blueollie

Talking past each other: version N

I believe that it is difficult for people across the cultural divide to understand each other.

The following letter to the editor got me thinking about our cultural divide:

A couple of weeks ago at a summit on poverty at Georgetown University, Obama explained that unrest in American cities could be traced not to a lack of values but to a lack of cash, which he suggested could be attributed to a lack of luck. He labeled those Americans who are doing better financially than others as “lottery winners.” He added that we should confiscate wealth from these people and redistribute it because that’s “where the question of compassion and ‘I’m my brother’s keeper’ comes into play.”
What lottery in hell did I and many others win? I have been working for more than 50 years. My first jobs were babysitting and working on a farm for 50 cents an hour. I worked swing shift in a sweltering glass factory for minimum wage two summers before college. I have had several jobs in retail, worked at a grocery warehouse and worked for a few newspapers and a radio station. I worked for a graphic arts company for 20 years. I am still working part-time. I have never relied on the government to pay my way.

(Note: there IS some correlation between poverty and social pathology, though there is some data driven research that suggests that poverty is the cause of the pathology, rather than the other way around)

But, just what did the President say? You can read all of it here: but here is the relevant parts:

Part of the reason I thought this venue would be useful and I wanted to have a dialogue with Bob and Arthur is that we have been stuck, I think for a long time, in a debate that creates a couple of straw men. The stereotype is that you’ve got folks on the left who just want to pour more money into social programs, and don’t care anything about culture or parenting or family structures, and that’s one stereotype. And then you’ve got cold-hearted, free market, capitalist types who are reading Ayn Rand and — (laughter) — think everybody are moochers. And I think the truth is more complicated.

I think that there are those on the conservative spectrum who deeply care about the least of these, deeply care about the poor; exhibit that through their churches, through community groups, through philanthropic efforts, but are suspicious of what government can do. And then there are those on the left who I think are in the trenches every day and see how important parenting is and how important family structures are, and the connective tissue that holds communities together and recognize that that contributes to poverty when those structures fray, but also believe that government and resources can make a difference in creating an environment in which young people can succeed despite great odds. […]

Now, part of what’s happened is that — and this is where Arthur and I would probably have some disagreements. We don’t dispute that the free market is the greatest producer of wealth in history — it has lifted billions of people out of poverty. We believe in property rights, rule of law, so forth. But there has always been trends in the market in which concentrations of wealth can lead to some being left behind. And what’s happened in our economy is that those who are doing better and better — more skilled, more educated, luckier, having greater advantages
— are withdrawing from sort of the commons — kids start going to private schools; kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks. An anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together. And that, in part, contributes to the fact that there’s less opportunity for our kids, all of our kids.

Now, that’s not inevitable. A free market is perfectly compatible with also us making investment in good public schools, public universities; investments in public parks; investments in a whole bunch — public infrastructure that grows our economy and spreads it around. But that’s, in part, what’s been under attack for the last 30 years. And so, in some ways, rather than soften the edges of the market, we’ve turbocharged it. And we have not been willing, I think, to make some of those common investments so that everybody can play a part in getting opportunity. […]

[…]

When I, for example, make an argument about closing the carried interest loophole that exists whereby hedge fund managers are paying 15 percent on the fees and income that they collect, I’ve been called Hitler for doing this, or at least this is like Hitler going into Poland. That’s an actual quote from a hedge fund manager when I made that recommendation. The top 25 hedge fund managers made more than all the kindergarten teachers in the country.

So when I say that, I’m not saying that because I dislike hedge fund managers or I think they’re evil. I’m saying that you’re paying a lower rate than a lot of folks who are making $300,000 a year. You pretty much have more than you’ll ever be able to use and your family will ever be able to use. There’s a fairness issue involved here. And, by the way, if we were able to close that loophole, I can now invest in early childhood education that will make a difference. That’s where the rubber hits the road.

That’s, Arthur, where the question of compassion and “I’m my brother’s keeper” comes into play. And if we can’t ask from society’s lottery winners to just make that modest investment, then, really, this conversation is for show. (Applause.)

First of all, the President acknowledges that values plays a role. Next: he lists “luck” as ONE of the things helps one be successful. Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can argue with that. After all, one doesn’t choose their parents, their neighborhood, the level of nutrition and schooling that they get growing up, the genes that they inherited (both with regards to talent and with regards to health), whether they had bad luck (getting hit by a drunk driver, crippled in an accident, etc.).

Then in a later section, he makes the “lottery comment”, with regards to billionaire hedge fund managers.

If you are some middle class person who has been diligent and thrifty and say, have 250K, 500K, or even 2-3 million dollars saved up…HE IS NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU. He is talking about the kind who think nothing of eating, say, a 1000 dollar (or MORE!) ice cream dish.

Now, of course, there are perpetually indigent (or sort-of-indigent) people who are leeches, moochers and morons. Many families have “that one relative that….”. But that does not explain poverty on a statistical level.

Social issues and violence
Recently in New York City, a 14 year old gang member was murdered. According to the New York Post:

He flashed gang signs in selfies, posted a photo of a Smith & Wesson on his Facebook page, and had a rap sheet even a veteran street gangster could be proud of.
And now he’s been murdered — at age 14.
Bronx seventh-grader xxxx xxx was stalked and gunned down on a sidewalk near his Bronx home Friday morning — the victim, cops believe, of gang violence.
“He was a gangbanger,” one law-enforcement source said of Christopher, a child known in his Morrisania neighborhood as already well on the road to doom when he was shot dead.
“He terrorized the neighborhood,” said a woman who passed by the grim crime scene.
“xxxxxx is no good,” another neighbor said.
“I saw him fighting last summer in the street,” the man said. “We told them to quit fighting, but he would not listen. The person he was fighting wanted to quit, but he wouldn’t quit.”
xxxxxx had been walking to school with his little brother just a few paces from his Sheridan Avenue doorstep when his killer — who had been lying in wait with a lookout posted down the block — pulled a gun.
As the little brother watched, the gunman pumped a single bullet into xxxxx’s neck, sources said.

[…]

Despite his youth, the victim had a lengthy criminal record that includes five arrests — one for an attempted assault with a brick, sources said.
Photos posted to his Facebook page show xxxxx flashing what appear to be gang signs. There is also an image of a Smith & Wesson pistol with an extended magazine.

That isn’t so much the issue. Here is the issue: when a couple of ex New York Policemen discussed this:

gladheisdead

This is another place where conservatives and liberals are at odds, both with incomplete pieces of the truth.
The conservatives are realistic in pointing out that this kid WAS well on his way to being a career criminal and would think nothing of harming someone else. Sociopaths exist and there is little we can do, save taking them out of society to keep everyone else safe.

On the other hand, liberals understand that a society that loses sight that some homo sapiens are human beings and that their demise is a tragedy to be mourned rather than something to be celebrated..is a society that is less worth living in. Hence the apparent callousness displayed by the ex officer is alarming to them…even if the ex officer has a valid logical point.

May 31, 2015 - Posted by | social/political, Uncategorized | , ,

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