The American Dream in all likelihood died a long time ago.
October 14, 2015 8:42 AM   Subscribe

 
As much as it pains me to say it, Trump is right that people are getting fucked. Too bad his solution is to scapegoat people who aren't actually the problem and reward those who are with yet more tax cuts.
posted by wierdo at 8:48 AM on October 14, 2015 [27 favorites]




“What do I think is the American dream? There is no dream for anyone who isn’t a lawyer or banker”

Don't go to law school.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:55 AM on October 14, 2015 [41 favorites]


Not to make this into a Trump derail but, unlike practically any other candidate, Trump is opposed to the two biggest threats to working-class men and women in this country: free trade and totally-unchecked* immigration. Where is the non-plutocrat, sane candidate advocating sanity on these two issues at the national level?

Mass deportation is a fucking lunatic idea, sure, but don't ignore the position that high volumes of illegal immigrants are totally inimical to the continued employment of the working-class people that already live in this country.

*i.e., not planned and controlled to account for skill, workers needed so as not to have a labor glut, etc.
posted by resurrexit at 8:58 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Regarding lawyers – technically, it's a very logically sound statement. There is no dream for anyone who isn't a lawyer or a banker. There isn't an American dream for most lawyers or bankers, either, but being a lawyer or a banker seems to be at least a minor qualification for living the dream – in the same sense that breathing air is a minor qualification for being Prince of Monaco. But if you think breathing air will automatically make you the Prince of Monaco – well, good luck with that, because that doesn't actually follow.
posted by koeselitz at 9:00 AM on October 14, 2015


As much as it pains me to say it, Trump is right that people are getting fucked. Too bad his solution is to scapegoat people who aren't actually the problem and reward those who are with yet more tax cuts.

oh, when people are getting fucked it's the ideal time to try and hook them with anti-immigrant, anti-minority nazi shit. Look at UKIP on the UK, or the actual nazis.

It'd be good to see some actual non-bullshit socialism to counter it.
posted by Artw at 9:03 AM on October 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


free trade and totally-unchecked* immigration. Where is the non-plutocrat, sane candidate advocating sanity on these two issues at the national level?

The TPP must be defeated

Creating Decent Paying Jobs

A Fair and Humane Immigration Policy
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:03 AM on October 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


Regarding lawyers – technically, it's a very logically sound statement. There is no dream for anyone who isn't a lawyer or a banker.

No it isn't. Bankers and lawyers are nothing but glorified staff, selling services that are increasingly commoditized. They're a dime a dozen.

There's no American dream anymore unless you're either a business owner or in possession of some highly valued and very hard to acquire skills. Otherwise you're a second-class citizen.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:08 AM on October 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I just wish people could find it in their hearts to oppose immigration without being racist about it. It's like if you have an awesome party at your house with dancing and music and your neighbors knock on the door and ask if they can come in. It's one thing to say "Sorry, the house is already crowded/ I'm afraid we're going to run out of beer." It's another thing entirely to say "Sorry, no dirty (slur) allowed."
posted by corb at 9:12 AM on October 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


These people sound like Perot supporters, like Buchanan supporters, like Wallace supporters.

The Return Of The Middle American Radical. The GOP abandoned the distinctly anti-establishment ethno-religious grouping (whose ideology of rugged individualism &racial ressentiment prevents them from taking group action) that prefaces the Tea Partiers of today.

If you go hunting for more, watch out for John Derbyshire and the dark enlightenment folx.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:12 AM on October 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


only positive for a select few

Guess the immigrants don't count.
Guess the Chinese, etc. don't count.

Global income inequality is on the decrease. Hooray!
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:13 AM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


The man of twists and turns is like a genie. Anytime anyone asks an open ended question, he (?) materializes with relevant links.
posted by wittgenstein at 9:14 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I just wish people could find it in their hearts to oppose immigration without being racist about it. It's like if you have an awesome party at your house with dancing and music and your neighbors knock on the door and ask if they can come in. It's one thing to say "Sorry, the house is already crowded/ I'm afraid we're going to run out of beer." It's another thing entirely to say "Sorry, no dirty (slur) allowed."

I think the less inane analogy is that you planned for the party to run out of beer so you could cut your costs while charging more for tickets, pointed to your caterer, and said, "That guy drank all of the beer - throw him out of the party!" so that you don't have to pay him either. That's still an inane analogy, but less so.
posted by codacorolla at 9:14 AM on October 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


First-class citizenship in the United States = anyone who either is personally a lawyer or is rich enough to keep one on retainer. Everyone else, upon getting noticed by the system for literally any reason at all, basically gets to spin the wheel and see where it lands to find out exactly how fucked they are.

Being white, male, etc. absolutely improves your odds on that spin by a bit, but the biggest single factor is having a lawyer on-demand without being financially impacted by usage thereof. Growing up lower-middle-class slowly transitioning to upper-middle-class, all 35 years of my life I have never spoken to a lawyer nor have any idea, at all, how one would go about "getting a lawyer" if needed. This is also true of roughly half my friends, the majority of my past and present co-workers, and nearly every person I've dated.
posted by Ryvar at 9:22 AM on October 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


The American Dream only ever existed for white men. Outside that I'm not really sure there's a dream we can reasonably discuss as having been "lost".
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:39 AM on October 14, 2015 [27 favorites]


I read Sanders' position on immigration before asking my not-rhetorical where-is-the-candidate question: it's run-of-the-mill establishment Republican comprehensive reform, Dream Act, no fence, etc. etc. He could have just said status quo; his only counter to it is the incredibly round-about suggestion of doubling the federal minimum wage. If they ONLY came here for a job, that'd make sense (there'd be fewer jobs available except in the underground economy). But whole families come here because literally everything here is perceived as better than it is back home.

So I just wonder: why keep importing hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers into the country? This is a widely popular question being asked by many, many not-racists and yet no candidate wants to tackle it other than in the most indirect or insane ways.
posted by resurrexit at 9:39 AM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


And as far as "the American whatever" as a hope for all people to admire and aspire to, well, I don't know if that's really anything beyond pure fiction.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:41 AM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


why keep importing hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers into the country?

Why do you automatically assume that all illegal immigrants are unskilled laborers that are a drain on society. No non-racist makes that assumption.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:43 AM on October 14, 2015 [61 favorites]


Guess the immigrants don't count.
Guess the Chinese, etc. don't count.

Global income inequality is on the decrease. Hooray!


It is difficult to find solace that, 10,000 miles way, Zhang Wei is doing better this year when you are worrying how you are going to make rent this month.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:43 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


So I just wonder: why keep importing hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers into the country?

America is not fucked because of people trying to get into it, skilled or otherwise.
posted by colie at 9:46 AM on October 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


So I just wonder: why keep importing hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers into the country? This is a widely popular question being asked by many, many not-racists and yet no candidate wants to tackle it other than in the most indirect or insane ways.

Why let hundreds of thousands of women work outside the home? Why let hundreds of thousands black people take the same jobs as anyone else?

Trump and Sanders are fucked up the same way here. It scares me how easily the left is prone to adopting the same kind of bullshit.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:49 AM on October 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


I just wish people could find it in their hearts to oppose immigration without being racist about it.

I think there's a not insignificant number of people who fall into this category. The problem you have is people who insist that people who oppose open borders are racist, automatically, like below:

Why do you automatically assume that all illegal immigrants are unskilled laborers that are a drain on society. No non-racist makes that assumption.

Maybe because they heard a majority of illegal immigrants work in low-skill jobs and are not the best with logic and it doesn't occur to them that an illegal immigrant with skills could only land a low-skill job because of their status? Nope, they must be racist.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:50 AM on October 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


his only counter to it is the incredibly round-about suggestion of doubling the federal minimum wage. If they ONLY came here for a job, that'd make sense (there'd be fewer jobs available except in the underground economy).

It sounds like you're suggesting that increasing the minimum wage would reduce the number of jobs, which is weird in that we've raised the minimum wage multiple times over a long span of times and it has not, in fact, made jobs disappear. From from it: by putting more money into the hands of people who actually spend it, it promotes job creation by creating new buyers and clients for a variety of businesses, both current and yet-to-be-founded.
posted by cjelli at 9:51 AM on October 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


Fucking immigrants always sneaking in over the border to take advantage of our almost completely non-existent safety net and borderline-slavery illegal labor conditions in exchange for being profiled literally every five feet, having their children be refused birth certificates and illegally held in jail for not being able to provide ID.

It's their fault this country is the way it was before they showed up.
posted by griphus at 9:52 AM on October 14, 2015 [73 favorites]


So I just wonder: why keep importing hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers into the country?

Has anyone who says shit like this actually bothered to look at immigration statistics?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:53 AM on October 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


In my mind, MeFites represent a pretty diverse layer of what used to be described as intelligensia so it is with that in mind that I wish to suggest (again) a book by Gabor S. Boritt: Lincoln and the Economics of the American Dream.

I hold the value of life is to improve one's conditions. Whatever is calculated to advance the condition of the honest, struggling laboring man, so far as my judgment will enable me to judge of a correct thing, I am for that thing. Lincoln, 1861.

The Guardian article deals mostly with perceptions--and I think many better informed people here might find those perceptions to be somewhat shallow and superficial. While we do live in a unique and economically challenging period, the United States has been down similar roads a number of times in its history. Hence, this article, which struck me as having undertones of "Know-Nothing-ism", reminded me of the importance of Boritt's book.

Push is coming to shove and the genuine distress that so many people are suffering is finding expression in both parties and not just along the fringes. While Trump is not Millard Fillmore, nor Sanders a Lincoln, I think that for some, it might be useful to get an in-depth treatment of the economic circumstances of antebellum United States, and especially insofar as how this period shaped Lincoln as a person and politician. Boritt's treatment is thorough and instructive. His examination of Lincoln's development, which was strongly influenced by the economic circumstances of his time, is little-known among the general populations understanding of Lincoln. The reverence for Lincoln as a "savior" of the Union overshadows the plain, honest man who spent years in the trenches as a Henry Clay-devoted, American System Whig. And yet it is precisely those years of hard work which made the man capable of navigating the crisis we know as the American Civil War.

The American Dream is not dead. It, as it has many times in the past, is taking a beating. And the dangers of corporativist fascism are real, imo. But just as real are the underpinnings of a set of solutions which can revive and restore the American Dream for the working classes. The premises for being optimistic abound, but it is up to the more informed layers of the population to act as proselytizers of those policies and laws which can and will reverse the trends of the past 40 years or so. It's an obligation we each ought to consider and perform--according to our own individual light. As such, Boritt's book can be a nice source of ammunition.

Sorry is this seems to be a derail. I think of this as another important facet worth considering for our current context.
posted by CincyBlues at 10:02 AM on October 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


[Couple comments removed, be sure to refresh before replying to avoid riding caboose on the ghost train.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:03 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Why do you automatically assume that all illegal immigrants are unskilled laborers that are a drain on society. No non-racist makes that assumption.

They didn't say they were a drain on society.

I think it's reasonable to assume that many illegal immigrants are unskilled because being in the US illegally isn't a great situation to put yourself in and many people wouldn't do it if they had a highly skilled job in their home country.

Most illegal immigrants are seeking a better life for themselves, they're not taking a pay cut to come work in the US.

If you're doing casual labour in Mexico, you will get paid more in the US doing the same work as an illegal immigrant.

If you're an engineer in Mexico, you're not going to make more money in the US as an illegal immigrant because you won't be able to work as an engineer. Even though an American engineer makes more money on average than one in Mexico.
posted by atrazine at 10:03 AM on October 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


...and many people wouldn't do it if they had a highly skilled job in their home country.

I'm not even sure how many people I've known over the years who were doctors, engineers and all sorts of highly-paid professionals in their country who ended up selling hot dogs and driving cabs in the US.
posted by griphus at 10:08 AM on October 14, 2015 [40 favorites]


It is difficult to find solace that, 10,000 miles way, Zhang Wei is doing better this year
...but still making a fraction of the income needed to survive in an American city.

In the long term, it's not the immigrants or the 'people who didn't use to be in the workforce' or even foreign workforces, it's the machines. And when more than half the current jobs are automated, with a tiny fraction of that number created by new technology, we have to deal with a ever-growing surplus of labor - skilled, unskilled, whatever. But the 4-hour workday and retire-at-40 future isn't happening because you still need to work to live because any mechanism to pay you for NOT working (like pensions or Social Security) is ultimately going to reach a tipping point of actuarial impracticality (if they haven't already). Not to mention the ever-worsening social stigma of the Idle-Not-Rich (THANK you Bill Clinton for 'ending welfare as we know it'). What we need to reward is absolutely NOT 'job creation' but 'making jobs unnecessary', creating lifestyle improvements that don't cost money (and are NOT 'selling the customer based') and our system provides no rewards for that and likely never will.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:10 AM on October 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Mexico's mostly-indigenous smallhold farmers were devastated by NAFTA when subsidized US agricultural products were allowed to drive them off their land and often to the US in search of work. Those make up a lot of the economic migrants. Lots of other people fled—and continue to flee—the drug gangs and right-wing paramilitaries that are a direct result of the War on Drugs and School of the Americas.

I guess that's what happens when you treat the entire hemisphere as your own domain to immiserate and brutalize. The people who live in those places want to escape.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:14 AM on October 14, 2015 [21 favorites]


Exactly. Why does everyone think that all immigrants leave their home countries by choice? It's the same shitty mentality that makes people angry when they see Syrian refugees charging their cellphones.

but no, it's brown people STEALIN OUR JERBS
posted by poffin boffin at 10:18 AM on October 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


why keep importing hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers into the country?
  1. They're not all, or even mostly, unskilled. Possession of "valuable skills" (whatever that means this week) doesn't actually confer much advantage on one's immigration status. The only way you can guarantee your ticket being punched is to already have lots of money that you are willing to invest in American assets.
  2. Disregarding (1) for the moment: because massive sectors of American industry explicitly rely on undocumented immigration to function. If a 100-foot wall went up along the southern border tomorrow, the cost of eating out, buying produce, and having your lawn mowed (among dozens of others I'm too exhausted to even enumerate again) would immediately increase so much as to become out of reach for a broad swath of the middle class that could previously afford them. While that is probably for the best long-term, it would create massive, society-shaking chaos.
posted by Mayor West at 10:25 AM on October 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Mexico's mostly-indigenous smallhold farmers were devastated by NAFTA when subsidized US agricultural products were allowed to drive them off their land and often to the US in search of work. Those make up a lot of the economic migrants. Lots of other people fled—and continue to flee—the drug gangs and right-wing paramilitaries that are a direct result of the War on Drugs and School of the Americas.

Yep, I'm opposed to all that (and wondering where the national candidate is who agrees with me). (Though I quibble with the implication that the US is solely responsible for Mexico and Central American nations being borderline failed states.) People have a right to be able to live in their own, non-fucked up country rather than having to flee elsewhere.
posted by resurrexit at 10:32 AM on October 14, 2015


Proponents of more humane/progressive/logical immigration reform would do a lot better to recognize that "brown people STERLIN OUR JERBS" is not solely about racism but also about the fact that the grim reality for the lower income brackets of all races is that resources (schooling, health care, housing, and yes, even shit jobs) are in fact a zero sum game for the most desperate.

A very kindhearted, religious man I know was a vocal opponent of a proposal to turn an abandoned school here into a sort of dormitory for unaccompanied minors, back when that was still urgently in the news in the US. It wasn't solely because he was a troglodyte with a hardened heart towards children and "brown people": he had only recently recovered from a long bout of hardcore homelessness after losing a very blue collar job, and he was upset that there had been no political will to do the same kind of conversion/resource allocation to convert this facility to house the hundreds of unsheltered homeless residents already in town (indeed, the homelessness situation here is even more severe and urgent this year, and there's been no similar move even though even the police here will tell you their caseload would be significantly reduced if the city would just open up one more shelter in the wintertime). If you want progress, you need to simultaneously work towards eliminating feelings of scarcity that can very easily be used to fuel cynically racist scaremongering by the Trumps et al, instead of painting opponents with a broad and contemptuous brush.
posted by blue suede stockings at 10:33 AM on October 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


The American dream is over because it was founded on western expansion, which is no longer possible. This means that Americans (and Canadians) must turn around and face the world instead of running from it. The first thing they’ll have to face up to is socialism. The next thing is nationalism. Tied to both of those is immigration and foreign policy. And to these are attached intellectual/spiritual history and social science. And then there is the question of race and its relationship to theories of biology. That’s a lot of work.
posted by No Robots at 10:38 AM on October 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


resources (schooling, health care, housing, and yes, even shit jobs) are in fact a zero sum game for the most desperate.

Apart from the job, most immigrants consume less of all that stuff than they contribute in taxes and economic stimulus to fund it. Usual profile is young men, no need of healthcare, no kids, living in houses of multiple occupation...
posted by colie at 10:47 AM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


resources (schooling, health care, housing, and yes, even shit jobs) are in fact a zero sum game for the most desperate.

Apart from the job, most immigrants consume less of all that stuff than they contribute in taxes and economic stimulus to fund it. Usual profile is young men, no need of healthcare, no kids, living in houses of multiple occupation...


Yeah thanks I'm well aware of this. You missed the part where I was talking about how and why people feel this way, and why it has to be addressed for change to happen at the voting booth (where perception is reality), instead of speaking myself as one of the folks convinced that immigrants were trying to wrest away my crust of bread while the people sitting at the banquet three times a day are judging and scolding me as an ignorant racist for not sharing.
posted by blue suede stockings at 10:49 AM on October 14, 2015


Immigration is absolutely a scapegoat. The middle class is being attacked from above, not from below. The jobs that unskilled immigrants take are also the jobs that they create. Basically all economists agree that immigrants are a long term benefit (and data backs this up), and most also believe that there is no or very little short term cost to the job market (and data backs this up). That is, that they do not take jobs at a faster rate than they create them.

As far as I can tell, the best argument that can be made against immigration is that for a very small minority of people at the very bottom of the economic ladder, there might (in theory, though we don't have data that shows this) be a short term disadvantage, though for the vast majority of people, and for everyone over the longer term, it will be a benefit.

It seems to me that there are much better ways to help support the people who are most vulnerable than by spending vast amounts of money to stop something that actually improves the economy for everyone.

Does this mean someone who expresses anti-immigration sentiment is a racist? Well, probably, to be honest. It is in fact racist to prefer to blame people who look different from you. But they are probably no more racist than the background of our culture, and none of us can escape that. It's also probably not very effective to engage them with "you're being racist" as an argument.
posted by Nothing at 10:55 AM on October 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


Immigrants don't show up in the US randomly. Frequently they are particularly targeted from certain towns in Latin American countries for certain locations and jobs in the US. They aren't undocumented because they can't get in otherwise, although quotas are against them. They're undocumented because it is to the advantage of the people who arrange for them to get here. (Read David Bacon's excellent book Illegal People for a good picture of this process.) Nobody is stealing jobs; employers are working around immigration, wage and labor laws.

This is a mind-virus that has gotten around despite the plain fact that no one goes to find a job and gets beaten to them by undocumented immigrants. (Of course it's racism that takes it home.) It's idiotic to look at immigration as one of the main problems in the growing divide between haves and have-nots. Immigrants spend most of their money, making them net contributors to the economy, while the people who employ them – the people getting richer every day – don't.. We'd be better off opening the borders, which would at least remove the stigma that allows employers to pay undocumented immigrants poverty wages and keep them in check through fear of deportation. But people don't think like workers in the US, that's the whole problem. They think like "temporarily dispossessed millionaires."

Donald Trump is like a magician, getting people to look at other people as the source of inequality when in reality the problem is people exactly like him.
posted by graymouser at 10:57 AM on October 14, 2015 [44 favorites]


It's also probably not very effective to engage them with "you're being racist" as an argument.

But you have to engage with 'you are wrong' as an argument. As soon as you go down the road of allowing people the room of 'just having a conversation about immigration, is that so taboo, of course I'm not racist' then there is nowhere to go but dividing people and denying the far more important facts about immigration than those that fit with the way the poor and often ignorant people at the bottom of society may feel.
posted by colie at 11:06 AM on October 14, 2015


Sorry, the house is already crowded

The United States is a massive country in terms of livable land area.

I'm afraid we're going to run out of beer.

The United States economy is the world's largest, yet taxes relative to the size of the economy are tiny compared to other developed economies.

I just wish people could find it in their hearts to oppose immigration without being racist about it.

Right, it's just coincidental that we didn't think much about our beer supply until the people showing up were mostly a different color.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:06 AM on October 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


in conclusion
posted by poffin boffin at 11:11 AM on October 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


Basically all economists agree that immigrants are a long term benefit (and data backs this up), and most also believe that there is no or very little short term cost to the job market (and data backs this up). That is, that they do not take jobs at a faster rate than they create them.

The problem is not that illegal immigrants (or even legal immigrants) are taking "our" jobs. The problem is that a big chunk of people feel that illegal immigrants (or even legal immigrants) are taking "our" jobs. They feel this, not think it. Or they, with faith because it's not supported by reason, believe it.

So how to change people's feelings or beliefs?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:31 AM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


So how to change people's feelings or beliefs?

Clearly the answer is to call them racists, and by implication, bad people.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:34 AM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


> So how to change people's feelings or beliefs?

> Clearly the answer is to call them racists, and by implication, bad people.

Or avoid the personal attacks (that may be true, but are also very unlikely to change anyone's mind), and stop allowing people to repeat the rhetoric in news coverage without rebuttals from the newscasters. This is true for lots of personal views that are stated as fact, which newscaster respond to with a thoughtful nod or some non-comment.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:36 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


high volumes of illegal immigrants are totally inimical to the continued employment of the working-class people that already live in this country.

PRETTTTTY sure that this has been debunked/isn't true. Like maybe it's a position, but I'm pretty sure it's not an accurate one.
posted by listen, lady at 11:39 AM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I'm reading everything right, and correct me if I'm wrong, the American Dream should be to turn yourself into a multi-use cyborg.
posted by numaner at 11:45 AM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Clearly the answer is to call them racists

Why not? Racism is everywhere and yet hardly anyone says 'yeah I'm a racist' except a few Klan lunatics.
posted by colie at 11:48 AM on October 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Let's start with this piece. The post includes the racist non-sequitur, pulled from the article. Here's increased context:
My first conversation was with a mechanic in Utica, a small New York town that once had factories, but now only boasts of a river hand-stocked with fish.

“What do I think is the American dream? There is no dream for anyone who isn’t a lawyer or banker,” he said. “Everyone else, we are getting a raw deal. Immigrants taking all our jobs. Only jobs we get is keeping the rich happy: we release fish downstream for work, they catch them upstream for fun.”

The answers continued to spin negative for weeks – 200 local variations on a national theme of disappointment. These opinions were voiced far from Washington and New York, in towns stripped of high-paying manufacturing jobs and, from the timbre of the answers, also stripped of hope.
Emphasis mine.

It doesn't look like Chris Arnade, the author of this piece, really had "conversations," but gathered quotes for reporting. It makes for an interesting piece, but it doesn't push the narrative away from the negative spin. Reporting quotes with mis-information is just as biased (but the other direction) as telling someone the facts to correct their statement, and publishing those facts in your article.

Immigrants aren't to blame. Those towns weren't "stripped of high-paying manufacturing jobs" because immigrants came in and did the job for less, they were outsourced. The cost of foreign labor and the cost of transportation of raw and finished goods didn't match the cost of making something within the US (though there are many expenses that may be overlooked when offshoring a production job), it's not because illegal immigrants into the US, FFS.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:50 AM on October 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


> Clearly the answer is to call them racists

> Why not? Racism is everywhere and yet hardly anyone says 'yeah I'm a racist' except a few Klan lunatics.

Because this could shift the meaning of "racist," or end up splitting hairs and not change anyone's mind (but could end up in a fist fight). "I'm not racist, I'm just against illegal immigrants taking our jobs. There are methods for people to legally enter the country."
posted by filthy light thief at 11:52 AM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


In mainstream debate even the act of rationally debunking racist attitudes is now derided as 'calling' someone a racist.
posted by colie at 11:56 AM on October 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


So how to change people's feelings or beliefs?

Offer them something else so they don't go off and become a shitty racist. Something real, not tickle down triangulated bullshit.
posted by Artw at 12:00 PM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Immigrants who will work for less here, will work for way, way less in their home countries. Thus outsourcing.

More workers make for downward pressure on wages. Period. If there's free trade, it doesn't matter where they are - businesses are able to build their factories anywhere. But if people allowed to move where there are better wages and better labor protections, that reduces the downward pressure on wages.

That's why all these rich folks are in favor of free movement of capital and not of labor - it distorts the market in their favor.
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:01 PM on October 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


I have been wrestling (albeit not consistently or carefully enough) with the logic of trade agreements as free as the ones we have. What use is it to artificially bump up a GDP with capital flow when it destroys local employment and purchasing power? It doesn't make sense, on the face of it. Some argue that even Adam Smith recognized the importance of prioritizing domestic trade and industry, and that the other stuff took national boundaries as a bottom-line assumption.

As far as the flow of people, I think overwhelming a local, insecurely or barely or non-employed population with an influx of immigrants also seeking employment, without enough infrastructural support, is almost guaranteed to evoke the worst in the domestic population. Everyone should be allowed in; where and how they settle is something that might be managed with more care. (E.g. my parents benefited from immigration policies that directed their movement to a place where their skills were needed. That place was cold AF and not anywhere anyone would really want to be, given a choice, but they could move somewhere less cold after serving a certain amount of time. It wasn't awful for them there, either. (Weird for me, but whatevs, it was infinitely better than some of the other possibilities.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:05 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


the American Dream should be to turn yourself into a multi-use cyborg

Excuse me but the appropriate term is Robotic-American
posted by poffin boffin at 12:06 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Offer them something else so they don't go off and become a shitty racist. Something real, not tickle down triangulated bullshit.

Sure, but then you have to deal with the fact that the majority of the racists are voting for the trickle down bullshit, and deride whatever real solution you propose as a handout. So you also have to sell them on the value of something other than low-tax dog-eat-dog capitalism run amok, which is what a ton of low-wage struggling people say they want.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:14 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


the American Dream should be to turn yourself into a multi-use c****g

Excuse me but the appropriate term is Robotic-American


My mistake, I jumped the gun, I forgot that I have to wait until I turn into a Robotic-American to be able to use the c-word.
posted by numaner at 12:17 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


So how to change people's feelings or beliefs?

Create movements. Get people acting as members of the working class, instead of as atomized and victimized individuals, and they'll start thinking that way. Solidarity is the strongest and surest way to get rid of racism.
posted by graymouser at 12:22 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Global income inequality is on the decrease. Hooray!

Yes, we are well on the way to "what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity". Hooray.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:26 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Union" has successfully been turned into a dirty word in most places these days, I dunno. Recognizing common class interests does violence to the idea of meritocracy, an ideology whose importance seems to rise in inverse relation to people's sense of security via complicated defense mechanisms (+ propaganda etc).

I think the answer is to engage with the "jobs" discourse and encourage people to press governments to reconfig those trade agreements and make some jobs at home, in the first instance. Then unions (or unions 2.0). Then less hate.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:28 PM on October 14, 2015


More workers make for downward pressure on wages. Period.

Yes and no. Immigrants are both workers and consumers. More consumers means more demand for workers, which is an upward pressure on wages.

Which is, I understand, essentially what you continued on to say with the comment about free movement of capital versus labor. But even so, that opening line is an oft-repeated and pretty well debunked argument called the "lump of labor fallacy" and I would prefer not to see it pass unchallenged.
posted by Nothing at 12:39 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Or maybe people could just pay the taxes they owe for the upkeep of society.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 12:40 PM on October 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


aside: how do you the subtitled text like Johann just did?
posted by numaner at 12:48 PM on October 14, 2015


<abbr title="corporations are people, my friend">people</abbr>
posted by Ryvar at 12:54 PM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Corb wrote:I just wish people could find it in their hearts to oppose immigration without being racist about it. It's like if you have an awesome party at your house with dancing and music and your neighbors knock on the door and ask if they can come in. It's one thing to say "Sorry, the house is already crowded/ I'm afraid we're going to run out of beer." It's another thing entirely to say "Sorry, no dirty (slur) allowed.""

Actually, it IS exactly the same thing, just prettied up, lipstick on a pig. The USA is not about to run out of anything due to immigration. It is the people at the top, the one percent or whatever percentage that is, sucking everything up for themselves. Anti-immigration was always about racism or at least about prejudice, starting with "protecting" Real America from the Irish, the Jews, the Italians, Eastern Europeans, Asians, today, Mexicans and other Hispanics. Racism, fear and demonization of the Other, protecting national or racial purity is what anti-immigration is about all about. Can't have one without the other, they are wedded together in an unholy and uncharitable mix.
posted by mermayd at 1:25 PM on October 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


What, exactly, is The American Dream that no longer exists? How can I figure out if it exists or not if I am not sure what you mean by that phrase?
posted by Postroad at 1:32 PM on October 14, 2015


"...America went off the track somewhere - back around the time of the Civil War, or pretty soon afterwards. Instead of going ahead and developing along the line in which the country started out, it got shunted off in another direction - and now we look around and see we’ve gone places we didn’t mean to go. Suddenly we realize that America has turned into something ugly—and vicious—and corroded at the heart of its power with easy wealth and graft and special privilege…. And the worst of it is the intellectual dishonesty which all this corruption has bred. People are afraid to think straight—afraid to face themselves—afraid to look at things and see them as they are.

We’ve become a nation of advertising men, all hiding behind catch phrases like ‘prosperity,’ and ‘the American way.’ And the real things like freedom, and equal opportunity, and the integrity and worth of the individual—things that have belonged to the American dream since the beginning—they have become just words too. The substance has gone out of them—they’re not real anymore..." -Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
This was written in the late 1930s. Pick up The Grapes of Wrath and it will ring very similar to the atmosphere that surrounded the recession and today. The American Dream is a deceptive and elusive creature, one which I think continues to be subtly redefined every so many generations to meet the needs of society. The last time we needed a redefinition we were 'fortunate' enough to have a global catastrophe which launched an entire decade where a victorious America, free of the devastation and ruin that was rained down upon the rest of the world, primed with an economy designed to produce for war, but now for commerce, made an American Dream accessible. Everything that made that last dream achievable, so to speak, has fallen away, similarly to how everyone in the 1930s suddenly saw the easier access of the two decades prior to the Great Depression disappear.

The biggest barrier are those who wield the economic reins. Big Business has had the fortune to pursue strategies for the last twenty years which have resulted in unyielding economic benefits, while quietly undermining and destroying certain capabilities of the American economy to offer opportunities for those on the lowest rungs. They essentially have removed the rungs between them and the bottom of the ladder and point to the frames of the ladder, which frame the void between the top and the bottom, as being sufficient to support everyone - especially those who have wherewithal to climb a ladder without rungs, who can pull themselves up on their own. The problem is that the strategy to profits is one built on finite resources, human and raw, that are finite as the spread of globalization reaches every town and village on every inhabited continent. They will trek across the globe chasing these easy profits and when their journey ends here, back in North America, they will suddenly find that they allowed to atrophy the very thing that sustains them.

Now in this generational rift, or better put, two generational rift, where our society is completing the upending of what was the cultural norm a half a century ago, there's a sizable minority which have found themselves the victims of this economic development, and in a fury that should so definitely be directed at those who are truly responsible, are much more easily guided to point to those don't speak the same language with the ease of nativity or have the same tone of skin color. They've been beautifully tricked into complaining that immigrants are the source of their problems, when those same brave individuals are the ones who seek jobs that the complainers would never consider to take themselves until forced to the utmost to do so. They live in a world that is leaving them behind, where their opinions and beliefs, flag draped or facebook shared, are no longer the acceptable fair of mainstream America, and onto the other and strange they place their fears and fury. It's an old song.
posted by Atreides at 1:55 PM on October 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


Funny, I thought the American Dream was to ride around on a Harley having adventures, until you get shot by a redneck sheriff.

Angry, could someone explain what all the great jobs are, that illegal immigrants are talking from the working class? Picking strawberries maybe? Cleaning houses? What?
posted by happyroach at 2:04 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not a difficult concept. Desperate people who are willing to work for less and are vulnerable to exploitation such as threats of deportation drive wages down. No, Americans don't want to pick lettuce or mow lawns at $2 an hour or whatever the current pittance is, but they might be willing to do it at a living wage, which farmers might be forced to pay if they didn't have a large pool of people willing to work for less. The interesting question is: Could our way of life survive without an underclass to exploit? (First the slaves, then the Oakies, and now the illegal immigrants) I'm guessing not. How do you feel about enjoying cheap produce thanks to the exploitation of illegal immigrants?
posted by entropicamericana at 2:53 PM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


the American Dream should be to turn yourself into a multi-use c****g

Excuse me but the appropriate term is Robotic-American

My mistake, I jumped the gun, I forgot that I have to wait until I turn into a Robotic-American to be able to use the c-word.


I'm a little disappointed that in 2015 I still need to call people out for Bionic Erasure.
posted by MrBadExample at 3:17 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


The effects of immigration may be felt differently by middle and upper class consumers and the less-skilled workers that compete with immigrants for jobs in a loose labor market. According to Harvard economist George Borjas:

My Harvard colleague Lawrence Katz and I recently examined the impact of the 1980-2000 immigrant influx (and particularly Mexican-origin immigration) for U.S. wages. The results are that, in the short run -- holding all other things equal -- immigration lowered the wage of native workers, particularly of those workers with the least education. The wage fell by 3% for the average worker and by 8% for high school dropouts.
The "all other things equal" assumption is not sensible from a long-run perspective. Over time, employers will certainly make capital investments to take advantage of the cheaper labor. This adjustment implies that, in the long run, the average worker is not affected by immigration, but the wage of high school dropouts still fell by 5%....This does not imply that immigration is a net loss for the economy. After all, the wage losses suffered by workers show up as higher profits to employers and, eventually, as lower prices to consumers. Immigration policy is just another redistribution program. In the short run, it transfers wealth from one group (workers) to another (employers). Whether or not such transfers are desirable is one of the central questions in the immigration debate.


It would be an understatement to say that there is still a lively debate on this topic, but it is certainly untrue that this position has been debunked.
posted by Svejk at 3:48 PM on October 14, 2015


wage losses suffered by workers show up as higher profits to employers and, eventually, as lower prices to consumers

Chortle, snort. Ah, Harvard, don't you go changin'.
posted by No Robots at 3:52 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


What, exactly, is The American Dream that no longer exists?

I think it's the notion that anyone* can prosper through hard work and strong character because America is golden land of opportunity.

* Some restrictions apply
posted by aubilenon at 4:21 PM on October 14, 2015


I love that the two loudest voices in the economic debate are both immigrants. The economist who trumpets the damage to the native populations is an immigrant from Cuba. The economist regularly rebutting those findings is an immigrant from Canada.

For anyone interested, here's David Card's rebuttal to that Borges study.
posted by politikitty at 5:20 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Manifest destiny! Shining city on a hill!
posted by Artw at 5:23 PM on October 14, 2015


In completely unrelated news: Information leakage shows DEA blew millions on the secret phone trackers it won't admit it bought.

Because: Stuffing Your Dream Into the Right Pockets Since 1980.

And "we'll just kind of stand here and keep an eye on ya until Deputy Dan gets here."
posted by Twang at 6:14 PM on October 14, 2015


I've been working on a blog post about the American Dream for a very, very long time. The draft might as well be posted here.

I think I am a working example of the American Dream actually being reachable. But I'm afraid the dream is much harder to achieve, for reasons not popularly branded about.

My mom was a single mother who was disabled with an illness. We grew up living off of Social Security checks, moving place to place whenever her illness got the better of her. She grew up in an orphanage that her parents put her into during the Great Depression. When one of her boyfriends thru me out at 16, I ended up living in a squat and for a time was homeless. Landing a stable job at Sears enabled me to find an opportunity where I taught myself computer programming and built a career in software engineering. It has given me some of the tools to build a middle class lifestyle, with some basic measures of security for my daughter. I hope that she can go to college one day. I may one day finish it by the time I’m 50. We’ll see.

People look at my story and mistake it as a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ story. It’s not. If we did not have decent support when I was young, we certainly wouldn’t be here. If I didn’t land that stable job at Sears and have mentors help me grow, I would not be here. If it wasn’t for a sixth grade teacher believing in me and helping me to believe in myself, I would not be here. If I didn’t meet my wife at a crossroads in my early life, I would not be here. I can go on. I feel blessed to have the life we have.

John Adams defined the American dream when he said "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."

I’ve gotten to the place I believe I've climbed to a level of success that can provide a platform for my daughter to to study poetry and art, if she so chooses. I hope.

But I fear the social contract I grew up in no longer exists. Maybe it never did and I was just lucky.

To be truly middle class is to have time you can use to invest, and to grow. To have the permission to fail and learn from failure. To have available those with experience who can mentor and champion you.

The higher up the class hierarchy you go, the greater that foundation is.

But the middle class is increasingly being squeezed. What does that really mean?

It means needing to put more time into work in order to end up at the same place, since work is ever more competitive, pay has stagnated, and we work in a global marketplace now. It means that there is no price a company pays for laying off employees, replacing them with software or someone on the other side of the globe.

It means needing to take time to navigate increasingly complex schooling choices that leave those who are information rich and time wealthy at a massive advantage over those who are not. Every neighborhood should have a quality school. Period.

It means needing to take the time to choose wise retirement strategies. Pensions.. what are they?

It means paying attention to where your food and medication comes from, because where something like a Tylenol recall would be broadcast far and wide before, these things happen more and more, and information-you-must-know doesn’t flow to us as reliably. That is of course, unless we have a strong, information rich social network.

It means everyone shouting in the media in order to get and hold our attention (did politicians always talk so loudly?), and needing to filter out the bullshit since we don’t have reliable filters that work any longer. Who do you trust in the media? Are there any Walter Cronkite's out there any more?

The social contract stitched together by government, by employment, by community, increasingly is frayed for the many, while still existing quite well for the few.

Meanwhile those in the middle class, white, black, people of all races and creeds, are encouraged to look at each other as threats. As risks. And we actually are as we grow more tribal, partially as a defense mechanism against a world ever more connected.

We actually do have the technology to challenge these trends. We have an awareness available to us through the Web and through online community that could be a tool for greater empathy, greater real connection. We could demand greater representation in Congress by our representatives. We can open our door to our neighbors and not look at them as competitors, but as… neighbors.

We’d need to stop thinking of immigrants as a threat. We’d need to stop pointing the finger at each other, thinking that they are getting what is rightfully ours and that the pie only has so many slices to go around. For the American Dream to work for one person, someone else doesn't need to lose. This does not need to be a zero sum game. It's not. We’d need to think about our civic systems, and instead of wanting to tear them down, think about how we can evolve them to handle a world that has changed, so that it helps us lift ourselves up where we can, and enables us to live with dignity where we can’t.

This was ranty. Apologies.
posted by kmartino at 6:23 PM on October 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't think people are stupid. It's clear to anyone that jobs in the manufacturing industry, for example, are going (when they haven't gone), to other people in other countries, and that groups of other people are undercutting the cost of local labour, which of course cheapens its value, when that value and those workers aren't protected by law, and when global competition runs unchecked. It is a zero-sum game, under the current arrangement. Displaced factory workers aren't comparing themselves against the top 2%, they don't want to overturn the social order - they just want to be able to buy a house (or make rent), and someone else is doing that, somewhere else. Contract and temp workers in pink and white collar industries are competing, against each other, and against global contenders and ringers brought in from abroad. The social contract is an imagined artifact of the nation-state, and that's been superseded by non-national/inter-national entities and agreements. (And of course you need the nation-state to mean something in order for labour laws to have any power at all.)

Yes, of course, people should be nicer to immigrants (I say as the daughter of immigrants). But it's going to take more than sentimental appeals. Bring people in, but lock the money down. Let people work. Let people have homes. Much easier to be neighbourly, in that case.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:32 PM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The social contract I spoke of isn't an imagined artifact of the nation-state, while the nation-state did play a role.

The social contract I brought up was built and fought for over the course of many years, by many people. Sometimes with blood. It was and is anything but imaginary. Everything from the 40 hour work week, to the elimination of child labor, to the establishment of a minimum wage, to the funding of public schooling took advocacy to create and to improve upon.

The social contract you are referring to, if I understand correctly, (the one that has been superseded by non-national/inter-national entities and agreements) isn't the social contract, but an emergent, international flow of power and wealth enabled by technology and the leveraging of information on a scale before never possible. Local governance hasn't caught up to it yet. And instead of facing that together we see each other's tribe is a potential threat, instead of dealing with how the world has changed.

I'm not sure how you know what displaced factory workers desire, but I do know that just getting by isn't enough for most people I personally know. It's the baseline of what is acceptable. The baseline. That's not 'American Dream'. That's survival.

So I'm going to do the same thing as you and imagine what a whole group of people want: I imagine they want their work to be able to lead to something better. To know that if they put in time and effort into a job, they will be rewarded.

It doesn't take overturning the social order for that to take place, since our culture already celebrates these things and shouts of their importance, and just a few years ago, the *idea* of mass layoffs for a corporation was anathema.

I don't think I'm being sentimental in thinking that some empathy can go a long way. Anything but in fact.

What do you mean by lock the money down?
posted by kmartino at 8:43 PM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, I personally know people who are ten years into mid-level (decently paid) careers in creative industries who would be absolutely thrilled to be able to buy a home, and guess what, a lot of them can't meet that baseline, at least in the real estate bubble in which I live (where they must stay to work). I'm pretty confident that many more people with less behind and in front of them would love the same, because wanting to have secure shelter is pretty common. Home ownership happens to be out of reach for a lot of people these days, in lots of places. That's how dead that dream is. (Also, we probably know different people.)

We're talking at cross-purposes, I think; the social contract I was in fact talking about (which is an imagined thing, what else can it be) was the one between a country's government and its people (and between the people themselves). That's what's been replaced by multinational corporate entities and agreements etc. I don't think local governments can catch up to that.

I'm all for empathy, but it's not enough, I almost think it's insulting to ask people to be empathetic when their opportunities, their access to material resources, have been so severely limited by the new world order. It's not realistic, in any case.

By "lock the money down" I mean reintroduce tariffs, invest in domestic industries, reintroduce regulations on capital flow. Slow it all down and let some things grow.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:04 PM on October 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's to say, I think the empathy has to come from a top-down place, through policies, and a reassertion of the value of nation-states, and that social contract.

I myself very much value empathy, and diversity, and I support economic migration. (I'd have a hard time justifying my own history if I didn't.) But I think it's almost blaming the victim, in a way, to ask individuals to do what governments won't.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:29 PM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's almost like the Westphalian system is being rendered obsolete by the container ship, the airplane, and the Internet...

Here, let some immigrants sing you an educational song about countries.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:31 PM on October 14, 2015


BTW, Chris Arnade previously, including an appearance by the man himself. Arnade's recent photo-essay on The American Dream.
posted by gingerest at 10:55 PM on October 14, 2015


I think we are talking at cross purposes cotton dress sock. Reading more I think I agree with a lot of what you are saying, though not all.

It's true we're talking about different groups of people. I tend to walk in three spheres of class, with some overlap:

1. I am close to family that is not too dissimilar to family I came from. Disabled, in need of governmental assistance to get by day by day, and trying to do the best they can do for their children to live independently one day. For them, for one of their children to enter the working class and be able to afford rent, and have a reliable job, would be fulfillment of the dream.

2. Working class families who have not gone to college, they started work right out of school, and are truck drivers, and nurses aides. Who buy homes that are reasonably priced, and want their children to have more options, since theirs are locked down, similar to the first group, just making it by. These folks may be able to take a vacation down the shore every couple years. Maybe. But otherwise, its work, work, work and hopefully it pays off for their children, and they don't get laid off, or a turn in the economy or a hospital bill doesn't lead them to a situation similar to the first group.

3. Middle class families I work with who have gone to college, they have college bills, they work in creative fields, or they are tradesmen, nurses, teachers, EMTs, firemen, policemen, or work as civil servants. Some of us have bought houses we can't afford, most of us haven't. Some of us rent out of the belief that home buying is a trap. And we are always on the look out for opportunities to grow, and opportunities for our children to grow, and if we have the time and resources, we take them. And we take vacation every year. That is unless they are entrepreneurs, who many fall in this group, and they.. well they don't take vacation. The American Dream for all of these folks is social and economic mobility in the here and now, not only their children.

I agree, we we do need to ask more of our governments. That takes individuals being involved in them and not continuing to fall into the trap of thinking them separate from us, but born from us, and built by us. I'm for a lot more civic participation. And hopefully that results in laws that enable us to have more time to invest, and have less risks to navigate on a day by day basis, so that fighting for that next rung not only seems possible, but is possible.

There is a lot of data pointing to America being less socially mobile than we all think it is and to right the dream will take a lot of work:

- http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/07/america-social-mobility-parents-income/399311/

Nice photo essay gingerest.
posted by kmartino at 4:18 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


So much of what I said is irrelevant if you are squeezed for time by dealing with risks that are above and beyond what should *ever* be the case, for example not trusting law to ever work in your favor, needing to negotiate a safe path to school on a day to day basis. A lot of my perspective, even given my background, is flavored by my race. I never had to deal with the fear that policemen would be unfair to me for any reason. I can't count how many tickets I've gotten out of over the years simply by being friendly and honest with a police officer that I messed up and did not see the stop sign or the speed limit posting.

Speaking of unfair legal systems, I live in PA, the state that just put away a judge for jailing children of all races, but low economic standing, in privatized prisons, for profit.

We've been socializing risk, privatizing profit for the last 20 or so years. It doesn't need to be that way. That socialization of risk tends to make us more tribal, since there is safety there.

A lot of our discussion around the American Dream has to do with this imaginary pie that says more people in the country equals lower wages for all, since the pie is limited in size.

It is not limited in size. It is growing. And that growth has been directed away from the middle class by a legal, governmental system that can stand some fixing. It usually does in fact, and was built for incremental change to take place. But it takes a lot of work, a lot of investment, and a lot care.

I guess I am sentimental.
posted by kmartino at 5:00 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think we're not far off at all, really.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:47 PM on October 15, 2015


Back in the 80s, there was a popular joke that said PETA members protested fur because it was 'safer' to throw red paint on rich ladies in fur coats than it would have been to do so to Hell's Angels in leather jackets.

I feel like the same sort of thing happens in regards to immigration: People talk about how illegal immigrants working for poverty wages is hurting the economy. If so, then the answer is simple: shutter any business found with more than X undocumented immigrants working for them. These farms and textile plants aren't waiting for people to cross the Rio Grande on foot, they're contracting out to smugglers to bring them in by the (literal) truckload, where they're often kept in makeshift work-camps, paid shit and mired in debt to whomever brought them here.

But it's 'safer' to throw red paint on a line cook or a janitor that doesn't speak English well than it is to actually make a rich man obey the law.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:59 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


You know, I feel the same way about the identity politics that have consumed the American left; it's safer to bemoan the lack of proportional representation in popular culture than it is to confront the titanic economic disaster looming over everyone who isn't already rich.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2015


Right, because bigotry and economic inequality are totally separate concerns, and human beings are totally incapable of caring about more than one thing at a time.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:52 AM on October 18, 2015


Yeah, that's always the response, but honestly people really aren't capable of caring about more than one thing at a time, because attention and energy are extremely limited resources, and I don't see any real evidence that people are caring about more pressing (yes, to me, nothing is objective, whatever) issues at the same time. Attention and energy are being lavished on what to me seem like feel-good sideshows that more or less are only an issue for the affluent, and core issues get swept under the rug. All effects of bigotry are not the same, and some bigotries get a lot more airtime than others. It's one thing to focus on battles you can win, but when the battle you can win is who gets to go first at shuffleboard while the ship sinks underneath you, well, I can't really get that excited about it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:33 PM on October 18, 2015


I think we'll probably just end up talking past each other unless we get more specific here about what battles you think are getting outsized attention, but I would just caution you against drawing conclusions on what people are spending their effort on based on what you see people talking about online. Not only do people often divide their attention differently when in meatspace vs. online discussions, but the sample of people who have a lot of time to talk about things online is not representative of the underlying population. (I count myself as part of that distortion, of course.)
posted by tonycpsu at 2:09 PM on October 21, 2015


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