We offer them neither our empathy nor our respect
October 14, 2017 7:57 AM   Subscribe

 
"Instead of a war on poverty they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me."
posted by Talez at 8:25 AM on October 14, 2017 [15 favorites]


This is a really interesting article, but I think the money quote is:
Our primary policy focus must not merely be helping the poor or the marginalized “other,” but rather restoring them to a position in which they are needed—in which they are necessary, integral participants in in our economy, our communities, and our collective imagination.
Like, that's a really hard ask even for those who are committed to helping the poor. How do you do that? How do you gain buy-in for it? How do you envision it?

Great post, AFABulous.
posted by corb at 8:27 AM on October 14, 2017 [25 favorites]


Our primary policy focus must not merely be helping the poor or the marginalized “other,” but rather restoring them to a position in which they are needed—in which they are necessary, integral participants in in our economy, our communities, and our collective imagination.
Being one of the "necessary, integral participants in our economy" isn't exactly the model I have in mind when I articulate why I feel good about getting up in the morning and going to work. I doubt it applies to the citilab writers either.

Spending some of my time doing things that are interesting and not being treated like shit are a lot higher on my list of good reasons to go to work. But I live in an economy that absolutely depends on forcing poor people to waste their lives on thoroughly unfulfilling shit jobs that are even more degrading than living in poverty based on charity that barely keeps one alive. Until we change that, convincing the jobless to embrace exploitative and horrible work is a fool's errand.

Ennoblement through work is a lot more convincing if you aren't randomly selected to piss into a cup every few months.
posted by eotvos at 8:32 AM on October 14, 2017 [87 favorites]


corb - as we all know, Trump is a fucking garbage human, but one of the few things we agree on (shudder) is that American infrastructure needs to be improved. I'd love to see another WPA to repair crumbling infrastructure and build new things. My city has lovely parks and libraries from that era.
posted by AFABulous at 8:35 AM on October 14, 2017 [26 favorites]


posted w/o reading eotvos' comment - I agree, whatever work is created must not be exploitative. Bring unions back.
posted by AFABulous at 8:37 AM on October 14, 2017 [14 favorites]


Our primary policy focus must not merely be helping the poor or the marginalized “other,” but rather restoring them to a position in which they are needed—in which they are necessary, integral participants in in our economy, our communities, and our collective imagination.
Like, that's a really hard ask even for those who are committed to helping the poor. How do you do that? How do you gain buy-in for it? How do you envision it?


Can't be done through capitalism.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:45 AM on October 14, 2017 [37 favorites]


How do you do that? How do you gain buy-in for it? How do you envision it?

Seems like the goal is to foster empathy and relatability, and visibility. A lot changes when you spend time with people who are regularly hungry, or who live in unsafe places, or who have incarcerated family members. When you know them, it's less easy to claim that people who get EBT benefits are all like this/that, or that they don't work hard, or that there are very good reasons why you can't just get a job. Or why you might see someone with EBT benefits using an iPhone. Or the fact that people still pay rent in public housing, and that Black students don't go to college for free. There are so many damaging myths about poverty. The myths serve useful purposes: they absolve moneyed people of their guilt, and they fuel resentment and contempt.

So the roadmap may well be to bring more poor people into public discourse a la the series of endless media interviews with Trump voters in Kentucky and West Virginia. That is a case where there was an apparent coordinated effort across NPR and other "liberal" media to get empathy and familiarity going with a group of people, and I loathe it, but the technique could be applied to better use in getting more visibility in person-on-the-street "what's YOUR take?" types of interviews.

It seems like most mainstream person-on-the-street interviews focus on office workers, while media representation of poverty takes place mainly in soup kitchens, in prisons, and after a tornado rips through a rural area. That could and should change, and it wouldn't take much effort (or funding, or legislative change, or a total overhaul of capitalism aka a real fix). Real representation and visibility can counteract a lot of the lies, and that is something.
posted by witchen at 8:48 AM on October 14, 2017 [18 favorites]


I agree, whatever work is created must not be exploitative. Bring unions back.

This theory my anarchist husband and I have been kicking around is actually that Taft-Hartley did far more harm to unions than to capital. Like, sure, you can't get fired for joining a union, but you also can't wildcat or sympathy strike, and you need to give enough notice to be minimally disruptive, which really lessens the power of a strike, which is designed to be disruptive.
posted by corb at 8:50 AM on October 14, 2017 [16 favorites]


There’s a good thread here on reading HOW INEQUALITY KILLS laying the real stark terms in how your lifespan is dictated by where you live and inequality is not natural or inevitable but a deliberately niilt system.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 AM on October 14, 2017 [8 favorites]


We just did that Education Can’t Solve Poverty article, and it only occurs to me now that we probably seek to educate the poor because we believe deep down that it makes them less hateable.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:55 AM on October 14, 2017 [12 favorites]


I think the whole construct of "the poor" is interesting, because I really wonder who people envision when they talk about "the poor." I wonder if the issue is that people other the poor, or if it's that people only use the label "the poor" about people whom they other.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:02 AM on October 14, 2017 [11 favorites]


One thing I think plays into the hatred of the poor (and Americans really, really hate the poor. Look at the classist shit that comes out of respectable upper middle class mouths.) among people is , even if you mention the numbers and how hard it is to get on welfare or that they themselves have benenfits from welfare, there’s this unspoken* terror of actuslly acknowledging how fucked jo the current situation is.

We’re coming up on the 10th anniversary of the 08 crash and the strain of having to pretend EVERYTHING IS FINE NOW, GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME while rebranding staying home as stayactions and trailers as tiny homes and doing Great Depression grandparent shit like taking in boarders and having multiple part time delivery jobs is a FUN SEXY NEW ECONOMY is Bringing people to the breaking point. We know, all of us, deep down, this is not a sustainable system. We’ve had 40 years of this and what do we have to show for it? We’re poorer, sicker, less stable, more in debt and it’s getting worse.

As for fixing that, one way is making things truly universal. Every kid gets a free lunch, everyone gets unemployment insurance, everyone gets healthcare, everyone gets education. Make it hard to create two tiered systems so the rich have to use the same services as everyone else.

We’re citizens not consumers. We’re people, not commodities.

(* also a legacy of horrifying racism across the class spectrum which facilitates and enforces racist policy making and impoverishment of the “undeserving” folk)
posted by The Whelk at 9:03 AM on October 14, 2017 [125 favorites]


One problem is that stable people tend to demand that unstable people be more like them, so they make a policy that superficially mirrors it. A conservative might help out two parents working their way to making more kids, while a liberal might fund a person with gift cash towards mental competence in a decision-laden state of lone autonomy. New problems with both, but sincerity was never the issue.
posted by Brian B. at 9:05 AM on October 14, 2017 [9 favorites]


"Instead of a war on poverty they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me."

I heard it as something along the lines of “War on poverty, war on obesity, war on drugs... why not fess up and just call it a war on Greg?”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:07 AM on October 14, 2017 [9 favorites]


I've never been poor but I've been broke (am currently broke) so I've gotten firsthand insight into the social welfare system and ye gods is it hard to navigate. I have a Master's degree, I'm more or less neurotypical, and I've had trouble figuring out how to access certain programs. I don't know how semi-literate or people with more limited mental capacity* do it. It's a good argument for a UBI; in addition to reducing the overhead cost, you'd be giving people mental energy they can expend on other things, and because everyone is getting the same benefit, there's less stigma. I feel shame when using my EBT card even though it was through no "fault" of my own (I was laid off). If everyone had one, you wouldn't know who "deserved" it or not.

*is this the right term anymore?
posted by AFABulous at 9:14 AM on October 14, 2017 [15 favorites]


it's a song lyric, ricochet biscuit
posted by AFABulous at 9:14 AM on October 14, 2017


Also, leaving beside the fact that any form of welfare that’s not a corporate tax cut is Extremly hard to get and nowhere near something you can comfortably live on, leaving that aside, I know literal heires to things who would never have to work a day in thier life if they didn’t really want to and all of them have jobs (granted some of these jobs aren’t that taxing or basically make work, but no one is sitting around.)
posted by The Whelk at 9:16 AM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


AFabulous: I'd love to see another WPA to repair crumbling infrastructure and build new things. My city has lovely parks and libraries from that era.

Hell yeah I'd love to see another WPA, too. Along with that, I'd like to see something like a "Social Capital WPA" - educate and train more doctors, nurses, teachers (pre-K on up), psychiatrists and therapists, social workers, day care workers, home care attendants, etc. and pay all of them livable wages (not an issue with doctors and nurses, but certainly with home care attendants and preschool teachers).

There are not enough people to care for our sick, teach our children, and look after our mental health, and society is suffering for it. I want a Social Capital WPA so that all children can have an education on par with Finnish children, mentally ill people don't fester in jail or on the street, disabled and elderly people don't go without help or have to lean hard on faaaamily, etc.

If we had an infrastructure WPA and a social capital WPA then I'm sure there would be jobs and to spare for everyone capable of working. So many jobs, in fact, that we could roll out the red carpet for anyone who wants to immigrate here and contribute to our society.

A socialist girl can dream...
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:17 AM on October 14, 2017 [67 favorites]


Also EBT/SNAPP is a perfect example of a should be universal program, you already paid for that produce via huge subsidies for agriculture and it’s in no ones interest if it stays on the shelf and rots. National Grocery Dividend anymore?

we have to get out of this cycle of wealth extraction (AKA the "new" economy) and start re-investing in things before climate change comes along and figures it out for us.
posted by The Whelk at 9:18 AM on October 14, 2017 [32 favorites]


I can tell you right now why educating doesn’t work. 1. Debt. Yes rally educated people incur debt. 2. No jobs which are well compensated enough so that you can pay down the debt. 3. Leading to entrenched unemployment.
Going to college later in life is even worse. I’ve had friends start college in their 40s and 50s. Age discrimination is going to shut them out ANYWAY unless we’re talking about some seriously in demand field where they don’t care.
You can’t work or save your way out of poverty once you receive assistance of ANY kind. This is because you can’t accumulate resources. You can’t save money. If you earn a bit you lose benefits.
Also if offered a job, you can’t refuse it.
Oh. It’s usually a shit job in terms of what is expected, pathetic pay and no benefits. Plus you have to pee in a cup. If you are female you could’ve harassed on the job. I had a job where I worked nights in a warehouse doing cold- calls.
Until they hired a salesman who was inexplicably attracted to me, it was a decent job. It was close to home as well, so I didn’t have to walk long distances or get rides. The problem was this salesman would come in late and when it was time for me to lock down and go home, I had to be like a ninja. I had to then take extreme evasive action to get home safely. It was horrible.
The bosses thought he was a great guy.
Then frankly there *are* other poor people. Nearly every job I had there was at least one co-worker, usually female when made problems for me. This was much more of an issue than sexual harassment was for me.
My hot take on this article, not only do people who aren’t poor need to quit hating on poor people, so do poor people.
Poor people when they vote tend to cast ill-informed votes for people who hit their hot-buttons. Those hot-buttons include religion, particularly as concerns abortion and Flag Worship.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:31 AM on October 14, 2017 [21 favorites]


I'm skeptical of UBI cause, given the current predatory model of the ecomny, it can be used to justify cutting ALL other social services - but! - a good way to test it out and help families (we're supposed to help families right?) is marking everyone under 18 as Non-Working and give them a monthly stipend. It can be used to offset the cost of raising a child or set aside to be a lump sum they reach maturity, and since everyone gets it and everyone gets the same amount it's free of stigma. Hitch the number to inflation and make it hard to undo.

(that's the real elephant in the room, not creating a supportive, foundation providing state but keeping it from being dismantled by the next adminstration, I have ...ideas)


Or hell, ban bail. Either people are a flight risk or not, bail bonds are loan sharks and there's been big improvements with case retention if people are just robo-called the day before their court date. Bail prices punish the poor for being poor because, even in a case where no jury in the world would convict, people plea or confess cause they can;t afford bail AND they can't afford to spent a month or more in Jail before their court date and that charge follows them around for life, drastically lowering their potential income on average.

Or hell ban plea bargains too, they don;t allow it in England and it;s used to basically pay off the courts.

Also fines meant to discourage behavior like DWI should be proportional to reported income, that a 100$ fine can empty one person's savings but barely be the cost of dinner to another in not only unjust, it's ineffective. You'll never get rich people to stop behaving badly unless they think something is actually at risk.

(Goes back to making notes and putting sticky notes in a big notebook called THE WHELK'S GUIDE TO A SOCIALIST UTOPIA.)
posted by The Whelk at 9:33 AM on October 14, 2017 [17 favorites]


This theory my anarchist husband and I have been kicking around is actually that Taft-Hartley did far more harm to unions than to capital.

Not sure if I'm reading you correctly, as you're phrasing this as if it's contrarian but the whole and fairly explicit point of Taft-Hartley was to damage unions. It was opposed by unions, and passed (over Truman's veto) in that post WWII period when Republicans thought they were about to elect Dewey and regain power.

I wonder if you're referring of an earlier nominally pro-union bill like the National Labor Relations Act? But AFAIK Taft-Hartley was indeed the one that outlawed wildcat strikes.
posted by mark k at 9:41 AM on October 14, 2017 [10 favorites]


I haven't read it, but what about taking care of the poor because that's more cost effective than not? When someone loses everything the costs to the system are big and can quickly get to be enormous. This is where Republicans lose me. It's CHEAPER to house, feed, and give the poor work than not. Republicans aren't just heartless, they're not fiscally conservative. They just want to get rid of the government, and punish anyone they feel is trying to take something away from them in their deranged, oversimplified understanding of the world as zero sum game.
posted by xammerboy at 10:02 AM on October 14, 2017 [19 favorites]


People think short term (cf climate change), and they prefer to punish poor people now rather than preventing future emergency costs. The twisted logic is that it's better to withhold healthcare from poor people now and pay for their ER visit later than it is to give them something they don't deserve. Best case, they die before they have to go to the ER!
posted by AFABulous at 10:14 AM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also there’s a triple decker punch of American culture that really finishes this off (yes I know cultural critiques are often facile but I’ve seen this happen in daily life a lot so...)

1- American prosperity is based, at its core, on forms of quasi-legal servitude and below subsistence wages. A refusal to admit this or even look it in the eye trickles up the system. A minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage but you can’t let that happen because ...

2- It is Bad To be poor. You’re not a member of a class or oppressed or exploited, you’re BAD and should be punished. This usually takes the form of racist explainations, those OTHER people are poor, the bad ones, not me. No one identifies as poor because that’s means they’re bad, or they’re not accepting they’ve become downwardly mobile, or they blame themselves because they’ve intalkzed the oppressive system.

Partly this is cause it’s unseemly (and in some cases illegal) to talk about money and Americans got weirdly and uniquely alienated and atomized in the last 40 years. People don’t socialize outside of work or family as much, and if they do it’s among members of their own class and no one is going to talk too much about struggling or comparing salaries or even viewpoints other than the dominate ruling one.*

3- But they do watch a lot of TV, which has no poor people (and almost no actually middle class or working class people) and distorts the view of the world and they have The News which tells them the world is a violent terrifying place full of bad people and to stay inside and keep watching The News.

* That we’re seeing some pushback from this shows the limits of culture and how truly off the rails everything has become. One of the most darkly comic signs of the collapse was the the housing bubble- a race to the bottom built on fake promises- coincided with the popularity of The Secret, a self-help swindle designed around getting things you want by wishing for them really, really hard. How could that take root in a culture that wasn’t being taught to be willfully blind to its own workings and also personally responsible for everything that happens to them?
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 AM on October 14, 2017 [16 favorites]


Housing the homeless costs ONE THIRD as much as leaving them on the streets. ONE. THIRD. 33.333333%. If Republicans really were "fiscally responsible" and not "white supremacist fascists" they'd jump to house the homeless.

As I see it, it costs far less to have an educated, healthy, happy populace. Maybe we wouldn't have the opioid crisis, which has killed more people than the entire population of Atlanta, if more money had been poured into helping the poor and mentally ill.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:21 AM on October 14, 2017 [42 favorites]


This comment from the Raleigh, NC local news (I know/sorry) seems to sum up the ignorance and just-world theorizing that happens when we shrug off poverty:
if you are working 30 hours a week at $8.75, you have made some extremely poor life choices. Our constitution gives you freedom of choice it does not subsidize poor freedom of choice.
Which is really rich in LOLs, because it certainly does seem to subsidize low wages--for employers. Also laughable is the idea that earning $8.75 is a choice and/or that you deserve to die without healthcare because of a "poor choice" you made at some point in your life. This is all common sense, you know.
posted by witchen at 10:28 AM on October 14, 2017 [25 favorites]


the people on the top want the people on the bottom to be:
  • too ignorant of how badly they're being fucked
  • too demoralized to realize change is possible
  • too scared to trust each other, and
  • too busy satisfying basic needs to do anything about it

  • posted by entropicamericana at 10:31 AM on October 14, 2017 [19 favorites]


    You have to make a choice to be rich you see.

    Otherwise me having slightly more then you doesn't mean I get to lord it over you

    Just choose not to have cancer, with the right thoughts it's easy.
    posted by The Whelk at 10:32 AM on October 14, 2017 [8 favorites]


    I haven't read it, but what about taking care of the poor because that's more cost effective than not? When someone loses everything the costs to the system are big and can quickly get to be enormous. This is where Republicans lose me. It's CHEAPER to house, feed, and give the poor work than not.

    The article is worth reading because it is 100% not about how to message helping the poor, or even what anti-poverty policy should be. It is indeed about how inadequate framing the problem this way is.
    posted by mark k at 10:34 AM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


    if you are working 30 hours a week at $8.75, you have made some extremely poor life choices.

    The only way I've been able to make a dent in this kind of thinking with family members is to explore their own "life choices." Did they choose where they were born, what their parents' jobs were, where they went to school? Did they choose whether or not their parents were drug users, abusive, or otherwise incompetent parents? Did they choose whether or not to have intellectual or physical disabilities? How did those non-choices affect their lives today?

    The other thing is - if no one is working the unskilled jobs because they all made "better choices," who is going to bag your groceries, mow your lawn, serve you food? If you say "teenagers," do you mean they should quit school, or that many businesses should shut down during school hours? Are there even enough teenagers to fill all these jobs outside of school hours? What about the "higher level" daytime employees, e.g. restaurant managers? Will they then lose their jobs? Will businesses have to close due to the loss of sales? How will that impact the economy?

    You have to have a pretty receptive listener and I only recommend trying this in person with someone you actually know, but I've had a few lightbulb moments when they realize the flaws in their logic.
    posted by AFABulous at 10:50 AM on October 14, 2017 [45 favorites]


    METAFILTER: this unspoken* terror of actuslly acknowledging how fucked jo the current situation is
    posted by philip-random at 11:12 AM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


    I think the whole construct of "the poor" is interesting, because I really wonder who people envision when they talk about "the poor." I wonder if the issue is that people other the poor, or if it's that people only use the label "the poor" about people whom they other.

    In the past 5 years, my work has been shifting from private sector, consumer focused products/services/business models, to public sector/international development oriented applications. In the past 10 years, I've also moved from living in the US to Asia, and, now, Europe, with a short stint in East Africa.

    The first thing this article has made me wonder about is whether this attitude, as framed in the OP, is contained within teh geographical boundaries of the united states, or does it flow all the way through to how State, USAID, and all the numerous charities and foundations think about the people they're aiming to assist far away across the world, where they're ALL others?

    Is this cognitive dissonance, or hypocrisy? Or, do the very best thinkers on poverty alleviation, decent work, dignified livelihoods, and gender parity & empowerment bla bla bla the jargon, go abroad because nothing will ever happen at home, or its not permitted to think about the inner cities in this way?

    "I really want to make a difference for the poor African" just not one of our own.
    posted by infini at 11:32 AM on October 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


    Capitalist society hates the poor because the poor are an embarrassing reminder that capitalism doesn't work.
    posted by Thorzdad at 11:35 AM on October 14, 2017 [42 favorites]


    infini, I think there's much more of a sense that poor Africans can't help it. Whatever the actual causes, there's still a strong mental link to famine, probably because of We Are The World and similar large-scale fundraising in the 80s. There's a paternalistic attitude that you see with white Christians who adopt African children when there are so many foster children here. In America there's the enduring myth that anyone can be anything if they try hard enough.
    posted by AFABulous at 11:42 AM on October 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


    It is Bad To be poor. You’re not a member of a class or oppressed or exploited, you’re BAD and should be punished.

    It's a kind of hollowed-out Calvinism.

    I talk about this a lot, but America has been very good at individuating certain benefits for certain people so that within a couple of generations (or even that generation) it gets seen as "well, I earned it" and not "I got a handout." It's easy to play EBT Appropriate Purchase Monitor at the checkout; it's not so easy to pass judgement on whether people are doing okay out of farm subsidies or government-backed loans or the mortgage interest deduction.

    And yes, the ones who are passing judgement in public are often middle-class people who are one emergency or setback away from poverty and try to pretend they don't know it.
    posted by holgate at 11:45 AM on October 14, 2017 [18 favorites]


    And yes, the ones who are passing judgement in public are often middle-class people who are one emergency or setback away from poverty and try to pretend they don't know it.
    I read a Dear Prudence like that recently. A women dealing with a bunch of setbacks was picking up food at a food pantry and was annoyed that someone else shopping there had an iPad. Prudence took her to task, but somehow this woman just couldn't see that disasters can happen to people who own nice things. Are you supposed to sell everything you own, including your internet access, because of a financial setback? Apparently, yes.
    posted by xyzzy at 11:49 AM on October 14, 2017 [10 favorites]


    AFABulous, thank you, that explanation helps, although it raises a whole new hydra of issues around that filter that leads to silly BS like zuck's balloons or gates' donor chicken

    The thing is, that the things falling apart - social media in every pocket, and voice at the top screeching in 140chars has made the dichotomy all the more visible on a global scale.

    Bah, humbug. I've got a close close friend in the south side of Chicago dealing with two orphaned grandsons at retirement right now, and desperately seeking work. I honestly feel helpless, so helpless even because I know the airports won't let me through that easily for a quick visit over. It'll take 6 months just to get a visa interview. Bah humbug.
    posted by infini at 11:53 AM on October 14, 2017


    A women dealing with a bunch of setbacks was picking up food at a food pantry and was annoyed that someone else shopping there had an iPad. Prudence took her to task,

    Doubly enraging cause during the 80s the Sensible Conservative response to why not increase social spending or raise wages* was "Well our competitive system will make goods cheap so it;s not necessary".

    And they did to a point, people have cheap electronics and such but then they turn around and go "Okay while these are fun and some of them necessary it doesn't replace the fact that I have no saving or stability cause wages are inconstant and low and I have pay through the nose for the things to ...keep on living." and the Reasonable Conservatives go BUT YOU HAVE ELECTRONIC DEVICES HOW CAN YOU BE POOR?!

    Never mind the fact that a lot of people are downwardly mobile these days.

    * Wages have been stagnant for almost an entire generation, which was planned and by design. Access to cheap and easy credit helped delay the inevitable but only for so long and with the double benefit of putting everyone in debt.
    posted by The Whelk at 12:04 PM on October 14, 2017 [20 favorites]


    I disagree. The best way to move a lot of people out of poverty is to build up the middle class. The war is on the middle class and it has been shrinking as the numbers of poor increase and the wealth of the top 0.1% grows. The war is on everyone below the 0.1%. Basically the war is on all of us. They hate all of us, and plan on sending us all to the ranks of the poor as they continue to absorb all the wealth of the nation.

    I know just what we need. A tax cut for the 0.1%! That will fix the problem./s
    posted by eye of newt at 12:19 PM on October 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


    The other thing is - if no one is working the unskilled jobs because they all made "better choices," who is going to bag your groceries, mow your lawn, serve you food?

    Perhaps, in some instances, robots. But even under Luxury Gay Space Communism For All, there is going to be grunt work that has to be done by some human. I think that "menial jobs" have to pay decently and have good working conditions even if they involve shoveling shit. Service jobs like bagging groceries and mowing lawns don't have to be low-paid, unpleasant and hazardous. But until we get grocery-bagging, lawn-mowing robots (or get people to put in xeriscaping, like most of my neighbors are doing!) someone's going to have to do it, so they might as well be paid and treated well.

    On the notion of capitalism being the rising tide, etc.: I remember when Bill Clinton "ended welfare as we know it" back in 1995. Even a lot of liberals were OK with that at the time, because the dot-com boom had started and - at least in many areas - there really were jobs for all. Well. We know what happened a few years later. The capitalist machine won't work to employ everyone long-term.

    The Mercers are, apparently, worth 12.5 billion (yes, that is with a "B"). I sometimes have sweet, sweet daydreams of being Queen of the World and confiscating all but 1 of those billions - 11.5 billion could get Luxury Gay Space Communism off the ground. Or at least a WPA.
    posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:01 PM on October 14, 2017 [8 favorites]


    One thing that makes me so angry is this whole electronic thing, because there is a whole market of shoddy electronic devices designed to look like iPhone and smart phones but cost way way way less and have little usability .

    Then some smart ass identifies it as an iPad. It isn't. It's more likely a knock off poorman's that had a third of the features.

    I cannot tell you how many smartphones I see that aren't actually touch screens, but have a toggle at the bottom.
    posted by AlexiaSky at 1:13 PM on October 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


    People think short term (cf climate change), and they prefer to punish poor people now rather than preventing future emergency costs

    See this recent thread for some lovely examples from members of this community.
    posted by PMdixon at 1:16 PM on October 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


    There's been an experiment going for 67 years here in America, we have empirical results from this experiment, we no longer need to guess what the results of the experiment are because we know what they will be.

    Every Presidential administration since the 1950's has tested the exact same hypothesis.
    HYPOTHESIS: Will cutting taxes on the very rich lead to economic growth and better conditions for all Americans
    We don't often frame as an experiment, but that's what it is. And we've tested that hypothesis over, and over, and over, by cutting taxes on the very wealthy and seeing what happens next.

    The results were clear even after the first time the experiment was tried, but for reasons that don't need to be elaborated on here, the experiment was tried again and again.

    It turns out that cutting taxes on the very rich does not improve the economy or improve economic conditions for everyone. What it **DOES** is concentrate ever more wealth in the hands of a tiny economic aristocracy while everyone else sees their wages stagnate or even decline.

    Cutting taxes on the very rich will lead to increased concentration of wealth in their hands and decreased economic standing for everyone else. We know this. It is not an opinion. It is not a guess. It is not a disguise in which to hide socialism or (gasp!) Communism. It is a simple, objective, empirically demonstrated, fact. Cutting taxes for the very rich will lead to increased concentration of wealth in their hands and decreased economic standing for everyone else.

    Knowing this, the question of "what can we do about poverty" implies an experiment we could try, a hypothesis we could test.
    HYPOTHESIS: Increasing taxes on the very rich will lead to economic growth and better conditions for all Americans
    I can't say for a certain fact that the hypothesis I propose here is true. It may be, it may not be. But it's a hypothesis we can test, so let's test it. We know the other hypothesis is false, so let's try the opposite and see what happens.

    There are people, some right here on metafilter, who are deeply philosophically opposed to that hypothesis. They want desperately for it not to be true because they adhere to a philosophy that wealth and virtue are intertwined and that "redistributing wealth" [1] is always, inherently bad and must be prevented at all cost.

    But we must override the objections of these people and try a different experiment. To imagine that repeating the same old experiment in cutting taxes for the very rich will produce different results this year than it has for the past 67 years is an indication of mental impairment or slavish devotion to a philosophy that has been proven empirically to be false.

    [1] Scare quotes because in the sense these people use the phrase it only applies when redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor. To these people the redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich is never described as "redistributing wealth", and they generally tend to view that form of wealth redistribution as either beneficial or at least nothing to be feared.
    posted by sotonohito at 1:19 PM on October 14, 2017 [28 favorites]


    I say we just give the poor money. Cash on the table. Hand it out on Monday mornings.

    No litmus tests, no purity judgements, no bureaucracy, no tax paperwork. Just an ATM card.

    Cheaper than buying a new aircraft carrier every couple of years. Makes the entire problem go away.

    Undercuts the current established "charity" funds, pisses off the rich, makes the pure worry about drug abuse, the lack of little baby Jesus, and other nonsense. Can't have everything.
    posted by pdoege at 1:27 PM on October 14, 2017 [13 favorites]


    pdoege I disagree only in one specific.

    We should not give the poor money.

    We should give **EVERYONE** money.

    If it's just the poor then we get mired in BS about who's deserving and who isn't, and how poor is poor enough. Just make it part of being American: all citizens get a Basic Income of $X per week.

    No qualifications needed. No applications needed. It just applies to everyone. From the poorest homeless person to the Koch brothers, all Americans get $X per week. No exceptions.

    If it's something everyone gets then the racists and other scum won't have as much room to complain.
    posted by sotonohito at 1:30 PM on October 14, 2017 [11 favorites]


    Jesus, PMDixon, that HIV thread has changed my opinion of some mefites for the worse. What awfulness.
    posted by AFABulous at 1:37 PM on October 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


    The only way I've been able to make a dent in this kind of thinking with family members is to explore their own "life choices." Did they choose where they were born, what their parents' jobs were, where they went to school? Did they choose whether or not their parents were drug users, abusive, or otherwise incompetent parents? Did they choose whether or not to have intellectual or physical disabilities? How did those non-choices affect their lives today?


    Did they choose mental health issues?
    posted by Samizdata at 1:41 PM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


    Capitalist society hates the poor because the poor are an embarrassing reminder that capitalism doesn't work.

    "When a country is well governed, poverty and mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is poorly governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of." -Confucius
    posted by FJT at 1:58 PM on October 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


    Did they choose mental health issues?

    That's not a good route to go with these folks as a lot of the people who believe in bootstrapping your way out of poverty also believe that people with depression aren't trying hard enough. It's not true, but it's not an effective argument with them.
    posted by AFABulous at 2:01 PM on October 14, 2017 [7 favorites]


    “A society which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify itself for making their life a hell in this. Advanced by men of religion as a tonic for the soul, the doctrine of the danger of pampering poverty was hailed by the rising school of Political Arithmeticians as a sovereign cure for the ills of society.”
    --R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926)
    posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 2:19 PM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


    if you are working 30 hours a week at $8.75, you have made some extremely poor life choices.

    I wonder about what that says about people who start businesses that rely on people having made poor life choices.

    (LoL, no I don't. The whole line of reasoning is fucking stupid.)
    posted by klanawa at 2:39 PM on October 14, 2017 [12 favorites]


    I like the part about "other-ing" the poor. I think we're all other-ing the hell out of each other these days. Right and left.
    posted by Modest House at 2:59 PM on October 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


    I haven't said this but I'd really love to ask [family member] why he didn't make better choices so he could be a millionaire.
    posted by AFABulous at 3:02 PM on October 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


    It's amazing how millions of people have made exactly the same bad choices for unstable hourly employment!
    posted by thelonius at 3:11 PM on October 14, 2017 [7 favorites]


    If the United States is flush enough that we can afford to cut taxes for the wealthiest people and corporations as we've done in recent years, and allowed them to legally loophole out of paying others, then I truly don't believe we need worry about whether some people at the bottom of the ladder grow dependent on public aid. Corporations are people, but nobody seems worried about bruising their dignity by giving them taxpayer-funded welfare.

    And yeah, the middle class hates the poor more than ever, because they're scared more than ever of becoming the poor themselves, although you'd never get them to admit it. If poor people are the other, that means it couldn't really happen to them.
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:30 PM on October 14, 2017 [14 favorites]


    I say we just give the poor money. Cash on the table. Hand it out on Monday mornings.

    $10,000 to everybody as an 18th birthday present from Uncle Sam. Buy a second-hand car, put it towards college expenses, spend it on getting out of a bad family situation or no-hope town. Call it a Freedom Flaggy Eagle Flag Award.
    posted by holgate at 3:54 PM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


    I can call my bundle of programs Give Everyone In America A Rich Uncle
    posted by The Whelk at 4:05 PM on October 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


    $10,000 to everybody as an 18th birthday present from Uncle Sam. Buy a second-hand car, put it towards college expenses, spend it on getting out of a bad family situation or no-hope town. Call it a Freedom Flaggy Eagle Flag Award.

    I don't know. Maybe I was a particularly irresponsible/dumb 18 year old, but I am certain I would not have used $10,000 wisely. Granted I wasn't in a desperate situation, but I would have been too short-sighted to even use it toward my college expenses. Maybe $10,000 to everyone at age 40.
    posted by Brain Sturgeon at 4:52 PM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


    I think you need a better acronym than GEIAARU.
    posted by AFABulous at 4:54 PM on October 14, 2017


    Give Everyone In America A Rich Uncle
    well, if Donald Trump is your rich uncle, that may not be a good thing...
    posted by oneswellfoop at 5:00 PM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


    The other thing going on here is, the only thing Americans hate as much as poor people is long, slow solutions to complex socioeconomic problems. There's a lot of pressure to solve problems NOW with half-assed plans that don't address root causes. Extra points if those "solutions" bring in corporate players were there were none before. The classic example is fixing failing schools by firing the entire staff and introducing charter management while ignoring the myriad issues caused by generational poverty, but you'll see other examples if you look.

    I bring this up because I just started working at a housing first based organization, and I was told straight-up going in that the work is long and slow. If you look at what I did this week purely in terms of numbers of tasks completed with no context as to how my organization works, you'd think I'm a total slacker. But every little interaction I had this week lays a piece of groundwork towards a larger goal: getting someone to try living in transitional housing, helping someone take their medications as prescribed, making sure that wounds stay clean and free of infection. Each of those goals, in turn, is one step towards offering my people a greater measure of economic and housing stability. I feel so honored to be a part of this process, and my organization's got a pretty good track record of keeping people housed once they're in. But to some segment of the population, we'll always be failures because our work does take time, and they want us to end people's poverty and addiction instantly to get the poor people with cooties out of their sight.
    posted by ActionPopulated at 5:44 PM on October 14, 2017 [27 favorites]


    really wonder who people envision when they talk about "the poor."

    I spent part of my teen years in rural Arkansas. I only knew one family with no electricity and no running water (they had a creek nearby, and a few battery-powered appliances), several with running water in the kitchen but outhouses, and many that used their front or back yards as gardens or animal pens, for food that they needed to stay alive.

    Spent some of my college-age years with hippie-ish friends in Berkeley and Oakland, CA. Eight people in a two-bedroom apartment, with couches and closets converted to sleeping space, two part-time incomes split among the crowd, random infusions of cash from relatives on birthdays, occasional scores of weekend work, cash under the table, from some local business who needed furniture hauled or similar. Ages ranged from teenagers to low thirties.

    The ones in California ate better; cheap food is more available in cities. There was always some friend having a party and a half-pizza available to take home. The ones in Arkansas had stability - they had homes, could have relatives over to visit, could host holiday events, and so on.

    Right now, I try to think of "poor" as the federal poverty level, and I think of "really truly poor" as anyone living on a four-digit annual income. I don't have specific race, class, culture, or living arrangements in mind; I'm aware that "poor" hits people across the country.
    posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:03 PM on October 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


    I say we just give the poor money. Cash on the table. Hand it out on Monday mornings.

    It amazes me that, when faced head-on with greater and more widespread poverty, the knee-jerk response of half this country is always to provide less direct support, not more. How difficult is this to understand? Anything besides direct financial support or better labor laws for the poor is purely a smokescreen. And so often the social programs that most directly support the poor (TANF) are twisted at the state level by extra eligibility conditions.

    And what is the time-tested way to get better pay and labor laws for the poor and middle classes? Hmm.....
    posted by hexaflexagon at 9:13 PM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


    Did they choose mental health issues?

    That's not a good route to go with these folks as a lot of the people who believe in bootstrapping your way out of poverty also believe that people with depression aren't trying hard enough. It's not true, but it's not an effective argument with them.


    I was getting autobiographical with this comment. But, yeah, then they would wonder why mental health care isn't like pulling a bad tooth or a splinter...

    "You've been in counselling HOW long?"

    So, even if you are trying to get better, it still doesn't matter...
    posted by Samizdata at 1:40 AM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


    ********************

    One thing that makes me so angry is this whole electronic thing, because there is a whole market of shoddy electronic devices designed to look like iPhone and smart phones but cost way way way less and have little usability .

    Then some smart ass identifies it as an iPad. It isn't. It's more likely a knock off poorman's that had a third of the features.

    I cannot tell you how many smartphones I see that aren't actually touch screens, but have a toggle at the bottom.
    posted by AlexiaSky at 1:13 PM on October 14
    [6 favorites −] Favorite added! [Flagged]
    *************************

    Poor people even have a slang word for the phones which resemble iPhones. The LiePhone. I had one my daughter gave me. It was an Android device. Top of the line TracFone. I could NOT get that thing to do anything. My daughter asked for it back when my grand daughter lost her second - hand iPhone. Seemed like an appropriate punishment....
    posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:54 AM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


    Thank you for your insightful comment, ActionPopulated.
    posted by infini at 5:59 AM on October 15, 2017


    ...and the Reasonable Conservatives go BUT YOU HAVE ELECTRONIC DEVICES HOW CAN YOU BE POOR?!

    Those reasonable conservatives obviously haven't tried applying for a job lately. You pretty much can't get a non-white-collar job without having to apply online.
    posted by Thorzdad at 7:08 AM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


    ...and the Reasonable Conservatives go BUT YOU HAVE ELECTRONIC DEVICES HOW CAN YOU BE POOR?!

    I remember when (which in turn undermines the argument that the others poored are only at home)
    posted by infini at 7:34 AM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


    Right now, I try to think of "poor" as the federal poverty level, and I think of "really truly poor" as anyone living on a four-digit annual income. I don't have specific race, class, culture, or living arrangements in mind; I'm aware that "poor" hits people across the country.
    My sense is that most informed people think that the federal poverty level sets the cutoff much too low. I think that the issue is that the government came up with a formula when the biggest expense for most people was food, and now the biggest expense is housing. So the formula is really tied to the price of food, which is relatively cheap now compared to what it was in the past. But since housing is so much more expensive, and since that's not accounted for in the poverty cutoff, you can earn an income above the federal poverty level (and well above the federal poverty level in some places) and still not be able to afford necessities.

    But that's sort of not what I was getting at. The gist of most of the articles is that, when surveyed about programs for "the poor," most blue-collar white people say that these programs are useless because "the poor" are responsible for their own predicament. And the conclusion is that blue-collar white people hate the poor. But I think that it may be that the phrase "the poor" is heavily freighted, and also heavily racialized, and it means something different for blue-collar white people than a purely economic definition of poverty. "The poor" are, almost by definition, lazy and inferior and to blame for their own predicament. "The poor" suggests poverty as some sort of existential state, rather than a current life circumstance. If you asked about "people who struggle to get by" or "people whose wages don't cover the things they need," I think the survey respondents might have a more positive view of the efficacy of government programs.
    posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:17 AM on October 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


    Brain Sturgeon: Maybe I was a particularly irresponsible/dumb 18 year old, but I am certain I would not have used $10,000 wisely.

    Well, yeah, but that's no reason to hold off until 40, by which time people have made choices (often around the age of 18, hi student loans! hi military enlistment!) that have life-long consequences. There's a fundamental tension in American society between staying and going, and it often resolves itself as people staying in places because they're stuck while being told (wrongly) that there's nothing stopping them from going.

    ArbitraryAndCapricious: "The poor" suggests poverty as some sort of existential state, rather than a current life circumstance.

    Again, hollowed-out Calvinism. And only in America have I heard (some) preachers cite "the poor you will always have with you" to imply "the poor will always be poor, oh well, at least we're not poor."
    posted by holgate at 10:16 AM on October 15, 2017


    "The poor" suggests poverty as some sort of existential state, rather than a current life circumstance.

    I keep meaning to write up a lengthy deep-dive into how our understanding of poverty comes from how our grandparents defined poverty and what they told our parents about it, who then passed it on to us. But I think you've got a pretty good rough definition there. For many people, "the poor" doesn't mean someone who is making under a certain income. The "struggling" modifier means roughly, "People who aspire to bourgeois values, even if they're not able to perform them at the moment", while "the poor" refers largely to people who reject them for whatever reason.

    I think an easier way to say things is that people are generally sympathetic to the proletariat, but not to people they perceive as the lumpenproletariat. And Bakunin's rejection of the rejection of the lumpens also still holds:
    By virtue of its relative well-being and semi-bourgeois position, this upper layer of workers is unfortunately only too deeply saturated with all the political and social prejudices and all the narrow aspirations and pretensions of the bourgeoisie. Of all the proletariat, this upper layer is the least social and the most individualist.
    posted by corb at 11:17 AM on October 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


    I think 21-25 would be a good age for a lump sum although I'd make it $50,000 rather than $10k. At that age you should be more responsible than you were at 18, and you haven't had too much time to dig a hole you can't get out of. Most people aren't married and/or don't have kids yet.

    With $50k, you could pay off all or most of your student loans and/or consumer debt. If you don't have any, you could take a gap year like they do in Europe. You could get a good jump on saving for retirement. It's a healthy down payment on a house in most areas of the country. Or you could help pull family members out of bad situations.

    There would obviously be some unintended effects, just like there are when people win the lottery. Everyone would want become your Best Friend when you turn 21. The influx of money would unevenly impact the economy in areas where there are a disproportionate number of young people (around colleges, in Latinx neighborhoods). A certain percentage would spend it recklessly - would there still be a safety net for those people or not?
    posted by AFABulous at 11:22 AM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


    (In case my mention of Latinx pings your racism alarm, it's well documented that more of them are millennials or younger than any other group.)
    posted by AFABulous at 11:28 AM on October 15, 2017


    Some more thoughts:

    - If people are going to get a cash gift from the government when they reach a certain age, how about some at 18 - enough, for instance, to escape an abusive family or pay for the first year of college, and then the rest when they turn 25? That would avoid the "young and dumb with too little sense to handle money" factor (lord knows I'd have been TERRIBLE with a lot of money at 18!) but it would enable young adults to escape abusive situations more easily.

    - On that note, a WPA + social capital WPA + minimum income + free fruits and vegetables for all (universal food stamps would help eliminate food waste) would be a godsend for people who are now dependent upon abusive family, an abusive spouse, or an ex in order to survive. That's a degrading position to be in. I would rather have the cold, clammy, impersonal hand of the state for a safety net instead of faaaaamily, whose quality varies widely and almost always comes with strings attached. And marriage is no longer a lifelong institution embarked upon in very early adulthood - people get divorced, live together without marrying, and spend more time single, so marriage as safety net doesn't work that well anymore.

    There's been a few postings recently on the green and Captain Awkward where a woman says, "I want to break up, but my boyfriend/spouse doesn't work and I caaaaan't just abandon him." And I've known a few people who have had to make difficult choices between a dependent ex and a new significant other who didn't want the ex siphoning off time and resources. A mincome and a WPA would mean that if you want to break up with someone unemployed, you're not simmering in guilt, because the jobs and/or money are there.

    - A social capital WPA, with lots more trained mental health (and other) professionals, would help those who are mentally ill. No, people don't choose mental illness, but the quality of care for the mentally ill is a disgrace. Mental illness would be a lot less disabling if psychiatrists and therapists were more available to those who need them. And, hell, therapy is wonderful even if you aren't mentally ill but just need help through a rough patch - how many times has AskMeFi suggested it?

    tl;dr: we could greatly reduce poverty and suffering; we lack the societal will, not the ability.
    posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:43 AM on October 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


    There would obviously be some unintended effects, just like there are when people win the lottery.

    The big problem with any sort of larger-amount direct wealth transfer will simply be the recipients' being able to use the money as intended.

    Before someone jumps on me, as seems to happen every time this point crops up, I would ask you to please, please try to sort out in your mind the differences between:

    (1) "Well, if you give poor people money, their lazy shiftless selves will just waste it on 40s and Nintendos!" and

    (2) "We have an extremely sophisticated industry already in this country devoted to bilking the less-well-off out of what little they have--particularly preying on their lack of experience with finance and the social position needed to achieve redress if defrauded, but also on their average normal human susceptibility to lies--and therefore any significant wealth transfer to this group will attract massive efforts to rip them off. This problem really needs to be addressed lest any attempt at wealth transfer to the poor just turn into wealth transfer to, e.g., J.P. Morgan's subprime financing subsidiary."

    I could really not care less if a person wants to spend their Adulthood Grant or reparations on 40s, Nintendos, or anything else. I do care, very much, if a person receiving that money and, e.g., seeking to get an education, is sold via lies about placement statistics a for-profit program that educates them for no meaningful purpose. The variety of such scams we would see in such a world would be endless if substantial precautions are not taken.
    posted by praemunire at 12:41 PM on October 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


    its like for profit schools that exist solely to bilk veterans out of thier grants for schooling, any kind of bulk money gift at 18 (which I support actuslly, for reasons mentioned above in terms of getting away from abusive relationships, although I think a child credit would be a good warm up to that idea, as am I always in favor of just giving people money) would have to come behind a big anti corruption, anti-scam crackdown so that means beefing up the IRS.

    Which is why you start with a campaign to be tough on white collar crime, make it a huge anti-corruption sceheme, finally get back at the banks, etc. massive new consumer protection laws and sturdy enforcement of them (see, this goes back to banning plea bargaining, don’t make them pay a bribe to be not processcuted, put them in jail) the assets seized from this could featherbed a cash grant program.

    The American Dividend, it’s not charity, it’s an investment in our children.
    posted by The Whelk at 1:12 PM on October 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


    That being said, a world with the kind of social capital WPA and foundational support system described by Rosie M. Banks, the costs of swindle and scams would be less deveststing and I think the incentive to run them would be lower (we’ll Lways have corn men but but we can get rid of the carrots and pool of desperate marks)
    posted by The Whelk at 1:26 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]




    Democracy is coming to America.

    weatherr it likes it or not.
    posted by The Whelk at 3:38 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


    with any luck the trump presidency is the stake in the heart of the myth of american meritocracy
    posted by entropicamericana at 6:15 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


    Weird that one of the co-authors is also president of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think-tank that has dedicated more than a little time to explicitly framing the poor as underserving and the government as incapable of reaching them (with a recent emphasis on arguing that social programs should be handled by private charities).
    posted by klangklangston at 1:11 AM on October 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


    There are not enough people to care for our sick, teach our children, and look after our mental health, and society is suffering for it. I want a Social Capital WPA so that all children can have an education on par with Finnish children, mentally ill people don't fester in jail or on the street, disabled and elderly people don't go without help or have to lean hard on faaaamily, etc.

    If we had an infrastructure WPA and a social capital WPA then I'm sure there would be jobs and to spare for everyone capable of working. So many jobs, in fact, that we could roll out the red carpet for anyone who wants to immigrate here and contribute to our society.


    I mean, we can;t even talk about federal housing policy really cause no federal housing project has been funded well enough to actually function. Everything is being deliberately starved.

    I don;t know why more people don't run on a jobs program of "we're going to hire SO MANY PEOPLE to fix this". It;s like climate change, getting off carbon and mittigating effects could and should be a huge national project on parr with a full on world war. We could hire literally everybody for a task that would make the country (and world!) safer, healthier,more stable, and wealthier.

    That sounds like a conservative argument to me! Unless, you know, what you actually want is feudalism and a deranged fantasy of the past.....

    I desperately want a new vision of how to organize society but it doesn't change that if our current institutions where actually well funded we'd be leagues, leagues better off.

    The state isn;t failing the state is being killed.
    posted by The Whelk at 12:13 AM on October 19, 2017


    I'm not sure there exists enough money in the state at current levels to fully fund any program, though. Like, you're right, a federal housing program with infinite money could definitely solve many more problems, but because the problem must exist in the world, it has only money from limited pots. Similarly, hiring "literally everyone" costs far more money than simply moving existing funds and hiring an awful lot of people.
    posted by corb at 5:02 AM on October 19, 2017


    So you're arguing for confiscatory levels of wealth taxation! Sign me up!
    posted by PMdixon at 2:11 PM on October 19, 2017


    Hahah. I think I'm arguing that if that's what you're wanting, that's basically the only way to make it happen and you should be up front about it on the tin. I understand /opinions/ on whether it's a good idea differ.
    posted by corb at 2:12 PM on October 19, 2017


    I'm extremely comfortable defending both the presumption that behind every great fortune lies a great crime, and the proposition that a 100% estate tax on assets above, say, 50*wage fraction of GDP/capita (ie the wage income of an entire working lifetime) is not just defensible but morally obligatory.
    posted by PMdixon at 4:37 PM on October 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


    Also money isn’t ...real.
    posted by The Whelk at 5:06 PM on October 19, 2017 [3 favorites]


    Eh. Money is a reified abstraction of trust. Money is as real as the trust is.
    posted by PMdixon at 5:11 PM on October 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


    "I don;t know why more people don't run on a jobs program of "we're going to hire SO MANY PEOPLE to fix this". It;s like climate change, getting off carbon and mittigating effects could and should be a huge national project on parr with a full on world war. We could hire literally everybody for a task that would make the country (and world!) safer, healthier,more stable, and wealthier."

    Because of the "But it'll raise taxes!" and people who pay higher taxes are more likely to vote, and also don't want their passive increase in wealth to be turned into an active bill for the government to pay "those people" to get high and have babies.

    There's also a significant amount of fair criticism of things like the War on Poverty "Future Cities" programs, which gave a shit-ton of money to state and local governments and they basically pissed it away. That was under the weird combination of block grants and Keynsian spending, as well as a way for Johnson to fight race riots by hosing them with money. There are anecdotes like the mayor of Compton being told to come up with a wish list for Compton, then being given a grant with funding for all of those projects, but administered by the federal government. He was pissed because it took a bunch of half-baked ideas he had but denied local agency in implementation, and, again, ended up pissing away a huge amount of money.

    BUT.

    The Employment Act of 1946 came after a wartime unemployment low of 1.2%, which, because of the way unemployment is calculated and gender roles have changed, does make for a wobbly comparison (fewer women were looking for work outside the home, so you had a more limited workforce), but would be pretty fantastic today. This came along with high GDP and stock market growth, and, yeah, a 90% top marginal tax rate (which, Christ, if there was one thing I wish people understood it was how marginal rates and progressive taxes work).

    And there is a ton of work that would be productive but falls into market failures, like infrastructure building, where it's a great investment if the public pays for it but a pretty shitty investment for any given person. (Then those people all act like they're making a personal investment of whatever it costs to fix a rail line — billions here in Ca. — and don't want to pay for it, despite that they'll likely see a longterm indirect benefit.) The real problem is aligning those jobs, which are unsustainable in the longterm as public sector jobs (unless you never want your bridge actually built) with the training needs of future private employers.

    One of the easier ways to deal with this while using market mechanisms for good is… DUN DUN DUN a healthy public welfare system and safety net, because that gives people the ability to use entrepreneurial skills and local knowledge to address problems that fail the cost/benefit analysis for the federal or state government.

    Like making the next Flappy Bird, or Google, or whatever. A safety net gives freedom for individuals and pays for itself in the long term. We could accomplish so much if we worked together, and part of that is honestly talking about the taxes required to pay for it, but also not letting right-wingers use a fear of taxes as a cudgel.
    posted by klangklangston at 11:22 PM on October 19, 2017 [3 favorites]


    You are describing how international development aid funding works in Africa.
    posted by infini at 4:49 AM on October 20, 2017


    Also money isn’t ...real.

    it's PKD-real: it does not go away if you ignore it
    posted by thelonius at 5:14 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


    that depends where you put it
    posted by entropicamericana at 6:07 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


    you might have trouble ignoring it if you put it there
    posted by PMdixon at 6:23 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


    Eh. Money is a reified abstraction of trust. Money is as real as the trust is.

    and how does one quantify this trust? with money, I guess. Is that why I'm so chronically broke? Because nobody trusts me ... with their money anyway. What about their secrets? I seem to do better with people's secrets than their money.

    and thus blackmail -- there was no other way
    posted by philip-random at 9:38 AM on October 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


    "You are describing how international development aid funding works in Africa."

    Who is?
    posted by klangklangston at 11:28 AM on October 20, 2017


    you, klangklanston, sorry I thought proximity would be enough
    posted by infini at 11:33 AM on October 20, 2017


    Ah, sorry, I was confused because I was talking about two different approaches to full-employment economic policy, and tend to think of international development aid to Africa as more "let's loan you the money to buy a whole bunch of John Deer harvesters" or whatever, but I admit that I'm still a bit confused. Can you clarify?
    posted by klangklangston at 11:51 AM on October 20, 2017


    Yes. Around 5 years I was invited by two ministries in the dutch govt to look at one of their jointly funded and impremented programs in the developing world, from the Pov of asking "why do such multistakeholder donor funded programs fail?"

    What you describe here

    There are anecdotes like the mayor of Compton being told to come up with a wish list for Compton, then being given a grant with funding for all of those projects, but administered by the federal government. He was pissed because it took a bunch of half-baked ideas he had but denied local agency in implementation, and, again, ended up pissing away a huge amount of money.


    is exactly what was happening to our focus subject area in the last mile of farmgate to fork value chain, to the tune of 400 million euros in 4 years. With insufficient ROI, also known as value for money, which is what the British took up enthusiastically when I was recuperating.

    Lack of agency is the biggest barrier to the sustainability of donor funded programmes once the funding ends. But of course - if my wishes were not heard, and my choices were ignored, then why should I have anythign to do with whatever your public service intervention is once the incentives provided for user onboarding are ended? International development programming has never been designed with an exit strategy but the Dutch government were the first to ask the question in the Fall of 2012. We have been published in conference proceedings, and in the library of Wageningen University.
    posted by infini at 1:52 AM on October 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


    Cool, thanks! I wasn't sure whether you were talking about that or about some full employment plans I didn't know about.

    I did get the name of the program wrong, though. For more info, it's the Model Cities Program.
    posted by klangklangston at 1:20 PM on October 21, 2017


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