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Blowing up the balloon

George F. Will, in What The Fed's Job Isn't, suggests “Congress could pass a law saying: No company benefiting from a substantial federal subvention (which would now include Morgan) may pay any executive more than the highest pay of a federal civil servant ($124,010). That would dampen Wall Street's enthusiasm for measures that socialize losses while keeping profits private.” I suspect he thinks that's a joke.

More seriously, he says that the Fed's job is purely and simply to keep inflation down. I am afraid that it might be true.

I've been saying, for a week or so now, that I think we're in for an extended period of high inflation. If I'm right, and there's no reason to think I am, the value of the dollar (domestically) would be down by about third in five or eight years. In the short term, the race between a gallon of gas and a gallon of milk will tilt to the milk side for a while. That sort of thing.

As long as wages keep up with that inflation, it doesn't seem so bad to me. Mr. Will is terrified that that a “ surge of inflation might mean the end of the world as we have known it.” That might be true. The world as we have known it always ends. But one of the structural problems in America is that we have a substantial amount of dollar debt: families do, businesses do, states do, the nation does. Deflating the value of that debt would be a Good Thing, if we could get away with it. Yes, it would hurt in a variety of ways, and I'm concerned that the tax crazies would go bugnuts about raising taxes 7% annually, even if the value of the taxes remained essentially constant. If we couldn't raise taxes, particularly local taxes, to cover the inflation, we could be in deep shit. But aren't we in deep shit now?

Of course, by the end of my imagined inflationary period we will be dealing with the effects of the climate change, which I don't even pretend to predict (Asian Bird Flu saves North American Economy! Cubs win!), so there's little point in worrying about the debt issue. But then, I've never really worried about the debt issue, much.

Except that our nation seems to be fundamentally neurotic about inflation, as if what this country really needed was a good five-cent cigar. If wage inflation keeps pace with price inflation, the losers are the people with capital. Now, I've got nothing against capital—I've often wished I had some myself—but I've got to think that if, as Mr. Will reports, the middle-class (vaddevah dat means) debt-to-income ratio is now 141 percent, then who's voting for capital?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

How can people live with so much debt? That's crazy! Who would do that??!?

peace
Matt


Not to give George Will the plutocrat shill any credit, but I'd say the moral/economic considerations around inflation go like this: wages should rise, and if a consequence of rising wages is some inflation, so be it: as long as wage increases are staying ahead of, or at least keeping up with, inflation, so be it. If wages aren't increasing, then inflation must be kept under control, even if it means temporarily throwing the economy into recession and (let's say) allowing some large financial institutions to go under.

If you put rising wages first, it's ok for there to be some inflation.

The Federal Reserve has, for the last 25 years, but most egregiously in the last 10, has not put rising wages first. It has, in an effort to pump up the wealth of the wealthy, pursued policies to prevent rising wages so as to pad corporate profits _and also_ to prevent inflation, despite the fact that they were pursuing other policies (cheap credit) that created inflationary risks. Flat wages in an economic expansion made historically cheap credit feasible, for a while.

Now, since the Fed's asinine policies and the rampant, short-sided greed in the financial sector have plunged us into recession while increasing inflation through their continued addiction to cheap credit, we have inflation with no wage increases in sight, which is bad for those with capital, but worse for those without it. When in a "good" economy with relatively low inflation, people's expenses were increasing faster than their earnings (hence the high level of consumer debt), in a bad economy with high inflation, people's expenses will continue to increase faster than their earnings. The negative value of their current debt will decrease, true, but that will only help them if their income exceeds their expenses and they can start paying the debt down. If high inflation and stagnant wages just means taking on more debt, then the lessening value of the old debt isn't any help.

In addition, when food riots around the world are linked to U.S. inflation (see http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/JD22Dj01.html), I have to conclude that the present inflation is very bad for a lot of people.

Thinking about the point of the entry, I would say that the plutocrats who have had the managing of the U.S. economy for nigh unto 30 years now are neurotic about _wage increases_. Their propaganda mouthpieces, like George Will, promote neurosis about _inflation_ as a way to justify their wage-suppression policies as good for everybody. Their neurosis about higher wages coupled with their more cavalier, real-but-unacknowledged attitude about inflation has contributed to our current predicament, and right now, when, because of the wage situation, inflation is likely to really hurt ordinary people but will prop up the financial sector for a while longer, the Fed gives us inflation. Their policies, as usual, are exactly the opposite of what a policy that looks out for the monetary interests of everybody-except-the-rich would look like.


That was an extraordinarily clear-sighted and helpful analysis, Chris. Thanks.

I don't tend to agree with the notion that a policy that takes care of everybody except the rich is any better than a policy that takes care of only the rich.

How about a policy that treats people the same, regardless of their income, position in society, education level, skin color, mental acuity, criminal record, or personal politics, please? We could call it our Constitution and start a new nation! Then, if tyranny came to our shores, it would surely be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy (advantage: James Madison), and THAT'll never happen.

Go go Gadget Idealism!

peace
Matt


Chris,

Yes, I should have pointed out that the Fed has actually been fighting wage inflation, and only incidentally fighting price inflation. My offhand comment that "as long as wages keep up" was much too cavalier; there's no reason to believe that they will, barring either (a) collective bargaining across a larger sector of the workforce, or (2) federal intervention. Those may both be pipe dreams.

Matt,

The thing is that it's extraordinarily difficult to treat everybody equally, when people start with unequal antecedent benefits and burdens. I don't have a problem with a government that discerns different levels of power, and provides more protection to those born with the biggest burdens and lightest benefits. A government that doesn't attempt to do that runs the risk of helping everybody they see, with the ones they see being those with the biggest benefits and lightest burdens, who after all, get the good seats up front.

Thanks,
-V.


Beyond providing infrastructure (in which noun I include government-funded education until professional life takes over and health-care), I don't see that the government can help the underprivileged.

I would say more, but let's start there and see whether this turns into a discussion, an argument, or just goes away. WHEE!

peace
Matt


Matt,

It sounds like you are forgetting about the legislative branch of government?

Government can, in no particular order, and just for starters

1) protect the right of workers to unionize
2) protect minorities against discrimination of many kinds, including disenfranchisement
3) protect ordinary citizens against predatory, not to say fraudulent, lending practices
4) establish minimum wage laws that make sure that the lowest-paid workers can live with dignity
5) establish tax laws that keep the poor from being further impoverished by taxation and to prevent extreme and inherited wealth from corrupting the political process
6) establish and fund public-defender programs that help give a measure of justice to those unable to afford legal counsel--other ways in which the legal system can provide protection for the poor against exploitation by the rich are manifold.

There are as many ways for the government to help the underprivileged as there are ways for the wealthy to use the leverage provided by capital to exploit and control the poor. It looks to me that if ordinary citizens could not use the levers of government to place controls on what the rich can do, we would have not just de facto but de jure serfdom in this country.

At least, that is how it seems to me. But perhaps we are defining "help" or "underprivileged" in quite different ways?


Matt,

I'll add a bit more focus to the legal system, as we could provide assistance in both the criminal and civil courts, if we wanted to, which would mean that when an individual of minimal education wanted to, for instance, sign a contract with a telecommunication company for mobile phone service or internet service, that individual would be on a level footing. In general, we can protect the underprivileged from business interests in a variety of ways; we do that now largely with regulations (such as lemon laws), but also with state AG lawsuits and similar.

Also, it's not clear whether you include in infrastructure things like public transit, roads, police, etc, as well as libraries, theaters, music halls, etc, the purchase and maintanance of public lands such as parks, beaches, camping grounds, etc, and other areas where the wealthy can purchase their own, but the poor or even average person must rely on the government. Some of that is simply organizational (the government is one way to organize a library, but absent government interest it would still be possible for poor people to organize one, or to have access to a wide variety of reading material through other organizational structures), but some of it is not (if the government did not use its might to carve out land-use, likely the wealthy would purchase all the land (for instance, beachland in certain areas or city parks), leaving none for the poor fellow to buy or rent even if he were to become rich.

That's not to say that every conceivable way the government could protect the underprivileged or their interests against the powerful and their interests should be tried. For instance, a fellow from a wealthy family, when in need of a financial advisor he can trust, can often use the one his father uses, or someone recommended by that advisor, or use the one his college roommate uses (or use his college roommate). A fellow from a poor family who does not attend college does not have those connections, and is therefore vulnerable to dishonest financial advice (or incompetent advice or no advice). Although I think this is a serious problem given our structure for savings and retirement, I think that an attempt by the government to mandate Old Family Retainers for poor families would be silly and fruitless. It may, however, be possible for the government to otherwise protect people who are vulnerable to financial shenanigans.

Thanks,
-V.


All of those things are correct. However, it is my position that if education and health care were treated as infrastructure, that would be unnecessary. You, however, are talking about the specific, concrete circumstances that the underprivileged find themselves in now. I'm talking about abstract, systemic changes in an theoretical model that exists only in my head.

So:

1) I'm not convinced that unionization actually works, in the long run. Although GM's (to pick an example) workers have been better off for several decades than they were without a union, GM has become a clumsy dinosaur of a company, due in large part to balancing its obligation to past employees with the fact that they made poor choices over the past decade, going for short-term profit, as demanded by their shareholders, some of whom are their union employees, whose comfort in retirement depends on their stock holdings.
2) Yes, and this would be a good thing. Go to it, government!
3) This is also true, and it also would be a good thing. I suspect that the twin approaches of denying corporations their status as entities (or alternately enforcing the same laws on corporations as are enforced on people - how does one jail a corporation?) and providing equivalent, federal educations for everyone would fix that, but again: my model in the head vs. your cold, stark reality: advantage, reality!
4) I don't think this works, either. Again, it is my assertion that education is the cure to this disease. Again, advantage: reality. However, I think the notion of a minimum wage is broken for the same reasons as the notion of unions. Is it better for 50 people to be employed at $4/hour or no people to be employed at $0/hour?
5) I thought we did that already... Oh, wait. The Bush administration, my bad. Get on that, would you, O Government, My Government?
6) Well, there is a public defender system, but again: it's broken by the resources of extreme wealth.

I tend to agree with you, generally, that government should not be numbered among the resources of the extremely wealthy, and that where it has become so, control should be wrested from them. I doubt that either Obama or Clinton would do that, however.

I'm would kind of like to see McCain (illegally, of course) win the election so that the continuation of the current ruinous policies can drive us into a depression as bad as the one called Great.

I'm not looking forward to the depression, so much, but coming out the other side will be such a relief!

peace
Matt


Agreed, and yet we have a legislative branch that hasn't managed to reign in any of the excesses of the present version of the system. People below a certain threshhold are not able to lobby Congress with the Sherman-marching-to-the-sea zeal of corporate lobbyists.

In small steps, I plan on writing select representatives, and voting against my local Congressman in November. I'm told that he, personally, is a good guy. He just tends to vote against our local interests in favor of the National Republican Party. Er... really it's more than a tendency, to be candid. It's more like 99.9% of the time.


On the union front, I don't think that GM has, on the whole, lost share to companies that are less unionized, have they? And, of course, it's difficult to compare what has happened to what would have happened in the absence of a strong (albeit corrupt) union at GM.

Mostly, though, I think that the tradeoff of several decades of financial well-being by a myriad of auto workers for the eventual extinction of the company is a good one for the nation, isn't it? So, even if unionization doesn't work in the long run (and I still maintain that a good management will do better in the long run with a good union than a good management without a good union, but that a bad management does have reason to fear unionization), if it works in the short run, I'll only be willing to trade it in for something that has been proven to work in the long run. And we'll only know what that is in the end-time, right?

Thanks,
-V.


I think that an attempt by the government to mandate Old Family Retainers for poor families would be silly and fruitless

Me too, which would seem like an excellent argument in its favor, but let's don't.

I would suggest that this is a failure of the current education system, rather than of the legislative system. If the financial system were better understood by the poor, I tend to think they wouldn't be so poor.

It's true that the financial system is stacked against them, so give the poor sufficient resources in the 2, 3, 5, and 6 department (from Chris Cobb's post above), and go.

I fear that the "I'm conservative, I defend the rich"/"I'm liberal, I defend the poor" paradigm is broken; that the libertarian ideal is broken unless you're willing to put up with things like the market's correction of a genocide ("whoops, genocide!" "yeah, we'll have to correct that... somehow..." "eh, you correct it, I've got my garbage bill to pay."); that the European socialist system only works when you have an unprotected non-citizen class to do the low-paying jobs; and that there is neither a George Washington nor an FDR on hand to fix things.

Obama may yet be capable of Lincolnian fortitude, and that would do fine. We'll see.

peace
Matt


Whether it be a strong union presence or a public advocate surrogate, we sure could use something to push for better working conditions, health care, and so on. Say what you want about GM's Union, their sit down strikes early on got the attention of that company and got GM workers some of the best working conditions any factory workers ever had. Compare their lot to people who get locked in at Wal-Mart and forced to work "off the clock," or for comp time, or for pizza instead of financial compensation. These things are illegal, but the law isn't enforced. We need to put the teeth back in the law.

Education, in my opinion, probably should be centralized. When I hear about Florida attempting to force science teachers to denigrate what we know about biology and earth science, I lose faith in the idea that local and state school boards know what's best for their kids.


You may be right that GM is no more unionized than, say, Toyota; in which case, a union might have more value than I'd given it credit for.

However. My point was trying to be that if the union employees are depending on the financial well-being of the union company for their personal financial well-being (and it seems like they do, at least in the case of GM), then if that company goes belly-up after a decade of prosperity, or if they cut employees and cut union benefits to those employees in an attempt to stay solvent, then those employees are now scrod, even if they were in pretty good shape for the prior ten years.

Unions also thrive on worker specialization. If you're a highly skilled widget-tooler, but nobody's tooling widgets any more, these days, why then you're really an unskilled worker, n'est-ce pas? The fact that you made $30/hour for twenty years actually works against you in this circumstance.

I'm with you that good management + good union = good company. I'm also right in line with bad management + good union = better for the workers. Sadly, I don't actually believe in good management or a good union as entities. There may be A Good Manager and A Good Union Leader, but when they retire, lose control, or die, it's just back to business as usual. It is so very difficult to avoid misinformation. Do you guys know about this group? Seems like the kind of thing that can happen with bad management and a bad union.

Thing is, that TPM article was written 2 years ago, and it's now lost in the electronic noise, unless you're pretty persistent about tracking it down. The website it exposes, on the other hand, is slick, well-funded, up, and thoroughly dishonest.

I see this period we're in as being comparable to the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century struggle between the Company and the Worker, but the anarchists are in Iraq (or whatever - choose your metaphor and go with it - it's clearly not an absolute correlation), instead of Colorado. The Company is winning right now, but their victory is a bubble, and it is no more sustainable than our long-term use of oil.

I want The People to earn a living wage; but that wage needs to be a sustainable wage, just as The People's carbon footprint needs to be a sustainable carbon footprint. But there has to be a middle ground between Capitalism and Communism. Neither is sustainable, due to totalitarianism. Communism stagnates, and Capitalism collapses under its own weight. Without profit, there is little motivation for innovation and freedom; however, without justice, there can be no justicfication for profit. Do we need to be victims of history again, every fucking time?

peace
Matt


Do we need to be victims of history again, every fucking time?

Yes. Is there anything else to be?

Thanks (and I'll actually write a more substantial response later),
-V.


It's a fair cop.

peace
Matt


If the financial system were better understood by the poor, I tend to think they wouldn't be so poor.

microfinance advocates would switch that: "if the poor were better understood by the financial system…."

but as stated, it's a weird position to take, when the financial system is falling apart -- again -- for having lied to everybody about property value, with the state's heartfelt permission. i'd look up, in the face of absurd criminality destroying trillions of bucks of savings.

but then opposition to a living wage requirement positively screams of personally having access to cheap credit.


All I'm saying is it takes three to tango, and you can't leave the dance instructor out of the equation. My point is not that the poor are to blame for the financial system's falling apart - that fault is clearly at the doorstep of policy makers, both criminal and otherwise. My point is that if the education system did its job, the poor (and, heck, everybody) would be better equipped not to be suckered by scams.

peace
Matt


To return to some earlier premises I'd like to question.

Premise 1. Matt wrote:

I'm not convinced that unionization actually works, in the long run.

Well, as I've seen in a signature line or two, "In the long run, we're all dead." Any human institution is vulnerable to corruption: unions, governments, corporations, universities, churches, fraternal organizations, bridge clubs, you name it.

I'd want to see some evidence that unions are any more (or less) subject to corruption than any other institution or that their corruption is significantly more damaging to people before I'd accept the claim that they don't work in the long run. Nothing human does, unless it is regularly corrected, cleaned up, reformed, and revitalized.

As I've thought more about the problem of the corruption of institutions, I have come ever closer to embracing anarchism, at least on a philosophical level. Let all associations be voluntary and temporary. Let all politics be local. Require all business ventures to share profits equally among all workers in the business.

The problem is that I don't see any way to get to a world of people happily engaging in the free collaborations that a culture educated in the ways of anarchist voluntarism could produce. In principle, I think it's the way to go, but institutions have been established because the power they accumulate is evolutionarily advantageous in human societies, so getting rid of them altogether seems unrealistic. If we could do away with the corporation, the university, and the government, we might dispense with the union.

Premise 2. Matt wrote:

Without profit, there is little motivation for innovation and freedom

I hear this claim in discussions with Libertarian- and Republican-leaning folks a good deal, and I think it needs to be questioned. People who are motivated primarily by profit might not innovate or use actively their freedom without it, but people are motivated by a lot of things, aren't they? I hear tell that the U.S. system of higher education is a great engine of innovation and a bastion of intellectual freedom, but the institutions that make up that system are almost exclusively non-profit entities, and no one whose primary goal is money-making pursues a university career.

People will innovate, I submit, whenever they have a problem they think needs solving and the freedom to try to solve it. If innovation was driven more by individual problem-solving and less by the need of corporations to make huge profits, there might be less innovation, on the whole, but there might be less plastic crap floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Certainly, totalitarian communism proved less innovative and adaptable than capitalist republics, but people being lazy because they got to eat whether they worked or not was only a small contributor to the sclerosis of those societies. Their governments actively suppressed freedom of thought and innovation.

Left to themselves, people will certainly think of ways to make money: I don't discount the profit motive. But it seems highly unlikely that society would atrophy and lose all interest in scientific investigation and technological innovation if we placed much more stringent limits on the pursuit of wealth and the prerogatives of ownership.


matt you sound like you had a good education and yet you're advocating against collective bargaining and a guaranteed living wage -- two of the key protections uncapitalized persons have against predators -- be they lenders, lawyers, or limited liability larcenists. the best protection against abuse is good personal footing and strong friends, which are also key aspects of securing resources for schools and better jobs. this isn't a technocracy or a meritocracy, it's a special-interest-driven system where power gathers unto itself. where economic power wanes, vultures swoop and that's often all she wrote -- "on to the new." good schools in poor areas is a great idea that nobody'd question but the race-to-the-bottom on wages has much less to do with learning. the better question might be, "if our school system were somehow perfect, with no other changes to our system, would that prevent the election of people who never voted against the economic interests of middle- and low-income people?"

i'd say "no," because every group is susceptible to divide-and-conquer, and that's what drives punitive economic policy.


*"would that FORCE the election of" -- sorry -- long day, small screen


!) I don't think a system of anarchy can "require" anything (like all business ventures to share anything with anybody, for instance). Personally, I recognize that anarchy is not a political philosophy, so much as reality, on top of which an illusion of order has been laid by mutual consent, coercion, and self-delusion. I'm fine with that, though. Reality is scary.

@) I'm not talking about corporate profit, I'm talking about individual profit. I am lazy, and I don't like doing stuff without some kind of benefit to me. I can't imagine there aren't other lazy people out there.

#) HAPA YOU SOUND LIKE YOU HAD A GOOD EDUCATION AND YET YOU REFUSE TO CAPITALIZE THE INITIAL LETTER OF YOUR SENTENCES -- ONE OF THE KEY PROTECTIONS UNCAPITALIZED INITIAL LETTERS HAVE AGAINST UNCAPITALIZATION. Oh, sorry, that was ad hominem, rather than substantive. Actually, I don't have any problem with collective bargaining, phrased that way. That's clearly a good idea. Go union!

$) I also wouldn't have an objection to a guaranteed living wage, but I don't believe that setting a minimum wage does that without also controlling the cost of goods, such that a living wage is not a moving target. Good luck with that.

Say you own a shop. If you have a wife who does not work for pay; if you have three children; if you need to be going to trade shows and otherwise maintaining the tools you require for your livelihood; if your store brings in roughly $100,000 annually, net profit, if it's operating at full store hour capacity: is it not necessary to have someone maintain the shop when you can't? How much can you afford to pay them? Can someone else dictate that your lifestyle should suffer, so that you can pay them $50,000, rather than $20,000?

peace
Matt


Can someone else dictate that your lifestyle should suffer, so that you can pay them $50,000, rather than $20,000?

Ignoring the loaded language, a basic principle of human rights is that one person's needs don't eliminate the rights of another person. That's true even if the first person is a shopowner.

V, I'm glad you acknowledge that "as long as wages keep up" is a rather important point. We don't really need to worry about people at the top of the wage scale -- they'll do ok. But bottom decile and median wages have dropped tremendously over the past 30 years, and the situation is far worse if you include major employment benefits such as health insurance. Wages aren't keeping up, because they've been going in the opposite direction. Saying that inflation isn't a problem as long as wages keep up is akin to saying that inflation isn't a problem as long as aliens give us all nuclear power plants that fit in our pockets and smell like cinnamon. Mmm, cinnamon. I guess inflation isn't too bad!


Oh, don't ignore the loaded language! I'm advocating for the shopowner, and that's the language he would use, after all.

So, what's a living wage for the shopowner (wife, three kids, mortgage), and what's a living wage for the employee:

sub A: high school boy, 1979 Ford Ranchero, extensive MP3 collection
sub B: college woman, cigarette addiction, enjoys drinking heavily
sub C: retired pensioner, wife, dog

? Is it the same? Is it $8/hour? Half of the net profit of the business? $6/hour, under the table?

peace
Matt


Y'all are doing fine without me, here, but I'll just respond to Michael by saying that there have been times, including much of the 70s, that wage inflation kept up with cost inflation, as it should. It hasn't, lately, even with cost inflation being incredibly low, but it can do. In other words, the FED and the government should have, as possible goals, keeping all inflation down, trying to spur wages to keep up with cost inflation, trying to keep cost inflation pacing wage inflation, trying to keep wage inflation well below price inflation, letting the shit hit the fan. I think we've been working on a cultural assumption that the first of those is the only responsible practice, and I want to shift that to saying that the second is reasonable as well.

Other than that, I'll just caution against taking each other's arguments personally; remember that people are different one to another, and will come to different conclusions. I think Matt Hulan's challenge is worth meeting, but I have other fish to fry today, and hope that somebody else will do it. Remember to question those premises, boys, and define your terms!

Thanks,
-V.


this's good: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2006/0506wicks.html

my read:

minimum wage: wage increase and "ripple effect" impact a workforce that's ~30% "age 16 to 24"; negligible job loss.
living wage: still lower % non-adult workers; greater productivity and lower turnover appear to mitigate noticeable extra cost.


matt: sorry. i was too short with the education point. which was that if you're not talking about direct apprenticeship, it's hard to define what kind of education is the right kind to ensure good economic position. it would be very nice for instance if you could take a night-school class in "having grown up in a predominantly white middle class suburb 101." if it were just about how to use banks and how to dress for success (and how not to seem "too ethnic to hire at a fair wage," a common problem with somewhat obscured solution paths) and banks were aimed at providing credit that was useful to the sorta-informal economy of poorer areas, things'd be great.

my point was though sort of drawing from "what's the matter with kansas" -- if your own education, which's probly tough to identify as a principal factor in your own life's above-poverty-ness, led you away from supporting programs that are widely thought to be very practical answers to dealing with poverty, does that mean your education isn't the right kind to lift some percentage of people -- now in poverty, with a community legacy of poverty -- out of poverty?

i'd say, based on what i've read lately, that the key element is belief in the entire community that things will improve if they try. efforts made that don't end up getting people over -- are heartbreaking. and actually as with any impoverished area, brain drain's a severe problem. a small group gets out, via powerful formal education, never looks back.

community organizing however is very powerful; building local services, lowering costs of a good standard of living, making it easier and more meaningful to build personal skills, finding ways to match people (particularly those with criminal records) with jobs, progressive sentencing programs, better gun control, better drug treatment, child care, medical care, food -- and fighting off predatory everything -- those are good things. some of which can only be done from the inside, as a group.

ultimately though if moving the whole group up a notch in living standard is a goal, fair wages and fair credit are a necessity.


Well, to be fair, I suspect that one might also have grown up in any sort of middle class neighborhood. Most of them are, in fact, white and suburban, though.

"does that mean your education isn't the right kind to lift some percentage of people -- now in poverty, with a community legacy of poverty -- out of poverty?" It probably means that my formal education (principally in literature and various computer programming technologies) isn't the right kind for me to do any of that lifting, yes. I do know some people with different cultural backgrounds but similar education backgrounds who have done some self-hoisting, but I suspect they are examples of "a small group gets out, via powerful formal education, never looks back."

However, I tend to believe that participation in university culture tends to afford one a perspective both on one's own background and on that of others, and that universal access to this culture would be good. I am not saying that everyone who goes to college will magically obtain mad white suburban skillz. I've shared with too many junkies and crackheads who themselves also went to college to believe that. However, it's a leg up, and that's all that can be given to anyone.

I tend to think that the only social programs that the wealthy will deign to agree to fund are programs that do not appear actively hostile to them. A minimum wage might appear hostile to someone like my hypothetical shopkeeper, where universal healthcare and education would provide his children the same benefit they would provide the hypothetical employees.

peace
Matt


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