Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Poverty Update

Rather than try to put this in our own words, we’re just going to quote the email sent to us by a source.  Let us preemptively reiterate though.  The first meeting for the community at large is going to be on Monday, March 27 at Cedar Shoals High School at 7:00 pm.  Y’all come.

Here’s part of the email we received.  (Edited for typos.)

PARTNERS FOR A PROSPEROUS ATHENS COMMUNITY (INCLUDING YOU!!!) ENGAGEMENT: On Monday, March 27, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Cedar Shoals High School will be the first of monthly meetings of all six Subcommittees (as well as the Steering Committee) -- this is where the strategies and plans will primarily be developed, and it is vitally important to have your engagement, as well as that of multiple constituencies (including those you serve). There are six subcommittees, each with a Chair from the Steering Committee and each to elect a co-chair from the community at large. Other than the Steering Committee members (five of whom serve on each), the subcommittees will be self-selected (you join the one you want), though they are all charged with assuring diverse representation including all stakeholder groups. Each subcommittee will gather data and address issues related to their issue and poverty. Each will explicitly address race and culture, family, inter-relationship with issues of other committees, and other cross-cutting considerations. Each month (fourth Monday, usually from 6 to 8 p.m. with light supper provided) we will all meet in plenary for brief reports from the subcommittees, then break into our subcommittee groups to continue the work; professional facilitation will be provided for each subcommittee. The Subcommittees include Education (Vivian Fisher, chair); Workforce (Clay Gilbert, chair); Housing & Transportation (Beth Gavrilles, chair); Physical & Mental Health (Howard Stroud, chair); Quality Child Care (Flora Tydings, chair); and Economic Development (Jack Lumpkin, chair). It is important to have service providers (and educators, and business people, and service consumers, and others) in each and every subcommittee, so please think outside the box as you select yours! There will be other activities as well (such as the Providers Summit[s], focus groups, etc.), but the information will all go back to the subcommittees to draft the plans. There will also be technical assistance available for data, research, and other needs identified in the subcommittees.(image placeholder)
 We literally want hundreds of people engaged in this, and need you there plus your assistance in getting others!


Anonymous said...

Oh good googly, how long has this been up, and no-body, no-not-one single person has any comment on the prosperity initiative?
Okay, whatever.... I'll bite.

I just got home from a day full of caring for my parents, and am feeling a little blue that I'm too tired to go out and do anything on this lovely evening in Athens.

So, here we go:

I'm sick of poverty. I hate living in it, dealing with it, hearing about it, and forgiving people for it.

I don't want to join hands and om for the solution to it, I know the solution to it is money.

More money for wages.

More money for health care.

More money for food and clothing and child care and education and well, more money. Money money money more money and more money.

Them that have it want to keep it, and them that don't want some.

It's really not that complicated.

Rich people make it and keep it away from poor folks. That's what happens, and I don't care how civilized or politically correct it is to say so, the social service structure as it exists today keeps the money in the hands of those who already have it and keeps people who don't from getting any more, or at least any more than they absolutely have to have right that minute, for the barest survival.

Almost every do-gooder I know makes a damn good salary for every bit of good they do. Way more than any of the people they claim to help. In fact, they are living off of the misery of the people they claim to help. Bottom feeders. Charity cases, every one of them. It's all a scam.

They make their money by keeping the status quo rolling. Often tax exempt dollars, which allow them to buy homes in the coolest of cool neighborhoods.... and hang out at the coolest of charity events, supporting other people who profit from the misery of others.

I'm over it! And look forward to reading whatever y'all have to say on the subject of the system that perpetuates poverty. And who really profits from it.

Let me hear ya!


monticello_pres said...

There is so much there I suppose it was blogged to get response. "Rich people make it and keep it away from poor folks". Well, they made it. And, in many cases, they paid the price previously to make that money.

Bill Gates and Michael Dell quit jobs and dropped out of school to roll the dice on their ideas. These guys started out of garages and the trunks of their cars. Those types of gambles don't work many times - but there is a risk v reward inherent to that crazy thing called capitalism.

Regarding the "it's all a scam" comment, I can't even imagine the series of events that led to that cynicism.

What's funny is that so many folks (many liberals) want the government to spread wealth evenly, provide for those who won't get off their @$$ and provide for themselves, save us from disaster, save us from ourselves, tell us where to get free meds and free money, but they scream bloody murder if anything resembling Christian philosophy enters the equation. Well, if that's what keeps government intrusion out of your lives, then good for you. I would prefer consistency though.

This country provides opportunity for every person born here. Period. Whether that is taken advantage of is up to the individual.

Is everything fair? Of course not. I wasn't born with the last name Vanderbilt or Walton. And I didn't marry into an elitist family.

But I am the first of my family to graduate from college, I have increased the earning potential of my family and heirs by taking that education and finding a solid job with good benefits. Will I ever earn a million dollars? Probably not. But that's not required to have a good life and enough money to have a family. It's not overly difficult regardless of what the far left would have you believe.

GP said...

The causes of poverty are diverse. Poor descisions and other factors can lead to a self perpetuating chain reaction that creates a hole that is difficult to escape from. Living in cheap housing can cause asthma in a child, which can result in ambulance/medical bills, which can lead to debt, etc....etc. When poor people are living on the edge of existence, the smallest factors can lead to catastrophe. Poverty is always going to be with us. Creating a culture of independent responsibility and good descision making would be a good start to solve the problem, but the answers are not easily achieved.

Dawg Corleone said...

The only solution to poverty is wealth.

Now, if only we could one of America's two major political parties to stop waging war on wealth...

Ned said...

Are you talking about the repubs there Dawg? For some reason the rich people are getting richer while the poor people are getting poorer.

The war on poverty is a war against the poor - how much have the republicans actually done to make life better for poor people? Have public transportation options improved? Have new jobs been created?

How about the interest rates lenders are allowed to charge? Have they been allowed to increase? What about health care for employees - how much of these costs have been offloaded onto the worker instead of the employer? How many developers have been put in jail for using illegal immigrants?

How much corporate welfare has there been in the last 5 years? You think that the oil companies need money from our government in order to be profitable?

The solution to me is to make it easier for people to get more for their money. Once we provide health care and good public transportation for all - we can all compete on the same level and let those with the best abilities rise to the top.

One of the parties is waging a war on wealth - they only want the people who currently have it to keep control of it.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Oh, I see! The answer to poverty is wealth! So the poor people, in order to not be poor anymore, just need to stop being poor! Brilliant! Shouldn't someone tell them this? I don't know why we haven't thought of this before.

For those of us who don't believe it's that simple, I encourage attendance at the meeting on 3/27. For the rest of you, you obviously believe the whole thing is a waste of time; that's fine, let us take a whack at it anyway.

By the way, you're right. Wealth is ultimately the answer. Therefore redistribution of it, in some form or another, is the only way to reduce poverty, as much as I know you guys hate that idea.

Dawg Corleone said...

There you go again, DD: "the rich are getting richer..."

You seem to have a problem with that. You seem to think all the world would be better if somehow the rich got poorer.

I'm here to tell ya, it just ain't so. Not in this universe.

The solution to poverty--the only solution to poverty--is the creation of wealth, not the redistribution of it. There is no shortcut, no think-tank white paper, no academic fostering of any other alternative.

We have to create and mantain a climate that is conducive to people taking part in the manufacture of goods and services that other people want and are willing to pay money for. Then we have to get out of the way and allow free people to exchange money for those goods and services. Wonderous things will happen.

But, no: let's have rallies and meet-ups and let's blog our way to prosperity. After all, that's what put Howard Dean in the White House, right?


Ned said...

That sounds great, Dawg. Stop all the subsidies to big business and let everyone compete on the same level!

Arrest those who continually hire illegal immigrants and make sure hard working Americans don't have their jobs taken away from them by those who break the law. Make sure that those who follow the law are able to compete fairly in the marketplace.

Republicans like to talk tough about a good business climate, but they make sure that their cronies get subsidies and do nothing about illegal immigration.

Our manufacturing base is dwindling and our farming and construction is being done by foreigners.

Who is letting this happen? It certainly ain't the dems.

Dawg Corleone said...

Our farm base should be dwindling. That's a sign of progress. Used to be it took basically one person to feed another person in this country, back in the day, when we were an agrian society. I'm not sure of the ratio now, but I'm sure it's one per something in the thousands. You see that as a bad thing? You'd rather we all worked on the farm?

I have worked on farms. I'd rather be doing what I'm doing, thank you. Ditto construction and manufacturing.

You're right, re the big picture: Republicans, at least philosophically, are the free traders; Dems are the protectionists. I'll fight that fight for my side every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Ned said...

I said I wanted Americans working on those farms - not illegal immigrants. Failing that, I want the people working on farms to be here legally. Have you no respect for the law? We can't be a country of nothing but white collar workers.

Dawg Corleone said...

We're passed the point of Americans wanting or, for the most part, needing to work on those farms.

You might as well wonder why we're not still hiring Pony Express riders.

We're getting a bit far afield here, but re immigration: I'm an open doors kinda guy. I have but two requirements: 1) Don't break our laws, and 2) Don't line up for a spot at the welfare tit. After that, I don't care how you got here.

Ned said...

Illegal immigration is allowing immigrants and developers to break our laws. Either enforce the laws or get rid of them - turning a blind eye is making it very hard for those who want to follow the law and make money in business.

But I think Americans need to be working on farms. It doesn't make sense to have folks on welfare and then pay illegal immigrants to do the jobs people on welfare should be doing.

I'm like you in the sense that I want it to be easy for people to find jobs and it should be easy for people to create jobs. Let's work on removing the barriers for entry into markets, making sure people working are working legally, and lets make sure employers are keeping their end of the bargain by providing health care and paying people fair wages.

It is a pretty simple concept - pay people for an honest days work and they will work hard. It is what made America a great country after WW2 and we should still try to be that way today.

I'm a Realist said... need to stop and think for a second.

"...redistribution of [wealth], in some form or another, is the only way to reduce poverty..."

This is true. In a utopian society, everyone would share in the spoils of the collective. This is the basic principle of communism. However, the fundamental problem with communism is the necessity of government. As long as a central government is in charge of the redistribution of wealth, there will be corruption and scandal. It is unavoidable. Blame it on the inherent evil (if you don't believe in evil, then blame it on Global Warming or the Smurfs) that is prevelant in the human race. So, the answer is not to suppress the individual (or individual's wealth) in favor of the collective.

And by the way, why is public transportation always brought up when we talk about the impoverished? Take a ride around the projects of Athens, and you'll notice that having an automobile is no longer reserved for the wealthy. You'll see a majority of run-down beaters, but you will also see some SUV's. My point is that public transportation, or the lack thereof, is not to blame for poverty. That's a red herring.

Then, there are the new jobs. How many new jobs have been created? Well, in an efficient market, there will always be unemployment. Unemployment is healthy for the overall economy because if there are jobs going unfilled, then the rate of pay goes up, and then the prices go up. The collective loses out in the long run if unemployment was 0%. It's nice to think that everyone that wants a job can have one, and that will decrease poverty. Well, it won't. This goes back to communism.

There is no cure for poverty. Jesus himself, before running for governor, said that the poor will always be among you. This is true. There is no cure for poverty. The sooner we come to grips with it, the better. The only answer is to provide for our neighbors. Illegal immigrants aren't the cause. Public transportation is not the cause. Farms nor democrats nor republicans nor heroin addicts are to blame for poverty. It is a necessary evil. It's just the way it is.

I say let's scrap the war on poverty and put that effort into actually helping our neighbors (i.e., buying them groceries, giving financial advice/aid, educate them, etc.). That is the only way to effectively meet the needs of the poor in our communities. Give of yourself, and you'll make a difference.

(Wow. That sounded really hokey...but I think it's pretty accurate.)

I'm a Realist said...

Since when is providing healthcare the responsibility of the workplace? One of the reasons that the costs of healthcare are outrageous today is the abuse of health insurance because "Well, I'm not paying for it." You can blame it on drug companies, you can blame it on government negotiations for prices, you can blame it on the insurance companies, you can even blame the litigious nature of our society, but the ultimate blame and utlimate responsibility needs to fall back on the patron...the employee...the person that goes to the doctor randomly because he has the sniffles. That is why healthcare is unreasonable and why many companies are no longer offering decent healthcare to their employees.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Um...that's kinda what I'm trying to do. I plan to "give of myself" by helping out on a subcommittee, in addition to the ways that you mentioned. I don't see why one is mutually exclusive of the other.

And who said anything about communism? Paying a decent wage is, in effect "redistribution of wealth", because workers get to keep some of the wealth they help generate. But it has nothing to do with communism. It's capitalism at its best.

Ned said...

I'm a realist - Seeing cars in the ghetto doesn't mean we don't need good public transportation. People who can't afford cars but need them to get to work end up spending a lot more money than they should on transportation. If we had an effective system of public transportation where someone could get to and from work for 3 dollars a day would save them a lot of money compared to the cost of the car, insurance, gas, repairs, and the fact that a cheap car is generally unreliable.

Old crappy cars aren't that good for the environment either, but I don't really want to get into that argument right now.

Also, I don't think it is the person who goes to the doctor when they have the sniffles and uses their healthcare to pay for it that makes things expensive - it is the person who doesn't have good healthcare that goes to the doctor after their sniffles turn into pneumonia that makes things really expensive.

GP said...

Healthcare costs are high because most Americans don't take good care of themselves. Lack of excersise and poor nutrition can become very expensive. Thnk of the medication and treatment costs for diabetes, heart disease, insulin resistance, PCOS, arthritis, etc. which are all caused or amplified by obesity. This is an area of personal responsibility that people don't discuss.

I'm a Realist said...


The point I was trying to make about transportation is that people view their car as liberating. Unless it is more convenient to use public transportation (like it is in large metropolitan cities like Boston or New York), impoverished people will snub their noses at even the most high-quality public transportation.


I agree with you whole-heartedly. There are many, many things that Americans do that cause their own health problems, which lead to more claims on health insurance, which lead to higher insurance premiums for providers, which lead to fewer providers. The last company I worked for changed insurance companies and cut the benefits to employees. The people that cried the most were the smokers, and the CEO pointed that fact out to them. It's one thing to ask for freedom for smokers to do their thing, but they lose their ability to cry foul when they lose their healthcare benefits.


What is a decent wage? I think $6.00 an hour for a high-school education (maybe) sacking groceries and taking them to my car is decent, but no one can live off that. Should we pay them $13.00 an hour? We can, but that would make the $20.00 an hour I make as a university graduate diluted, right? What incentive, then, would I have to go into $20,000 of debt for a college education?

Capitalism is about rewarding those that earn it. If you bring a lot to the table (you provide a service no one else provides, you have an ability no one else possesses, you have knowledge no one else knows, etc.), then you have the ability to earn more money. The more demand for your service, ability, or knowledge, the higher your pay will be. As far as I can tell, there is nothing a grocery store clerk is bringing to the table that deserves higher compensation. Unless he is the best damn grocery store clerk in the country (which isn't really saying much to begin with), he is replaceable...which means that you don't have to pay him a "decent" (and by decent, I assume you mean above the poverty level) wage. The system we have now (with the exception of government interference - interest rates, Ned? - and corruption) is capitalism at its finest. The cream rises to the top and is rewarded. That is capitalism.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Is there no option between $6 and $13? The minimum wage hasn't been raised since the early 90s, but the cost of living increase hasn't slowed down.

Ned said...

If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation it would be around 9 bucks right now.

I'm a Realist said...

Yes, but where do you want that wage to be? To be above the poverty line, a worker would need to make roughly $10.00 per hour. The minimum wage in California is like $6.75, but that isn't even scratching the surface of the cost of living out there. Increasing the minimum wage will only add to inflation (the cost must be passed onto the consumer). The ideal is to educate and/or train people out of minimum wage jobs and into higher paying jobs. You know the old saying, "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day...teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime." That's the way to combat poverty. It's idealistic and impractical, but anything else is just putting a bandaid on an amputated limb.

Anonymous said...

The cream rises to the top and is rewarded. That is capitalism.

and you call yourself a realist? Gimme a break.

I'm a Realist said...

Um...what is unrealistic about the particular comment you reference? American history is rife with examples of capitalists rising from obscure beginnings to the top of the food chain.

Jmac said...

Let's not be so quick to jump on Realist, as he does make plenty of good points. I don't subscribe to his ideological view, but it's hard to dispute how our economy - in a free market, capitalist system we have - would react with regard to wage hikes. I don't agree with his notion that the cream always rise to the top in capitalism, but I imagine that's evident from my previous discussions here.

Regarding the rest of this conversation ...

I wholeheartedly support the notion of the rich getting richer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I don't dislike wealth one bit, but I abhor greed. And that's what's really at work here.

People who are the CEOs of companies should make more money, but they should also treat their employees fairly and pay them a fair wage. Cutting wages or eliminating jobs or denying benefits to employees so one can flash post a 28 percent profit versus a 24 percent profit is, quite frankly, inexcusable and is nothing short of unadulterated greed.

Which is why I don't fully accept the argument that a wage hike should lead to higher priced goods (I'm not saying it won't, but it probably shouldn't). The increase in prices is done, more often than not, to keep profit levels the same and impress the company's shareholders. But, if the company could accept smaller profits for a period of time, then the increased money in the hands of the consumer will lead to greater profits in the long-term.

FWIW, I'm not necessarily a fan of wage hikes either since there is a very valid concern over inflation, as well as the impact it would have on small businesses who don't have the large revenues a Wal-Mart or Target possess.

And this is one of the real reasons health care has grown to be so expensive as of late. The problems with unnecessary medical visits by members of all socioeconomic classes play a role to be sure, but the need to keep profits at the levels of the 1990s when the economy sailed along triggered the increase in rates.

If you are serious about lowering the cost of health care, you need to consider better policing of doctors who commit malpractice (not stick a cap on malpractice lawsuits), increase coverage to provide preventive care, minimize wasteful administrative costs (for instance, push for paperless offices), limit the amount of time prescription drugs can be protected by a patent (say until they make back the money invested for research plus a percentage of profit), etc. and etc. There is no simple cure to lowering health care costs, but it's not really one particular thing which keeps it high.

Concerning this 'war on wealth' Corleone referred to, I'm not seeing it. I don't think an increase in taxes for the wealthiest signifies a war on the wealth anymore than I believe cutting social services constitutes a war on the poor. Furthermore, to suggest it would somehow help the poor if we lowered taxes on the wealthy fails to see that those taxes pay for those social services which help them.

Concerning Christian philosophy, I think a lot of Democratic leaders are exercising their faith when they call for services for the poor and sick. It's the same thing when Republican leaders call for 'family values' during their election year campaigns. Both sides, in my opinion, exploit religion and act in good faith and principle, often it just depends on the leader.

Plus, C.S. Lewis would argue that a system like socialism or communism is more in tune with the teachings of Christ than capitalism, as he did in Mere Christianity.

Realist, you fault government (rightly) in your dismissal of communism. I believe too that communism is a flawed system because it puts too much power in a central location, rather than disperse among many people. Corruption is very real, but it's not solely reserved for government. Corruption stems from man, not from government and is just as likely to be found in the private sector in a thriving capitalist society as it would be in a centralized government.

The difference, I would argue, is that in a democracy like ours (or say Great Britain which has a more liberal form of government with regard to social services) there is a sense of accountability. The leaders who guide our policy are, in theory, guided by us. They must get re-elected to their offices, and their actions are made public through the media, watchdog groups, dedicated public servants, etc. This openness leads to fairness.

We have had corrupt government officials, to be sure, but they have also wilted under the spotlight of public scrutiny. This is not the case with communism or another centralized form of government.

Likewise, I don't think poverty is a necessary evil. An evil, of course, but it's necessity escapes me. Otherwise Christ wouldn't have commanded His followers to combat poverty by taking care of the poor. When Jesus said we would always have the poor with us, it was more of a challenge to the church, asking it to always be a place of inclusiveness.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Taking a bite out of poverty is going to require a whole lot more than raising the minimum wage. I remember that the last time we raised the minimum wage, it helped (a little) but not really that much.

You're not supposed to 'live' on a minimum wage job. (I would know, I've had a few of them.) Those are for high schoolers making video game money. Not many of those tasks deserved better pay than I got.

If I felt that I was getting stiffed - that my time was more valuable than what I was getting paid, I'd ask for a raise. If that didn't come, I'd be down the street looking for a better job, or I'd be busy organizing the workforce locally to demand better pay.

Yeah, looking for a new job sucks. Yeah, stepping up to organize sucks, too. But so does working at Big Box Retail for minimum wage.

Minimum wage is not a long term solution to anything, especially poverty. Why? Because people who are making the bare minimum are always the people in poverty.

Patrick Armstrong said...

And BTW the "War on Wealth" is a myth propogated by the system. If some fat cat CEO is out there making 100 million clams a year, I do not feel the least bit sorry that he is in the 51% tax bracket.

He still makes 49 million bucks!!!

If he's so oppressed because of that, he can come have my job, and I'll 'suffer' under the yoke of this tyrrany all the way to my summer home on the Cote D' Azur.

I'm a Realist said...

Valid points, all.


I agree with you and C.S. Lewis that a socialist, communal society is more in-tune with Jesus' teachings.

The difference, I would argue, is that in a democracy like ours (or say Great Britain which has a more liberal form of government with regard to social services) there is a sense of accountability. The leaders who guide our policy are, in theory, guided by us. They must get re-elected to their offices, and their actions are made public through the media, watchdog groups, dedicated public servants, etc. This openness leads to fairness.

While I agree with your assertion that corruption is of man and not government, the above comment is where we differ. It's like saying "guns don't kill people; people kill people." While that statement is true, the gun acts as the vehicle in which the act is committed. If you had to kill someone with a sword, I would argue that fewer killings would take place. In the same vein, governments empower men. While some rich guy from Wyoming would ordinarily not have any power over me in Georgia, through our centralized government, he can dictate my every move. He can regulate how I do my job, what I can say to whom while I'm on my job, etc. This brings me to my point.

You say that in government, there is a sense of accountability. Well, Dick shot someone. Nothing happens. G-Dub invades some random country because he has a vendetta against the leader. Nothing happens. Government contracts fill the pockets of the men in government (oil, oil, oil). Nothing happens. The government continues (for like 150 years and still going strong) to trample on the Constitution. Nothing happens. Where is this accountability? Nobody is worried about being re-elected. They are worried about investigating steroids in baseball. The "American System" only serves to keep the empowered in power and the wealthy fat and happy. It's been working just fine for a century and a half, and unless we start taking some of that power back from the Dicks from Wyoming, it will continue.

I'm a Realist said...

As far as corruption in the private is very real. It always has been and always will be. That's just the way it is. The collective can make a statement to the private sector by the way they spend their dollars, but it largely goes without much comment. My assertion is that the men in power...the government...are working hand in hand with the corrupt private sector to keep the train rolling. The rich line the pockets of the powerful, and the powerful take it easy on the rich.

I'm a Realist said...

The necessity of poverty comes from Newton's Third Law of Motion. For every action, there is an equal, opposite reaction. You can't have a top without a bottom. You can't have a left without a right. You can't have good without evil. The only way we have discernment is through comparison. We have a wealthy class because we have a poor class.

More succintly, there will always be demand for non-skilled labor. There will always be non-skilled labor. Non-skilled labor doesn't pay well in comparison to skilled labor. As long as those three things hold true, poverty will exist.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Wow...missed the fact that comments were still pouring in down here...there's too much (great job jmac, as usual), so I'll just comment on the very last comment.

There is truth to what you say about there having to be a bottom because there's a top. But most things, including this, are matters of degree. The top and the bottom don't have to be as large and as far apart as they are now. In fact, most social scientists (even some economists, because greater wealth inequality reduces distributive efficiency, although other economists say that greater inequality produces more growth in already rich countries like the U.S.) say it's better for us if they're not.

Overall, it's better for everyone (even the rich) when there is a more even distribution of wealth (please understand that I mean MORE even, not PERFECTLY even or anywhere close to that; I'm not suggesting communism or even necessarily socialism on the scale of Western Europe or Canada; just something along the lines of an increase in wages and availability of social services and other governmental benefits at the bottom and a return to pre-Bush-tax-cut tax rates at the top).

Anonymous said...

The cream rises to the top and is rewarded. That is capitalism.

and you call yourself a realist? Gimme a break.

Um...what is unrealistic about the particular comment you reference? American history is rife with examples of capitalists rising from obscure beginnings to the top of the food chain.

A good number of people also win the lottery; doesn't mean everyone who tries does. Raise your hand if you've ever had a boss less competent/qualified than yourself.
Honestly I shouldn't have made the comment so snottily, I meant no offense, just that not everyone who works hard gets a great paying awesome job. If you live in Athens you should realize that.

I'm a Realist said...

Anonymous (if that is your real name...),

I understand and agree with what you are saying. Not everyone (actually, I would say a minority) worked hard for their millions today. The legacy system has made certain families dynasties (Kennedy, Bush, etc.), and the descendants have lived off the toil of their forefathers. There is no arguing that all wealthy people work hard, and all poor people are lazy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In a free, capitalistic society (which exists only in theory), one is only constrained by the limit of their will. The ole "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" ideal. While I realize that it is mostly fantasy, I have lived an example of that life. My family was a lower income, blue-collar family. I was the first to graduate from college, and now I am considered upper-middle class. It's the lack of this mentality that has eroded the American Dream.

Again...jolly-good banter.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

I am, sortof, an example too. I was, by one quarter (my sister, who is 3 years older than me, started right after me and is now in graduate school) also the first in my family to go to college, and then I went on to law school. And although I'm still not wealthy by any means, I'm doing better than either of my parents were when I was growing up.

But here's the point: I couldn't have done it without student loans. In a pure "free, capitalist" society, the government would not have been allowed to invade the property rights of other hard-working Americans to subsidize low-interest rate loans so I could get edumacated.

All I'm saying is this: I don't necessarily think that upward mobility is directly related to how purely capitalistic the society is; if anything the opposite, at least to a certain point. Small redistributions of wealth, like the student loans I mentioned, make it easier to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." The idea that we have to eliminate all of that in order to live the true American Dream is actually what has eroded it.

Just my 2 cents worth of jolly good banter.

Jmac said...

Realist - I don't dispute anything you're saying about the inevitability of a bottom to exist with a top, hence part of my hesitation in raising the minimum wage. DiDDY, however, I think made very valid points about how far down that bottom is. Again, I've got absolutely no problem with the rich getting richer, but I do have a problem with the poor getting left behind. I'd like to see their wealth increase too, thus giving them a more comfortable lifestyle and the ability to have more opportunity in their lives.

And that's why straight economic answers typically frustrate me because they don't take into account the moral obligations a society has in helping the less fortunate, though I want to be clear that I'm not accusing you of shirking that responsibility. It's just that when one falls back on the 'well the poor are always going to be with us' it often comes across that the individual doesn't care (again, which I don't think you don't).

I still don't think I agree with you concerning the corruption of governments in democracies. While I definitely don't care for this particular administration, it's important to note that in 2004, a majority of people in this country endorsed their actions and agenda and rewarded them with a second term in office. My point being that, unlike in communism or a dictatorship, the populace of a democracy still gets the chance to put its leaders in office every two, four and six years.

Has the Bush administration done some things which I find ethically questionable? Yes. But, those actions have been exposed to the world through the openness of our existing system and the country has responded, to my chagrin, more often than not with indifference (I can wax poetic about our society's indifference toward a lot of things at a later date).

Anyway, my point being that all sides of the argument are being aired and things which qualify as corruption (say Duke Cunningham's actions in California) are still unveiled, and we as a society determine if we find them offensive or not.

So the problem, as I see it, is not so much that a centralized government is trampling all over our rights, but that the American people - those who possess the real power - haven't done enough to express their concerns over some of the actions which have taken place. The power is still there, but more often than not we willingly reward those who want to reclaim or hold on to the political/economic power (and they work hard to keep it).

Consider the examples of Howard Dean and John McCain. Dean, for all practical purposes, was an outsider to Washington politics and had a different vision for the country. While I didn't necessarily care for his message or vision, he posed a threat to the existing power structure - and both the Democratic power structure and Republican power structure saw that and waged war on him (Dean's self-imposed implosion didn't help either). Same is true with McCain. While we can't say he was a true outsider as actually was a senator in 2000, he didn't march to the GOP party line and started winning a couple of things. The power structure was threatened and mercilessly attacked him.

This has happened throughout history with some leaders who promised change even being killed for their vision. The power truly exists with the people, but the political and economic powerful do all they can to keep it. I say it's our job as a society to grow better educated, not listen to talking points espoused by either party and be willing to rattle the cages.

hillary said...

Would this be the time to bring up redistricting? (I also didn't realize there was a furious debate going on in these comments.)