them."

PAC

You must be JA's star pupil. Like her you make a completely incoherent statement, with no justification, and no proof. However, since being a non-poor person you ptobably are living in a cloistered community. with all its comforts and safety and you expect us to think you are saying something smart.

Au contrair my dear Mary, it just proves you have not yet entered the adult, real world. But then again you probably are not being trained for such a world.


Bill Heuisler - 7/2/2003

Ralph,
Do you read your own stuff? You wrote:
"...people with very limited incomes are most likely to put that income back into the marketplace instead of socking it away into additional investments."

After rereading that I realized you'd probably had a mind-freeze or made a typo. Investments (as you surely know) are the engine of the marketplace and multiply commerce. The Hanseatic League became possible only due to the emergence of European Banking Houses so investors could combine to form Guilds and build ships. Ralph, no matter what they tell you in those Republican Precinct meetings, investment is not a dirty word; investment builds businesses and creates more jobs and more taxpayers.
Best, Bill


Bill Heuisler - 7/2/2003

Ralph,
My post said the Professor is pimping Socialism not the Governor; he's just selling snake-oil to the innocent.

And although you must be a fine, proud Republican, Governor Riley's registration doesn't impress me. What does impress me is that Riley raised taxes and takes bows for giving relief to the poor. What a hypocrite. Had he merely done the right thing: increased the tax threshold to a reasonable level and then cut State spending, there would be reason to applaud.
But raising taxes above a certain level cuts jobs and increases prices. And who does that affect, Ralph? The poor. So all you proud Republicans in Alabama or wherever can praise Riley, but you've fallen for a con-game.

Tax revenue from the lowest twenty percentile of citizens is typically less than ten percent of any State budget. So the Gov did away with ten percent and raised taxes thirty. Hooray!

Ralph, you Alabama Republicans are so gullible it hurts,
Bill Heuisler


Ralph E. Luker - 7/2/2003

Bill, Bill, Bill,
Tell me, do you honestly think that the proposal of the Republican governor of Alabama to revise one of the most regressive state tax structures in the country is "pimping socialism"? Granting tax relief to the poor is scarcely the creeping socialism you make it out to be. It is sound economic policy because people with very limited incomes are most likely to put that income back into the marketplace instead of socking it away into additional investments. But, then, you and I have disagreed about this before.


Bill Heuisler - 7/2/2003

Mr. Schmitt and Mr. Dresner,
The "Christian" definition of Evil? Who cares. The Professor isn't recruiting priests, she's pimping Socialism. Positing evil without action or choice leads to the ridiculous situation where good or evil becomes wholly subjective. A person can luxuriate in his so-called morality all he wants, but only interaction with others can produce tangible effects. Sainthood must be satisfying, but without good works, Mother Theresa would've just been an undersized Albanian. Teddy Kennedy is probably smug as hell...until some rude slug brings up Mary Jo.

The disease-murder matrix is an appropriate comparison. Without choice there can be no blame or approbation. Which applies to poverty and redistribution of wealth. Hence the politics of Professor Appleby's modest proposal to coerce other people's money in a "good" cause that has failed everywhere else.
She writes:
"We could reject the idea of minimum wage laws in favor of living-wage legislation that guaranteed all who work a decent living."
Professor Appleby would "guarantee" everyone a "decent" living? What committee would decide "decent"? How would we force that redistribution to "guarantee" the money?

Then the Professor answers a question and reveals an agenda:
"Those who argue that raising wages would generate price increases ignore the fact that those making $20,000 or less a year would be more than compensated by their wage hikes (?)-- and that the rest of us can afford to pay more."
Notice the word, "compensated" and how she assures doubters that we all can "can afford" to pay more. The political implications are inescapable. After all, we're arguing the merits of coerced charity aren't we? Socialism anyone?

Mr Schmitt, shouting the word, chimerical is almost impossible. Bill Heuisler



Mary Young - 7/2/2003

Professor Appleby's thoughtful essay finds the Republican governor of Alabama proposing to use the tax system to do what you might think a "born-again" Christian might want to do: relieve the deprivations of the poor. In the King James version, the prescription is, "Even as ye do unto the least of these, so do ye also unto me."
Voluntary charitable contributions and associations do a great deal, but continuing and increasing disparities of income show that they do not do enough. Any of their solicitations for your contributions will also tell you that they cannot, with their existing resources, do enough.
To keep the housing market moving, New Dealers passed the Federal Home Mortgage Act, which did indeed not only help some lower-income people to own or keep their homes, but helped the workers and contractors who made those homes do better. Studies of the impact of the Johnson "War on Poverty" demonstrate that while it focused on domestic spending, as against supporting the Viet Nam War, it worked: fewer people stayed in the poverty category as economists then defined it. Those who do not believe that the tax system can redistribute income have not examined the impact of selective tax cuts in expanding the income of the relatively wealthy. Making everyone employable, let alone employed, is probably unfeasible, but one can make a dent in that problem as well by Keynsian methods best illustrated in the economic history of World War II. The slavery analogy acknowledges the difficulty of addressing problems we have "always" had with us; it also indicates that with a will, people can do something about them.


Dave Tabaska - 7/2/2003

Well, I couldn't find any statistics relating smoking and income level, but I did find this most interesting table connecting smoking and education:

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/tables/2002/02hus062.pdf

Basically, the percentage of people who smoke runs about 20-30 percent for anything less than a bachelor's degree. This is true regardless of sex or race. However, the rate drops quite a bit for 4-year degree or higher.

Since there is a rough correlation between education and income, one could draw a conclusion that persons with lower incomes smoke more than those who make more. Therefore, an increase in cigarette taxes is more likely to have an effect on the poor.

I'll see if I can find statistics on smoking and income.


Jonathan Dresner - 7/2/2003

Mr. Heuisler,

Your comparison of poverty to illness is illuminating. Disease has always been part of the human condition. Nobody is directly responsible for this, and it is endemic. It is highly unlikely that disease and sickness will ever truly end, no matter how many resources we apply to the problem.

Does this mean we should give up on medicine? Does this mean vaccination is a waste of time and resources? Antibiotics are a socialist attempt to thwart the wisdom of the biotic market? Surgeons are all, deep down, liberal Democrats?

No, I don't think so. There is great benefit and even virtue in investigating and pursuing techniques and tools to alleviate the suffering caused by both disease and poverty. Yes, the ultimate goal may seem utopian (could anyone forsee the complete eradication of smallpox a few centuries ago when Arab doctors began using cowpox innocuations?) but every step of progress raises the level of humanity.

Now, you may not want to help, which is your prerogative to some extent....


Ed Schmitt - 7/2/2003

Mr. Heuisler - You write that poverty is not an evil because "evil assumes an action or series of actions that produce harm....Poverty is a lack or deficiency." Several of the most esteemed theologians in the history of Christianity would disagree. Evil has often been defined as the absence of goodness, of God. To take the position that evil is an active force battling good to the death is not Christian, but Manichaean. The analogy of poverty to slavery does limp, but it is certainly possible to argue that poverty in the midst of plenty is a social evil, a prioritization on the part of a community (be it national or local), not to aid the needy. Indeed there can be a culprit if viewing the problem through this lens. You also assume your definition of poverty to be the only one plausible. Poverty can be (and has been) defined in many ways - as socially relative, as culturally defined, as based on a quantifiable assessment of basic material requirements for survival, etc. I tend to agree that poverty is a relative condition, but I would assert that while material poverty in the U.S. is nowhere near as severe as in most of the rest of the world, it does not make it acceptable here as the endless messages of a materialistic society root social worth in the consumerism that pervades life in America. While you may take exception with Professor Appleby's analogy and her definitions of evil and poverty, her piece is a serious one that should not be shouted down with terms like "chimerical," "Socialism," and "naked politics." It is not communist or socialist to believe, in the good terms that you suggest, that working toward "easing" or "alleviating" poverty is worthwhile.


Bill Heuisler - 7/2/2003

Professor Appleby,
Your basic premise is flawed and your objective is chimerical.
Both problems are encapsulated in a few lines of your article.

Your proposal that an obstacle to ending poverty is "acceptance of an evil because of its familiarity. It's hard to be outraged by a condition like poverty that's been around for millennia. It was once the same with slavery."

Poverty is not an "evil". Evil assumes an action or series of actions that produce harm. To use the term while describing poverty assumes a culprit. The background political message in this word-choice distorts any useful exposition. Poverty is to slavery as sickness is to murder. Why compare?

Poverty is a lack or deficiency. Ending poverty is Utopian and assumes omniscience and endless resources. Ending poverty can only occur if we end the human condition. Ultimately the term is merely comparative - US poverty is Somali luxury. So, to END poverty we must end wealth. In my opinion, a more proper term would be "ease" or "alleviate".

Your message is nakedly political because comparison of poverty to slavery fosters blame where there is none and promotes the manifestly failed economics of Socialism.
Bill Heuisler


Ralph E. Luker - 7/1/2003

I remain unconvinced that the tax on cigarettes is a regressive tax and I remain unconvinced that raising the minimal taxable income for a family of four from $4,600 to $17,000 is one of those ways of getting the state off the backs of poor people that have been tried and proven not to work. Governor Riley's proposals can hardly be called "more of the same."


Dave Tabaska - 7/1/2003

Governor Riley is a Republican. Well, that certainly put me in my place. I will now support any and all forms of taxation on the people of Alabama.

The proposed tax increase is not quite the lifting of the burden of the poor that Prof. Appleby makes it out to be. To be sure, it does raise the minimum taxable annual income from $4600 for a family of four (yikes!) to a more reasonable $17000, but it also has many regressive taxes in it - hikes in sales taxes on both goods and services, and on cigarettes. Those will most certainly have a greater impact on poor Alabamans. Most analyses I have read on the subject point the finger of blame on the fact that most revenue in Alabama is already earmarked for certain programs - between 80 and 87 percent, depending on who you read. This reduces the ability of the governor and the legislature to move money to where it is truly needed. So, the solution would appear to be not a tax increase, but a change in the state constitution and laws.

Anyway, the proposal will be put to a vote on September 9. We'll see what happens.

I'm not quite sure why you're unconvinced, Mr. Luker. I do believe my basic point still stands: That America's seeming indifference to poverty is due to, in large part, the fact that they see the traditional "solutions" to poverty not working, and that more the same will also not work.


Charles Beard - 7/1/2003

Among the many ignorant and inflammatory things you have written, Mr. Sean Hannity wannabe, I think I have just read the worst - that Saturday Night Live was never funny. You are completely discredited.


NYGuy - 7/1/2003

JA Wrote:
Alabama's Gov. Bob Riley has astounded friend and foe alike by proposing a tax increase of $1.3 billion to lift the heavy tax burden from the state's poor. Admonishing critics that the New Testament teaches us "to help those who are the least among us," Riley is attacking an entrenched system of inequity in his state.
RL
Ralph, I can understand your interpretation but that is not what JA said. It is counter intuitive to see someone increasing taxes and then saying this will help the poor unless you are talking about a redistribution of wealth. JA doesn’t explain herself, which makes this a poor article. And her preachy New Testament comment in my mind is just an exercise in arrogance, and adds nothing to her argument. Usually the first paragraph is used to make a clear statement of what your topic is. If she is saying what you perceive,

“not as you say, to raise taxes by $1.3 billion -- but to dramatically restructure a tax system (a legacy of many generations of Democratic governors) which is perhaps the most regressive state tax structure in the country.”

Why did she not say it and develop this topic rather then going into religion, the Republicans in Washington, using a meaningless statistic and not discussing this, “local issue” in greater detail. Is she just being disingenuous or doesn’t she know any better.

RL

If I am angry, it is because you accuse her of making the usual attack on Republicans, when in fact she begins with a remarkable proposal by a Republican governor to redress the grievances of poor people in Alabama. Oh, you didn't know that Governor Riley is a Republican? Not knowing is called ignorance and it can be overcome by _reading_ before you attack.

PAC

As I said above she did not do as you say. She said he was raising taxes, and she never mentions the grievances of poor people in Alabama. This is better taught in class where she won’t get any rebuttal.

RL

Voluntary efforts to alleviate poverty are all well and good, but as voluntary efforts they have about as much impact on systemic problem of poverty as voluntary emancipations had on the systemic problem of slavery.

PAC

Ralph, at least I though you knew better. Lets be honest, JA is not talking to a bunch of her 19 year old students who don’t know any better. Many of us live in the real world, know about poverty and recognize that there are ways out of poverty and millions have succeeded, that is what makes America so great. American history is replete with many such success stories as well as both the attitude and attention to the poor. The fact that one ignores that fact proves nothing. As you probably know economists say we can’t have zero unemployment because many are not capable of being employable. It is similar with the poor. By the way her headline is “why People Ignore Poverty” and according to your statement you agree with her, but then you say we have undertaken voluntary efforts to alleviate poverty. One of you is wrong. Have we ignored it or paid attention to it. As such the “slavery” argument is also wrong for one of you. In my opinion, you are both wrong.

You are not saying that voluntary efforts have failed are you. You can’t because you are astute enough to know that there is a rolling list of people who get out of poverty while others move into poverty. If we pour poor people into the top, often by illegal immigration and take other poor people out the bottom what do you conclude? Is it that no on one cares? First of all the most important people do care, the individual who wants to get out. He/she has been prohibited not because of voluntary efforts but because of failed liberal welfare polices that enslaved people for years and turned them into dope dealers, drug addicts, etc.

RL

I dare say that Joyce knows a good bit more about American history than you do. She knows it well enough to know that systemic poverty isn't ameliorated by poor people working hard, as Clayton Cramer would have it, any more than slavery was overcome by slaves working harder at being good slaves.

PAC

She may know a lot about American History, but as I said this topic is being distorted every day by people, “Who know a good bit more about American history than I do.”
That does not make them right and me wrong. It just tells me that history today is a political topic and one frames it as it suits their political needs. You are not suggesting that history is a critical analysis to find the truth are you.

RL

I recommend that you inform yourself about the proposal by the Republican governor of Alabama and hold the venom until you know more.

PAC

Your comments on venom is just another example of how one tries to chill debate. It may work in the university, but when you enter the real world people view you based upon what you have to say, not whom you think you are.

By the way do you know if poverty is still rising in Alabama? With all the neglect I would think that was the case. Is it?


But I do know, and I am told that Riley is trying to free the slaves in 2004. I learned it from Ms. Appleby a professor emerita of history at UCLA and co-director of the History News Service.

By the way, I appreciate your thoughtful reply, even if we disagree.

Cheers


Ralph E. Luker - 7/1/2003

NYG,
1) If I am angry, it is because you seem not even to have read Joyce's essay before your uninformed dismissal of it. It begins with the rather remarkable fact that the Republican governor of Alabama has proposed -- not as you say, to raise taxes by $1.3 billion -- but to dramatically restructure a tax system (a legacy of many generations of Democratic governors) which is perhaps the most regressive state tax structure in the country.
2) If I am angry, it is because you accuse her of making the usual attack on Republicans, when in fact she begins with a remarkable proposal by a Republican governor to redress the grievances of poor people in Alabama. Oh, you didn't know that Governor Riley is a Republican? Not knowing is called ignorance and it can be overcome by _reading_ before you attack.
3) Voluntary efforts to alleviate poverty are all well and good, but as voluntary efforts they have about as much impact on systemic problem of poverty as voluntary emancipations had on the systemic problem of slavery.
4) I dare say that Joyce knows a good bit more about American history than you do. She knows it well enough to know that systemic poverty isn't ameliorated by poor people working hard, as Clayton Cramer would have it, any more than slavery was overcome by slaves working harder at being good slaves.
5) I recommend that you inform yourself about the proposal by the Republican governor of Alabama and hold the venom until you know more.


NYGuy - 7/1/2003

Thucydides,

Your hope for this website is dwindling because as Nicholson says, "You can't handle the truth."

You are probably tucked away in a safe little college somewhere where mommy and daddy sending you a little someting each week.

In the real world they have a thing called "Night Classes". It is not for priviledged children such as yourself, but for those who are poor but want to make something of themselves. Each night around the country millions of people work there way out of poverty by attending classes, getting degrees and making something of themselves such as Cramer has done.

Your snide remarks is another example of your ignorance. Some of these people work regular jobs, some work night shifts, in gas stations, etc. to support themselves and pay for an education. Some go to classes 3-5 days a week, after working 9-10 hours a day, (including travel), and give up their weekends. Many put in 5-10 years on their studies. and deprive themselves of a normal social life.

Sometimes the only disadvantage is most usually become successful and send their children to the best schools possible, where they turn out to be ungrateful, snotty little disrepectful people like you.

PS: If you really study American History the right way you may find out that the a guy like Cramer and other similiar types are the people that make this a great country.

You should try working in a MacDonald's, at least you would begin to meet real people. And of course if you are truly concerned about poor people there is no better place to begin.





NYGuy - 7/1/2003

Ralph,

Why are you always at a loss for words. Are you talking about Professor Appleby's ignorant drivel? Birds of a feather fly together.

By the way if you can explain what she said, the reason for her conclusions and the proof she gave I would be interested in hearing from you. It is called an exchange of ideas.

I expressed my analysis of her work, and my ideas on what she said, which was really nothing. You of course are unable to refute that conclusion and therefore we end up with, "NYG, If I would you I wouldn't post my real name on this ignorant drivel either." Sounds like a skit from Saturday Night, but that was never a funny show.

The fact remains, however, that your insulting comments in no way changes the character of what Professor Appleby wrote.

But it is always nice to hear from you. In the old day you used to have at least a clever comment, now you sound like an angry old man.



Cheers


Thucydides - 7/1/2003

I am impressed with your bootstraps success Mr. Cramer, but please, join the twenty first century. This is the kind of answer to ideas about ways the larger American community can help those at the margins that was found in license plates on pickup trucks in the 1960s. Jobs at McDonalds and temporary services might improve the character and work ethic of the working poor (an idea with deep roots in American history, particularly in the Charity Organization Societies of the late 19th century), but they do not help the overall economy or the reality of community in America. By implying that all poor people are not as virtuous as you were in that terrible year of 1975, you contribute little. Do you hope to shake them from their apathy? Been tried, doesn't work. Professor Appleby's is a thoughtful piece, rooted in solid history. It deserves much better than most of the responses that have been left here, such as yours. Of course my hope for this website is dwindling as the same eleven people leave responses as predictable as the day is long.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/1/2003

NYG, If I would you I wouldn't post my real name on this ignorant drivel either.


NYGuy - 7/1/2003

Prof. Appleby:
What a meaningless article, sounds like it was written by a freshman in high school. It lacks content, reason and proof.

Look at the introduction:

"Alabama's Gov. Bob Riley has astounded friend and foe alike by proposing a tax increase of $1.3 billion to lift the heavy tax burden from the state's poor. Admonishing critics that the New Testament teaches us "to help those who are the least among us," Riley is attacking an entrenched system of inequity in his state."

What is the context in this statement.

1. Riley is propsing a tax increase of $1.3 billion to lift the heavy burden from the state's poor. Can any teacher on this board accept that as a college statement.

2. Apparently Riley is admonishing critics about "helping those who are least among us"

3. Riley is attacking th present system.

Appleby doesn't know what she is trying to say but expects others to divine meaning from the above, and some seem to understand.

Paragraph 2:

The usual attack on the Republicans.

By the way what does the 6.5 million tell us or add to the analysis. Are these poor people, do they have enough money to feed their families, do they get free medical care, etc. Since there are about 15 ways of measuring poverty this does not add, or tell us anything about what Prof. Appleby is getting at. A meaningless statistic and one that is not even described.

Ah, here comes the brillant evolution of her theory:

"Advocates for the poor such as Riley are pushing against the same obstacles that 18th-century opponents of slavery confronted: acceptance of an evil because of its familiarity."

Who by the way is accepting an evil? Since this country began there have always been people and institutions that have been concerned for the poor. Prof. Appleby may not have been concerned before this but anyone who has studied American history is well aware of various religious, cultural and other groups who took care of their poor and their leaders made it a top priority.

She then tells us:

"It was once the same with slavery. While enslavement was always considered a deplorable fate, people accepted it as an ineradicable evil, like dying."

Professor wake up and read about true American history, not the revisionist type. Again no proof was shown that poverty was an ineradicable evil." Actually just the opposite was true, people came to this country with nothing and not only raised themselves out of poverty but used their wealth to pull others out of poverty. I wouldn't doubt you benefitted from such poor people.

But your scholarship is impeccable you read a book called, "Nickel and Dimed."

Then you show your ignorance of economics and throw out a few more meaningless comments hoping your audience will think you know what you are talking about.

And finally you conclude:

"What will ever prod us to confront poverty as our forbears did slavery? What will it take to awaken our slumbering consciences? We've had the quickening of religious fervor in the past decades, but today's Evangelicals have yet to evince any concern for the lot of America's working poor. If not from them, where will the empathetic outrage emerge that says "there but for the grace of God go I"?

To begin with get someone to teach you about American history and the fact that our forebears confronted both poverty and slavery and overcame both. And if you can say with a straight face that religious groups have yet to evince any concerns for the lot of America's working poor, then you are indeed "creating a realm of imagination where avid readers of novels could fantasize a different reality>",

Your article suggest you have succumb to this drug.











Jonathan Dresner - 7/1/2003

The most important difference between poverty and slavery, is that the Euro-American slavery of Africans which ended (mostly) in the 19th century was a relatively recent phenomenon, closely tied to North and South American colonization.

It would be more interesting to compare enduring poverty to slavery systems which did not end suddenly, like Roman slavery evolving into serfdom, or Arab-Islamic slavery which is still practiced in some forms.

The other difference is that there have been repeated attempts to rectify the maldistribution of wealth in the world, from early religious concepts of charity and social justice (e.g. Jewish "tzedakah" or Islamic "zakat") to communist and socialist experiments. Many of them have been effective to some degree or for a period of time, but the last half millenium of global economic change has overwhelmed them one by one.


Clayton E. Cramer - 6/30/2003

I think the reason that few Americans are much interested in doing much about poverty is that lots of us grew up below the poverty line (although, not deeply below it), and we have found a poverty program that works really well: work.

It requires no lobbying of the government, no history professors feeling guilt-ridden about their comfort, and nothing except a relatively laissez-faire economy. The current burst economic bubble makes it harder, of course, but conditions were considerably worse when I had to drop out of college and start working in 1975.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/30/2003

Dave Tabaska's reading is particularly unconvincing, given the fact that Professor Appleby _begins_ her essay with the proposal by the _Republican_ governor of Alabama to massively reframe the state's regressive tax structure, which is a legacy of many years of Democratic administrations in the state. Is Mr. Tabaska opposed to that form of "wealth redistribution"?


Clarence Smith - 6/30/2003

In 1960 close to 60% of the public thought the government should “see to it that everybody who wants to work can find a job and a good standard of living” - a result found twice before. In 1964 support for a strong government role in fighting poverty collapsed to under 1/3. Since support has never risen above 30%. (National Election Survey, 2000)

Reasons for this collapse might be found in political ideologies carried by the just then widely available television by spokesmen including Richard Nixon and Barry Golwater to a populace safely distanced from the Great Depression. Emergence of monaterists thought crystalized apathy into policies promoting poverty.

The overriding goal of economic policymakers has become preventing inflation. That goal is, possibly incorrectly, seen to require the correct and often a high level of unemployment. President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers set the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment at a level that “suggests the United States needs to keep 7 to 8 million people unemployed to keep the economy healthy.” One of many alternatives to monetarist economics that create goals of high unemployment is the new economy school that claims factors like energy prices and market concentration are the main causes of price changes. (Bluestone and Harris, 2001)

Bluestone, Barry and Harris, Bennett, 2001 Growing Prosperity Houghton Mifflin
Retrieved from: http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~rbutler/bluestone.htm
National Election Survey Retrieved from:
http://www.umich.edu/~nes/nesguide/toptable/tab4a_4b.htm


Clarence Smith - 6/30/2003

In 1960 close to 60% of the public thought the government should “see to it that everybody who wants to work can find a job and a good standard of living” - a result found twice before. In 1964 support for a strong government role in fighting poverty collapsed to under 1/3. Since support has never risen above 30%. (National Election Survey, 2000)

Reasons for this collapse might be found in political ideologies carried by the just then widely available television by spokesmen including Richard Nixon and Barry Golwater to a populace safely distanced from the Great Depression. Emergence of monaterists thought crystalized apathy into policies promoting poverty.

The overriding goal of economic policymakers has become preventing inflation. That goal is, possibly incorrectly, seen to require the correct and often a high level of unemployment. President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers set the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment at a level that “suggests the United States needs to keep 7 to 8 million people unemployed to keep the economy healthy.” One of many alternatives to monetarist economics that create goals of high unemployment is the new economy school that claims factors like energy prices and market concentration are the main causes of price changes. (Bluestone and Harris, 2001)

Bluestone, Barry and Harris, Bennett, 2001 Growing Prosperity Houghton Mifflin
Retrieved from: http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~rbutler/bluestone.htm
National Election Survey Retrieved from:
http://www.umich.edu/~nes/nesguide/toptable/tab4a_4b.htm


Dave Tabaska - 6/30/2003

A better analogy between poverty and slavery would be if, around the beginning of the 20th century, slavery still existed and Americans would have been told by abolitionists that, if we just commit a few more troops to the decades-long Civil War, sign a few more Emancipation Proclamations, and ratify a couple more anti-slavery amendments, slavery would be gone forever. I suspect that Americans at that time would say something along the lines of "yeah, right".

So, we come to Professor Appleby's article, which pretty much restates the standard leftist line that all that needs to be done to defeat poverty is a few more dollars, a couple more Federal programs, and some additional bureaucrats. Since this line of thought has been around since the introduction of the Great Society programs (if not before), it seems reasonable to me that many people now treat it as background noise: more welfare, been there, done that, ho hum.

One would think that a professor emerita of history would have a better grasp on the failure of wealth redistribution throughout history.


Robin Hood - 6/30/2003

Comparing poverty to slavery has to be some sort of joke.

Tell us about the Fugitive Poverty Laws that drag people who have escaped from poverty back into it. Show us the scarred backs of the poor who have been whipped for trying to escape from poverty.

What's next reparations for poverty...oh wait a minute...we already have that with the income redistribution schemes of the Federal gov't.

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