Jeb Bush’s “longer hours” statement, skepticism and tribalism …

Jeb Bush said that Americans should work longer hours. You can see the short video here. Now, we need to understand what he meant by that. Of course, there are part time people who would like to have full time jobs:

There are arguments that more people need to be working (there are also good arguments to the contrary). And there is a real problem with underemployment – people who are involuntarily working less 40 hours a week. But Bush didn’t say that more people need to be working (questionable) or that more people need to be able to get full-time jobs (true). He said people need to work longer hours.

But that is not how it came out; it sure came out as if Gov. Bush thinks that Americans are, well, slacking? Or, is it the contention that we should make better jobs so that those working part time can go to full time if so desired?

Paul Krguman takes this on; he sees this as a continuation of Gov. Romney’s 47 percent remarks and entrenched Republican beliefs:

At my adventure in Las Vegas, one of the questions posed by the moderator was, if I remember it correctly, “What would you do about America’s growing underclass living off welfare?” When I said that the premise was wrong, that this isn’t actually happening, there was general incredulity — this is part of what the right knows is happening. When Jeb Bush — who is a known admirer of Charles Murray — talks about more hours, he’s probably thinking largely about getting the bums on welfare out there working.

As I asked a few months ago, where are these welfare programs people are supposedly living off? TANF is tiny; what’s left are EITC, food stamps, and unemployment benefits. Spending on food stamps and UI soared during the slump, but came down quickly; overall spending on “income security” has shown no trend at all as a share of GDP, with all the supposed growth in means-tested programs coming from Medicaid:


Krugman goes on to point out that the percentage of people on disability is flat, *once one corrects for age*. Remember that the longer one lives, the more likely one is to have a physical condition that is disabling.

But alas, the conservatives cannot divorce themselves from what “they know”, even if it is “not so.”

I see that is a human tendency; liberals are not immune to it either. Steven Pinker talks about the “blank slate” hypothesis here..and yes this “blank slate” hypothesis is very popular among the social justice warrior crowd.

It is also tough for humans to see things through the eyes of others, and it is tough to not feel attacked when one’s basic assumptions are challenged. You see frustration with that in John Metta’s sermon on racism.

Frankly, I think that is human nature to rebel when one’s fundamental assumptions are attacked. After all, we’ve believed those assumptions for a long time, and often the person who is attacking those assumptions might not be that intellectually distinguished, and they might be wrong about other things. Their arguments may be weak or contain gaping holes. But nevertheless, they might be right, even if their argument isn’t.

Having a science like skepticism toward the beliefs of others is easy. Having it toward ones OWN beliefs is hard, and I wonder if such skepticism is rare outside of science.

This is really a sticky topic when we talk about things like racism and sexism. Here is a point from Metta’s sermon. He talks about his prior discussions with his white aunt:

Those, however, are facts that my aunt does not need to know. She does not need to live with the racial segregation and oppression of her home. As a white person with upward mobility, she has continued to improve her situation. She moved out of the area I grew up in– she moved to an area with better schools. She doesn’t have to experience racism, and so it is not real to her.

Nor does it dawn on her that the very fact that she moved away from an increasingly Black neighborhood to live in a White suburb might itself be a aspect of racism. She doesn’t need to realize that “better schools” exclusively means “whiter schools.”

Now I challenge the notion that “better schools” means “whiter schools”; it can mean that, of course, but mostly it means “a school for wealthier people” or a “better funded school”. Believe me, I’d choose my racially mixed Department of Defense schools over most of the predominately white schools I’ve seen.

But I think that some of these unhelpful feelings are the result of human beings being tribal and humans tending to reason inductively. Here is what I mean: if you aren’t black, you probably don’t have many close black friends; you might notice a few athletes (“hey blacks are good at sports!”) and see a drug bust on TV (“hey…it is unfortunate that so many criminals happen to be black”) or you might see a black person hitting you up for money (as frequently happens where I live right now; in my prior location the panhandlers were white). So, your brain makes an unhelpful inference based on a tiny, non-random sample.

On the other hand: the white criminal or panhandler is seen as a negative outlier; after all there are many counter-examples in your life that you see every day. The white murderer: sociopath. The white who attacks people out of the blue: crazy.

Quickly: is she a “thug” and representative of violent “white culture”, or is she a druggie or mentally ill?

But when a black person does it, the human tendency is to draw an inference, however inaccurate.

But: I do NOT see white people as being unusually evil; in fact, if the world were created just a bit different and this were a time of black people dominating, I doubt that they would behave much differently. I know that my brown ancestors (Aztecs) happily enslaved and murdered their opponents when they could do so; it just so happens that when my Spanish ancestors got there, my Aztec ancestors got their asses kicked and my Spanish ancestors were less than gracious winners.

Nevertheless, black people in our society, have a “draining from 100 cuts” existence. The cuts might be individually small, but the toll they take accumulates.

Sometimes, our human nature, which may have worked for us from 50K to 1K years for us, works against us right now.

So, I’ll just conclude by saying something that will probably offend many of my liberal friends AND my conservative friends alike:

Yes, our society has some structural racism built in it, and it is a good thing to work and remedying that. But this does NOT mean that white people have any special reason to “feel guilty” either. I do think that we all have a responsibility to help build a less racist society though even if that means giving a little.

I think of it this way: if your neighbor had their house burned down and their wealth plundered, wouldn’t helping out be the right thing to do, even if you had no part in either the plundering or the burning? I realize that analogy is imperfect and that the situation is more complicated than that.

July 11, 2015 - Posted by | political/social, racism, social/political | , , , , , ,

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