blueollie

Wanted to be accepted without being acceptable …

I chuckled when a FB friend posted this:

The individual who posted this did so in a tongue-in-cheek way.

But it did get me to thinking about what I’ve actually seen. I teach college. And from time to time, a student will complain about flunking a class. But often their complaints will be “I needed this class and those credits to…” (insert “keep my scholarship”, “get my job”, etc.)

And, because I teach mathematics, their complaints are almost never “I did this correctly and didn’t receive proper credit” or “I knew the stuff and you flunked me anyway”. To them, the “grade” and “credit” is really a commodity that I have and that they want; “knowledge”, “learning”, and “performance” are almost always completely unrelated.

It would be like a prospective surgeon always botching the cadaver operation but wanting a pass, or a prospective pilot always crashing in the simulator but wanting a “pass” from pilot school.

It is the old “accept me” rather than “help me so I can work to meet the standards”.

Another note Needless to say, poor people are not the most popular people in our society and are often blamed for their fate. The article I linked to purports to ask “why”. It is a decent article, but I find it strange that the author doesn’t see the reaction to poor people as being natural.

The headline is: “Why do we think poor people are poor because of their own bad choices?” so I’ll give my answer:

1. Our own experience. Quick: what poor people to you actually KNOW? (not merely read about or have seen somewhere)

Chances are, it is the family mooch. In our case, this sibling of a family member had the same parents, the same educational opportunities, the same upbringing, the same inheritance (well into 6 figures), and managed to piss it all away.

Parents will often see some of their kids do well, while others become chronic underachievers.

So when we hear “poor people”, we think of the examples that we know, rather than someone who grew up devoid of realistic opportunities. We look at the negative outliers that we know and try to extrapolate.

2. Social pathology. Yes, poor people tend to share some very bad, self destructive habits. Of course, research tends to show that this behavior tends to stem from poverty rather than the other way around. “Being poor makes you stupid” as some might say. The direction of causation isn’t always clear.

3. Fear. Yes, though I am comfortable at the moment (and close to being “long term comfortable”), at mostly points of my life, I was really only a bad break away from personal disaster (untimely illness, injury, lay off, employer going out of business just when I become unemployable), etc. No one wants to think “I am one bad break away from being just like that poor person” so we conjure up reasons why “it can’t happen to us because we are so virtuous” or something.

July 7, 2017 Posted by | education, politics/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Black crime and all that…

Preliminaries (yes, I started with my workout; just scroll down): Workout notes: first weights:

rotator cuff
pull ups: 15-15-10-10 (good)
squats: 10 x 0, 10 x 45, 6 x 65, 6 x 85 (with bar)
5 x 25, 5 x 50 “Goblet squats”

incline press: 10 x 135, 8 x 150, 10 x 140

military press: 7 x 50 dumbbell standing, 15 x 50 seated, supported, 10 x 40 dumbbell
rows: 2 sets of 10 x 50 single arm, 10 x 110 machine

headstand: 2 reps; first time I lost confidence, second was fine
abs: 2 sets of 12 x twist crunch, 10 x yoga leg lift, 24 x crunch.

Walk: 4.2 mile Cornstalk classic for head conditioning.

Post Subject

I watched this discussion on CNN; the old argument “well, if Blacks committed fewer crimes, they wouldn’t get arrested as much.
No, liberals don’t want to hear this, but there is a grain of truth in that assertion. But what conservatives don’t want to hear is nicely summed up in this article in Reason:

In this view, African Americans have only themselves to blame for the presence and behavior of cops in their neighborhoods. If they would get serious about cleaning up the problems in their own communities, police would not be arresting or killing so many black people.

There’s an element of truth to this line of argument. Violent crime rates are far higher among blacks than among whites and other groups. One reason cops have a disproportionate number of interactions with African-American males is that these men commit a disproportionate number of offenses.

Where the argument fails is in its assumption that blacks are complacent about these realities and that whites are blameless. The gist of the message is that blacks created the problem and blacks need to solve it. […]

The common impulse of whites, then and now, was to blame blacks for pathologies that whites played a central role in creating. Criminologist Charles Silberman wrote in 1978 that “it would be hard to imagine an environment better calculated to evoke violence than the one in which black Americans have lived.” Pretending black crime is a black-created problem is like pretending New Orleans never got hit by a hurricane.

The Giuliani view omits some vital facts. The epidemic of unarmed blacks being killed by police comes not when black crime is high but when it is low. Homicides committed by African Americans declined by half between 1991 and 2008.

Since the early 1990s, arrests of black juveniles have plunged by more than half. In New York City, where Eric Garner was killed by police, the rate of homicides by blacks is down by 80 percent. In Chicago, where most murders are committed by African Americans, the number last year was the lowest since 1965—and this year’s could be lower yet.

What is also easy to forget in the denunciation of black crime is that the vast majority of blacks are not criminals. In any given year, less than 5 percent of African Americans are involved in violent crime as perpetrators or victims. The fact that blacks make up a large share of the violent criminal population gives many whites the impression that violent criminals make up a large share of the black population. They don’t.

Why don’t more blacks living in bad neighborhoods learn to behave like sober middle-class suburbanites? One reason is the shortage of stable families, steady incomes, good schools and safe streets. If you grow up with those advantages, it’s relatively easy to do the right thing. If you don’t, it’s a lot harder.

People trapped in a poor and dangerous slum can’t depend on the authorities to keep them safe. They face serious threats every time they leave home. But a young black man who packs or uses a weapon to protect himself against gangs is committing a crime. Even motivated, well-intended kids can wind up in jail.

I can recommend Steven Pinker’s book Better Angels of Our Nature. Though the book is very large, it does have a section about inner city violence. Much of it stems from the citizens not trusting law enforcement seriously; hence many take matters into their own hands to solve disputes. Middle class people call the police and take others to court.

And while there is quite a bit of social pathology, there is evidence that poverty (and discrimination) drives the social pathology, and not the other way around. William Julius Wilson wrote an excellent book on that topic: When Work Disappears.

But alas, problems are complicated and solutions don’t lend themselves to bumper sticker answers or internet memes.

July 13, 2016 Posted by | racism, social/political, walking, weight training | , , | 2 Comments

Now that was humbling…

Today’s workout: 5 mile run, 3 walk. Run: 22:30 treadmill warm up (2 miles), lane 2 at Markin: 8:51, 8:46, 8:42 (26:21), 27:36 for 25 laps..walked a bit on the last lap then chased a student. For most of the 3 miles…almost all of it I was solo and that was tough. But only the final mile felt bad.

Then 3.1 miles outside, walking.

Posts Gin and Tacos talks about a book that interests me:

Mike Konczal gave me a heads-up on Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, a non-fiction tale of people in Milwaukee living on the bottom rung of the housing market: black families in the north side ghetto and white families in a trailer park that sits literally atop a biohazard. For a casual reader this book is a Rorschach Test, a study in confirmation bias; whatever your existing beliefs about the root causes of poverty and the underclass, you will find ample evidence to support it here. The most remarkable achievement is the ability of these stories to make the reader sympathize with everyone involved. You feel for the poor single parent living in a house with no refrigerator; then you feel for the landlord who stopped putting in refrigerators after six of them were destroyed or sold for beer money. You feel for the people who have to clean up foreclosed, abandoned, or evicted houses that resemble landfills. For a few pages I even felt bad for the cops – Milwaukee cops.

When it comes to poverty (or many other issues) we tend to get tribal and forget that there are reasons that different people feel different ways. It is so frustrating.

Marijuana: yes, I am for legalization. But we shouldn’t just assume that it is harmless; evidence is that it isn’t.

April 22, 2016 Posted by | running | , | Leave a comment

Policy, journalism, and the primary

Poverty: public policy can make a difference; here we see that in New York City, the poor enjoy longer lifespans, both in terms of being compared to the poor in other areas and as a percentage of the lifespan of their wealthier neighbors. Think: better food and walkabiity.

Media: sometimes, journalists bend over backwards to be “balanced” that they give special interests too much benefit of the doubt (e. g. creationists, climate change denialists)

2016 Primary

Bill Clinton’s poverty and crime programs: they DID have benefits, but they also had some bad side effects. It wasn’t “all good” nor “all bad”.

New York Primary: Sanders might be hurt because this primary is closed to Democrats only. This is one yin-yang about the Sanders campaign. The yin: he is bringing in people who are new to the political process. The yang: these newbies often don’t know the rules. Example: there was a case in Illinois where one Sanders voter wanted to “vote for Bernie”; he couldn’t be made to understand that Sanders wouldn’t be helped unless he also voted for the Sanders delegates (in Illinois, the candidate vote is just a beauty contest; one also has to vote for the candidate’s delegates as well, and they ARE marked by candidate).

Colorado Republicans: they did NOT have a primary nor did they have a caucus. They had a convention and Trump’s lack of organization cost him dearly: he ended up with zero delegates.

April 12, 2016 Posted by | politics, politics/social, social/political, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Republicans and the Poor

Workout notes; weight then an easy, untimed 5K walk (Bradley Park via Parkside)
weights:
pull ups; 5 sets of 10 (went well)
incline: 10 x 135, 2 sets of 7 x 150
rotator cuff
super set: military press (dumbbells), pull downs (usual machine), rows
military: 2 sets of 12 x 50 seated, supported, 10 x 40 standing
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
rows: 2 sets of dumbbell rows (each arm) 10 x 50, 1 set of 10 x 110 machine.

Posts
This Kathleen Parker article is pretty good; it really slams some of the GOP presidential candidate buffoonery. Just read. President Obama is looking good by contrast.

Poverty: yes, growing up poor can adversely affect one’s IQ, even later in life. This is yet another reason that things like SNAP (especially for kids) is a good investment.

July 31, 2015 Posted by | politics, politics/social, walking, weight training | , | Leave a comment

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 | , , | Leave a comment

stats, oz effects, and observant football players….

In the discussions about poverty and racism, I’ve been very vocal about parents being the ones responsible for feeding their kids. (here and here) Don’t have kids that you can’t afford to raise properly! Yes, this attitude draws the ire of many, including those who vote the same way that I do.

But when discussing irresponsible parenting, poverty, social pathologies and the like, we need data and we need to analyze it honestly. So, the headlines go: “unwed motherhood is up” and you read:

Census demographers said that single motherhood, while on a steady uptick since the 1940s, has accelerated in recent years. The birth rate for unmarried women in 2007 was up 80 percent in the almost three decades since 1980, the report said. But in the previous five years alone, between 2002 and 2007, it was up 20 percent.

Echoing the findings of many academic studies, the Census Bureau report said women with college degrees and higher household incomes are far less likely to be single mothers than are women who have lower household incomes and less education. […]

Overall, 36 percent of all births in the United States were to unmarried mothers in 2011, the year that the census analyzed from answers provided in the American Community Survey.

In the Washington region, 28 percent of births are to unmarried women. In the District, more than half of all births, 51 percent, were to unwed mothers. Maryland also had a higher rate than the national average, with 39 percent of all births out of wedlock. Virginia, in contrast, had a lower rate than the national average, with 31 percent of births to women who are not married.

The census also found that Asian mothers were the least likely to be unmarried, with just 11 percent of new Asian mothers being single. White single mothers also were below the national average, at 29 percent. Among Hispanics, 43 percent of all new mothers were unmarried, as were 68 percent of all African American women who had recently given birth.

Yep….the percent of births to unwed mothers is up! So, it follows that unwed women (especially black women) are having more kids than before? Uh…no.

Remember: “percent” is a type of fraction and it is: \frac{unwed mom births}{total births} So if the numerator (the top) goes up, the percent goes up. But…if the bottom goes down by more than the top goes down, then the fraction, and hence the percentage, goes up! And we see:

(via the sometimes preachy, finger wagging Tim Wise)

Looking first at the broader issue of so-called “illegitimate children” in the black community, those who forward this argument simply do not understand how to read or interpret basic statistical information. They claim, for instance that the “out-of-wedlock birth rate” for black females has skyrocketed; but in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, actual birth rates for unmarried black women (which means the number of live births per 1000 such women) has dropped dramatically. From 1970-2010, the birth rate for unmarried black women fell by nearly a third, from 95.5 births per 1000 unmarried black women to only 65.3 births per 1000 such women. In other words, unmarried black women are already doing exactly what conservatives would have them do: namely, having fewer children. This means that even if we were to accept the absurd argument that out-of-wedlock childbearing is evidence of cultural pathology, black culture must then be steadily getting healthier and less pathological, rather than more so. In a given year, for every 100 single black females, between ninety-three and ninety four of them will not have a baby—hardly evidence that out-of-wedlock childbearing is a normative experience for black women.
The common confusion on this issue seems to stem from the fact that although unmarried birth rates have fallen considerably, the share of children born in the black community who are born out of wedlock has indeed doubled since the early 1970s. It sounds like a big deal perhaps, but what does that statistic really signify? If unmarried black women are cutting back on childbearing — and remember, that’s what the data says — the increase in the percentage of black births that are births to single moms can’t possibly be the result of those moms’ increasing “irresponsibility.” Rather, this statistical phenomenon must be due to an entirely different factor, and indeed it is: namely, married black couples have cut back even further on childbearing than single moms have. If married black couples are having far fewer children than before, and are cutting back even faster than single women, the overall percentage of births that are out-of-wedlock will rise, owing nothing to the supposedly irresponsible behaviors of single black folks. If black married couples suddenly reverted to their family size norms of fifty years ago, the share of black births to unmarried moms would plummet, even if there were no further drop in the birth rates for single black women at all.

Moral: when talking about “percentage of”, remember that you are dealing with a ratio, which has both a numerator and a denominator.

Now of course, this requires actually knowing some mathematics (albeit at an elementary level) and while this makes you smarter and more likely to engage in disciplined thinking, it is unlikely to make you popular. Paul Krugman (speaking about Dr. Oz) explains:

Simon Wren-Lewis had an interesting piece on why the financial sector buys into really bad macroeconomics; he suggested that financial firms aren’t really interested in anything but very short-term forecasting, and that

economists working for financial institutions spend rather more time talking to their institution’s clients than to market traders. They earn their money by telling stories that interest and impress their clients. To do that it helps if they have the same worldview as their clients.

Thinking about Dr. Oz also, I’d suggest, helps explain a related puzzle: even if you grant that the right wants alleged experts who toe the ideological line, why can’t it get guys who are at least competent? Why do they recruit and continue to employ people who can’t do basic job calculations, or read their own tables and notice that they’re making ridiculous unemployment projections, and so on?

My answer has been that anyone competent enough to avoid these mistakes would also be unreliable — he or she might at some point actually take a stand on principle, or at least balk at completely abandoning professional ethics. And I still think that’s part of the story.

But I now also suspect that the personality traits you need to be an effective entertainer on inherently not-so-much-fun subjects like health or monetary policy are inherently at odds with the traits you need to be even halfway competent. If Dr. Oz were the kind of guy who pores over medical evidence to be sure he knows what he’s talking about, he probably couldn’t project the persona that wins him such a large audience. Similarly, a hired-gun economist who actually knows how to download charts from FRED probably wouldn’t have the kind of blithe certainty in right-wing dogma his employers want.

So how do those of us who aren’t so glib respond? With ridicule, obviously. It’s not cruelty; it’s strategy.

Oh, how I see this. Krugman wrote about a famous incident in which a popular trader was confronted with the fact that every bit of advice he gave was completely wrong, and how anyone who listened to him would have lost money. But hey, he really knows how to yell and draw applause:

So, there was a fun moment on CNBC: Rick Santelli went on a rant about inflation and the Fed, and CNBC analyst Steve Liesman went medieval on him:

It’s impossible for you to have been more wrong, Rick. Your call for inflation, the destruction of the dollar, the failure of the US economy to rebound. Rick, it’s impossible for you to have been more wrong. Every single bit of advice you gave would have lost people money, Rick. Lost people money, Rick. Every single bit of advice. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. Not a single one. Not a single one, Rick. The higher interest rates never came, the inability of the U.S. to sell bonds never happened, the dollar never crashed, Rick. There isn’t a single one that’s worked for you.

Of course, he got applause because he shares the same world view of those applauding him.

And my goodness, I think that I’ve seen some of this locally. When one looks at the leaders of some local institutions, it is easy to tell from watching what moves they make that they really don’t know what they are doing. But they are sure good at getting the “right” type of people to like them. I’ve seen this in the Navy as well. Remember when the US Submarine Greenville sank a Japanese ship because it did a risky surfacing exercise to impress some civilians and didn’t follow proper procedures?

The commander of the submarine was a classmate of mine at Annapolis and I went to Nuclear Power school with him. Even then, he was an expert at cutting corners when no one was looking, but telling the superior officers what they wanted to hear when they were around; he convinced them that he “was one of them”. It was a type of “affinity fraud”.

Now of course, Paul Krumgan is an economist and he talked about losing weight. He never looked fat to me; in fact he looks like many mathematicians in the sense that most of us appear to be normal sized. You notice that at conferences, though my mind’s eye detects that, as a group, we are starting to get fatter.

Well, as far as us being more slender than normal:

obesityratebyoccupation

Now this spread surprises me; I’d guess that firefighters and police officers would be required to stay physically fit. I’d guess wrong, unless this figure is “inflated” by things like private security guards.

Note: I can recommend the article, as it is about the employer’s interest in helping employees with their weight problems.

Football players
I can recommend this Jon Stewart video; it is a short clip that attacks the attack on the “don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe” protests. If nothing else, listen to the last minute in which a pro football player explains that “a call for justice should threaten no one”.

December 21, 2014 Posted by | mathematics, NFL, politics, poverty, social/political, statistics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poverty and click lure headlines

I read the title of a headline from a Mother Jones article: What If Everything You Knew About Poverty Was Wrong?. I rolled my eyes. I read the article.

On one hand, the sociologist in question, Kathryn Edin, did do some important work. Her work received praise from prominent sociologists at different ends of the “liberal/conservative” scale, and her work might have an impact on how family courts carry out their work.

On the other hand, this article did NOT come close to the headline; at least my basic idea about poverty stands as much as ever.

Simply put, lots of not-so-bright people are having a lot of kids that they cannot afford to have, and society is footing the bill:

Among low-income, unwed parents, having children with more than one partner is now the norm. One long-running study found that in nearly 60 percent of the unwed couples who had a baby, at least one parent already had a child with another partner.

Multiple-partner fertility is a formula for unstable families, and it’s really bad for children, which Edin acknowledges in the book.

Calling it “father thirst” or whatever doesn’t change the fact that such behavior is absurd.

Here is a critique of such points (made in another article). I don’t agree with all of this critique; after all, there is some stimulus effect to these social safety net programs.

I remain a liberal because I understand that. However, my disgust with such irresponsible behavior sets me apart from many liberals, even if we might support similar programs. A public policy that is too focused on “punishing the idiots and slackers” isn’t going to do us a lot of good.

November 9, 2014 Posted by | social/political | , | 1 Comment

Unfair attacks on Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan

Don’t get me wrong: these are not my favorite politicians and I think that their policy ideas are bad. But while I believe in attacking bad ideas and sloppy thinking, I do not believe in putting words into people’s mouths. Here are two cases of that:

Bobby Jindal
Read the headline:
jindalactwhite

Gee, did Gov. Jindal really say that? Uh, no.

“We still place far too much emphasis on our ‘separateness,’ our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few. Here’s an idea: How about just ‘Americans?’ That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our ‘separateness’ is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot. There is nothing wrong with people being proud of their different heritages. We have a long tradition of folks from all different backgrounds incorporating their traditions into the American experience, but we must resist the politically correct trend of changing the melting pot into a salad bowl. E pluribus Unum.”

First of all, nowhere does Gov. Jindal talk about racism nor does he excuse it. He is merely discussing an important issue for many of us darker skinned folks (and others): what is the dividing line between embracing the “larger culture” (whatever that means) and keeping our ethnic traditions?

Of course, if you surf to the article, you’ll hear the authors opinion on why Gov. Jindal really meant something other than what he actually said.

Yes, I know: outlets like Fox News do this to us all of the time. But I really want to believe that we are smarter than that….and in this desire, I am…delusional.

Now for Paul Ryan

Rep. Ryan is accused of:

ryanblameslazyblacks

But did he really say that? Slate has a decent article about this:

Ryan’s problem, it seems, is that he’s talking about inner cities while being 1) a Republican who is 2) about to unleash poverty legislation heavy on work requirements. If you’re a Democrat, you can talk about the inner city in the same way Ryan does.
[…]
He acknowledged that it was a stereotype; Ryan just assumed it was a sterotype. In the world of hate-clicking, there’s no allowance for Ryan framing this in familiar terms to a skeptical conservative audience. He said there’s endemic poverty in the inner cities, and it’s not up to him to say it.

Get a load of this quote (same source):

“There are communities where for too many young people it feels like their future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town,” said President Obama in his speech to announce new “promise zones” in poor (some rural) areas. “Too many communities where no matter how hard you work, your destiny feels like it’s already been determined for you before you took that first step. I’m not just talking about pockets of poverty in our inner cities. That’s the stereotype.”

So, in my opinion, Rep. Ryan was pointing out that there are situations in which children grow up NOT seeing their parents (or at least one parent) getting up, getting ready to go to work. That CAN be damaging.

Now before you thinking that I am embracing Rep. Ryan’s economic ideas: forget it. Paul Krugman describes his ideas accurately.

Cutting safety net aid right now it just nuts; in fact, some aid (like SNAP) actually reduces the chances that kids end up on public aid as adults. The moral pathology associated with poverty is often an effect of poverty, not the cause.

There are several economic issues: not only are decent paying blue collar jobs getting scarcer, many are difficult to reach for inner city people and many of the new, entry level jobs don’t have a pathway toward better jobs in the future:

For years, many Americans followed a simple career path: Land an entry-level job. Accept a modest wage. Gain skills. Leave eventually for a better-paying job.

The workers benefited, and so did lower-wage retailers such as Wal-Mart: When its staffers left for better-paying jobs, they could spend more at its stores. And the U.S. economy gained, too, because more consumer spending fueled growth.

Not so much anymore. Since the Great Recession began in late 2007, that path has narrowed because many of the next-tier jobs no longer exist. That means more lower-wage workers have to stay put. The resulting bottleneck is helping widen a gap between the richest Americans and everyone else.

“Some people took those jobs because they were the only ones available and haven’t been able to figure out how to move out of that,” Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart U.S., acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press.

If Wal-Mart employees “can go to another company and another job and make more money and develop, they’ll be better,” Simon explained. “It’ll be better for the economy. It’ll be better for us as a business, to be quite honest, because they’ll continue to advance in their economic life.”

Yet for now, the lower-wage jobs once seen as stepping stones are increasingly being held for longer periods by older, better-educated, more experienced workers.

The trend extends well beyond Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, and is reverberating across the U.S. economy. It’s partly why average inflation-adjusted income has declined 9 percent for the bottom 40 percent of households since 2007, even as incomes for the top 5 percent now slightly exceed where they were when the recession began late that year, according to the Census Bureau.

Research shows that occupations that once helped elevate people from the minimum wage into the middle class have disappeared during the past three recessions dating to 1991.

Paul Ryan’s concern about kids being raised in an environment in which the adults aren’t regularly working is a valid one; the problem lies in his proposed solutions to this very real malady.

March 14, 2014 Posted by | economy, politics, politics/social, poverty, racism, social/political | , , , | Leave a comment