Upward Mobility: It’s a Race Thing

November 11th, 2011 at 1:06 pm | 62 Comments |

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You don’t have to accept some of the anarchistic radicalism at Occupy Wall Street to admit that America is a country with high income inequality and low upward mobility. Some Conservatives have tried to obfuscate this reality but others are actually wrestling with it.

A recent issue of National Review is thankfully in this latter camp and has an essay by Scott Winship which goes over the research produced by the Pew Economic Mobility Project as well as recent work from the Brookings Institute.

The most important point that Winship makes is this: mobility might be low in America but the lack of mobility is most crushing at the lowest economic quintile, and particularly for African Americans.

Dealing with this low mobility should be a goal for policy makers, especially for conservatives who are bewildered at how 47% of Americans are unable to make enough money to pay Federal personal income taxes.

Here is the key fact, there is not enough mobility out of the bottom fifth of America’s lowest income quintile:

If being raised in the bottom fifth were not a disadvantage and socioeconomic outcomes were random, we would expect to see 20 percent of Americans who started in the bottom fifth remain there as adults, while 20 percent would end up in each of the other fifths. Instead, about 40 percent are unable to escape the bottom fifth.

Some conservatives and organization such as the Tax Foundation look at the same data and point out that this means that 60% are leaving the lowest income quintile. Surely that is a sign of upward mobility? Not necessarily. Winship notes the irony that those who are most aware of the lack of mobility are themselves in the most hardest to reach economic quintiles:

If you’re reading this essay, chances are pretty good that your household income puts you in one of the top two fifths, or that you can expect to be there at age 40. (We’re talking about roughly $90,000 for an entire household.) How would you feel about your child’s having only a 17 percent chance of achieving the equivalent status as an adult? That’s how many kids with parents in the bottom fifth around 1970 made it to the top two-fifths by the early 2000s.

The Americans who can’t leave the bottom fifth are disproportionately African American as well, adding a racial dimension to this issue that often gets ignored in conservative literature.

In a follow-up interview with FrumForum, Winship expanded on some of the black-white family differences that exacerbate these trends:

-Concentrated poverty. Winship notes that “two-thirds of black children experience a level of neighborhood poverty growing up that just 6 percent of white children will ever see.”

This is a striking statistic which probably deserves a lot more attention than it is currently receiving. It probably goes a long way towards explaining why such a large part of American society is blissfully unaware of the hardships faced by those at the lowest end of the economic ladder.

-Family structure. While Winship says the evidence is “mixed”, it seems that divorce is more likely to encourage downward mobility for African Americans if they start in the middle of the income distribution.

-There are other factors which likely reduce mobility out over time, such as how African Americans are more likely to be born with a low birth weight.

It should be possible to get conservatives to at least be aware that more mobility is needed at the lower quintile and that America would benefit from being able to have a wider tax base and fewer Americans who make use of welfare services.

Recent Posts by Noah Kristula-Green



62 Comments so far ↓

  • LFC

    If being raised in the bottom fifth were not a disadvantage and socioeconomic outcomes were random, we would expect to see 20 percent of Americans who started in the bottom fifth remain there as adults, while 20 percent would end up in each of the other fifths.

    While I agree with much of what was written, the above statement isn’t realistic. There’s no way or any reason why I’d expect the outcomes to be random. Educated people with money are going to give their kids a leg up in the world. And I have no problem with that. If I were a parent, you can bet I’d be fighting tooth and nail to give my kid the best shot at life.

    On the flip side, the moronic scheme of localized property tax funding of schools is designed to make sure that basic education isn’t evenly distributed and that funds in wealthy districts stay there. That is where the federal gov’t needs to get involved. As a nation we need to ensure that every child has access to a solid, basic education. That means safe schools, reasonable class size, decent buildings, and current textbooks (preferably ones that contain Jefferson and evolution).

    The kids in the bottom fifth still won’t end up randomly distributed, but at least they’ll have a reasonable shot at moving upward. And we’ll all get the benefit of a well educated population.

    • Steve D

      The problem with quintiles is they require each to have 20%, so if someone moves up into a higher quintile, someone else must, by definition, move down. Say you’re the tippy-top person in the 2nd quintile. You get a raise and move up past the lowest guy in the 3rd quintile. He’s now in a lower quintile even though his personal economic situation is unchanged. Nothing will change the fact that being in the lowest quintile sucks, but it probably skews our understanding of the middle 3 quintiles.

      And would random events distribute everyone equally in all five quintiles? Not any random processes I know of. You’d expect most people to move into a neighboring quintile. And there’s all kinds of non-randomness. A top quintile person would have a big buffer cushioning his fall. A bottom quintile person won’t have resources for moving up.

      Local control of schools is one of the biggest factors in school underperformance. Not only does it keep poor schools poor, but it allows the most anti-intellectual people in the community to water down the curriculum and undercut discipline.

      • Frumplestiltskin

        but it probably skews our understanding of the middle 3 quintiles
        No, not in America. I get your point, during the cultural revolution in China pretty much everyone was in the same income bracket, ie not much…at most a few Kuai, and now in China the income gap is the highest it has ever been, yet, for the most part, nearly everyone’s lives are much better.
        But this is not true in America, income gains have not kept pace with productivity increases, the owners and upper management have pocketed that for themselves.
        If that continues it will cause huge problems in the future, for the rich included.

        • Steve D

          That is kind of my point. The top quintile goes all the way out to infinity but the bottom of it, though pretty posh, is much more attainable. So movement between the 4th and 5th quintiles may be pretty substantial, but can obscure the overall relative drop all all 4 bottom quintiles.

      • Chris Balsz

        “The problem with quintiles is they require each to have 20%, so if someone moves up into a higher quintile, someone else must, by definition, move down.”

        Not so, population is expanding.

    • Primrose

      While I agree it is is unlikely that educated parents won’t give their kids a leg up, the point is that we are constantly told that the class you are born in has no effect. If you really want to move up you will, and playing field is fair.

      Clearly it is not.

  • baw1064

    It’s a pity that “compassionate conservatism” was given an irredeemable bad name during the last administration. It’s clear that we have some pretty significant social problems in this country that need to be addressed, and that nobody has yet figured out an altogether successful way of addressing them. There probably are approaches to addressing the situation that many conservatives could support. If they choose to ignore the problem so they can talk about cutting the corporate tax rate instead–then they really do live up to the greedy self centered plutocrat stereotype.

    Getting out of denial is at least a first step.

    • Graychin

      “Compassionate conservatism” is a lot like what Chesterton said about Christianity: it hasn’t been tried and found wanting; it was found difficult and never tried.

      Of course the phrase popularized by our previous president was never anything but a campaign slogan for him. He was neither compassionate, nor conservative.

      His successors in his party rarely show compassion for anyone except people who have annual incomes in excess of $1 million.

      • paul_gs

        Funny thing is, conservatives, paying the same taxes as progressives, will give more of their money to charity and volunteer more of their time helping others.

        Conservatives tend to live their compassion towards others through their actions while progressives just talk about it.

        • zaybu

          The difference is that progressives look at the government as the best way to affect the necessary changes in society, while conservatives want a government as small as possible as they view it with suspicion, and in some extreme cases, as an agent of evil. It’s unfortunate that these two views have polarized the country, and very little dialogue between the opposing views can be exchanged.

        • paul_gs

          = delete =

        • paul_gs

          That’s a reasonable view zaybu but absent government programs or while waiting to see government programs enacted why do progressives remain less giving financially and time wise to those less advantaged them themselves?

        • jdd_stl1

          The charitable giving statistics are quite interesting.

          Here is George Will’s discussion of a book by Arthur Brooks looking at this question.

          http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/03/conservatives_more_liberal_giv.html

          One interesting point he makes is that the true factor that divides givers from
          non-givers is religion.

          Here is an exerpt:

          “The single biggest predictor of someone’s altruism, Willett says, is religion. It increasingly correlates with conservative political affiliations because, as Brooks’ book says, “the percentage of self-described Democrats who say they have ‘no religion’ has more than quadrupled since the early 1970s.” America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative. One demonstration that religion is a strong determinant of charitable behavior is that the least charitable cohort is a relatively small one — secular conservatives. “

        • medinnus

          Of course, their donations to charity are pretty much all based on giving to their church… so its kind of a circular argument. The Religious Reich tithe – so what? They also want to burn the poor.

        • paul_gs

          Churches do enormous work with the poor medinnus. More then government in many cases.

          Unanswered though is why progressives are such tightwads?

        • Primrose

          Giving to the church is not giving to the poor. Much of the money goes to support the church structure, and related church programs.

          Factor that out and we can talk.

        • armstp

          Again, Paul, more statements by you that come with zero proof to back up your BS. Can you give us any empirical proof whatsoever that “conservatives” are more generous than “liberals”? Another narrative to make you feel good about youselves.

        • elizajane

          Conservatives like to be able to pass judgement on who deserves their charity and who does not, and also to dictate the morality and behavior of those who receive it. Of course, that is in the nature of private charity, and is part of why (in around the 17th century) city governments began taking over the distribution of help to the needy. It’s why progressives favor that structure today. Not that conservatives have stopped trying to make government control the lives of the poor (drug testing for welfare; that bill a few months ago that was going to distribute child aid in the form of coupons only redeemable at thrift stores) but it’s harder than if you’re just handing out money from your church.

        • Banty

          Not only that, but tithing, giving money to the religious institution one belongs to, can be more about building an attached meeting house and rec center than actual altruistic giving. The very wealthy give a lot, but the cultural and educational institutions they favor (operas, museums, colleges) are included in those lofty totals.

          So, in a sense these gifts are really giving to themselves.

          Not to say that this is a bad thing, or that these causes are non-worthy in any way. But I’ve heard this conservative-giving posited as if somehow conservatives are lining up to help the less fortunate (or, worse, that we can rely on this as the sole social safety net), when it’s really not the whole picture of the charitable giving, or even most of the picture of charitable giving.

        • paul_gs

          The largest provider of assistance to those suffering from AIDS in Africa is Xtians. They’re not judgemental and welcome all. Why are atheists and secularists less helpful? Instead of helping the sick, they spend too much of their time bashing those who are actually donating their time and money.

        • Frumplestiltskin

          That is a bald faced lie. I have spent the past 15 years in poor regions of the world and have never once met a Conservative. The overwhelming majority of people who do the real charity work are liberals, this includes the clergy (outside of abortion they are liberals). The crap you talk about (while worthy in its own right), donating time to the local symphony or church pays back in spades.

          So Paul_GS what have you done?

        • medinnus

          I’ve done pro-bono work for charities for years; manned rape and suicide crisis lines, been the escort and trainer for numerous battered women shelters. Cleaned dishes at soup kitchens. None of it court-mandated… just for the record.

          Never seen a GOP-card carrying Conservative there; just people the GOP calls RINOs.

        • paul_gs

          Oh don’t get your knickers in a knot Frumpie. I’m glad to hear you’ve donated your time.

          I’ve spent years working with mentally ill people. Bipolars, depressives, obssessive-compulsives, paranoids (though not usually schizophrenics), etc..

          Politics aside, we should all do our bit to help. :)

        • Traveler

          Your empathy must have been exemplary….

        • think4yourself

          @ Paul_GS:

          “Funny thing is, conservatives, paying the same taxes as progressives, will give more of their money to charity and volunteer more of their time helping others.

          Conservatives tend to live their compassion towards others through their actions while progressives just talk about it.”

          You’ve said this before – now prove it. I have seen no evidence that Conservatives give more of their time and money than others do.

        • valkayec

          I heard this argument before: conservatives give more than liberals. But how do we know? From tax forms? For years I gave to a number of worthy causes: food banks, salvation army, purple heart, local police and fire departments. But rarely did these contributions show up on my tax forms because I did not have enough deductions to make filing Scheduled Deductions worth while. No one knew how much I gave except me.

          As a result, I view this claim with skepticism.

        • Graychin

          Paul, how about a reference or two to back up your assertion that conservatives are more generous?

          Comparing the generosity of religious and non-religious people should not count church donations. Otherwise it’s like saying that dog owners buy more dog food than those without dogs.

        • paul_gs

          Why would you discriminate against giving to religious charities? Churches are among the most efficient providers of aid and services to the poor, sick and needy.

        • Graychin

          Those references? Can’t find them, eh?

          What percentage of church donations go to feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless etc? Not much, I think.

  • sparse

    i feel like getting conservatives in america to care about income inequality and lack of economic mobility is an uphill fight. not from heartlessness, or lack of perceptiveness. it’s just that it remains bedrock conservative principle that the fix for social problems lies with the free markets. and there is very low incentive for the free markets to really energetically tackle that particular issue. shuffling around who is in what quintile does not create more wealth, it just affects whose wallets the existing wealth is in. if anything, it’s harder to deal with more mobility, because it makes it harder to focus on one population to market to.

    when left-leaning doves start doing more than kind of wishing for peace, then i will start to hope that free-market conservatives will start doing more than just kind of wishing for real economic fairness.

  • jdd_stl1

    Are conservatives really “bewildered at how 47% of Americans are unable to make
    enough money to pay Federal personal income taxes.”?

    Or are the bewildered why anyone would want to raise taxes on the top 1%
    before we asked the 47% at the bottom to contribute?

  • valkayec

    Noah, I’m really glad your doing this series. I think it’s important to raise these issues above the partisan spin and election politicking.

    A lot of research has been lately on this issue as well as income inequality, and appears to point to the facts that early childhood development, nutrition, and family stability (i.e. parents having adequately paid jobs) are keys to lifting low mobility rates among the lowest income groups. But it’s not just those in or near poverty who have begun to feel this lack of mobility…and that’s where this research is timely.

    Now, if we can just get our representatives to see the policy light, although I think that’s asking a lot from a billionaire congress.

  • Saladdin

    Personally, I think most folks understand the issue, but the main argumentative point then results as what do we do next? Liberals tend to believe that govt can help, Conservatives believe that it can’t.

    I don’t agree with insuring equality of outcome but equality of opportunity is important. That’s why LFC’s point is imperative.

    “On the flip side, the moronic scheme of localized property tax funding of schools is designed to make sure that basic education isn’t evenly distributed and that funds in wealthy districts stay there. That is where the federal gov’t needs to get involved. As a nation we need to ensure that every child has access to a solid, basic education. That means safe schools, reasonable class size, decent buildings, and current textbooks (preferably ones that contain Jefferson and evolution). “

    • PracticalGirl

      Income inequality and wealth distribution soared over the past 9 years, in large part due to the government work some so-called Conservatives did on behalf of their donors and assorted other cronies.

      Liberals tend to believe that govt can help, Conservatives believe that it can’t.

      A wonderful narrative, but false. It’s takes government to deregulate, doesn’t it? I’t takes government to lower taxes (already at their lowest ever), right? And conservatives fervently hope that all their roll backs will help. They just believe that government should help those at the top, so the top can help those on the trickle down. Which they don’t, in either case.

  • rbottoms

    It should be possible to get conservatives to at least be aware that more mobility is needed at the lower quintile and that America would benefit from being able to have a wider tax base and fewer Americans who make use of welfare services.

    It should be possible to get more than 50% of Americans to believe in evolution, but that will happen before anything resembling what you propose will happen.

    The Bell Curve justified ignoring them, why bother if you can cure dumb.

    Limbaugh justifies writing them off as racist leeching steak buying welfare Cadillac driving louts benefiting from Affirmative Action while the white man foots the bill.

    Good luck with that.

  • paul_gs

    Good post Noah though I do object to the use of the word “disproportionate”. The usage of the word implies unfairness which may or may not be true.

    For example, here in Canada, it is often said that a “disproportionate” number of native people are in prisons. But studies also show that their numbers in prison are actually proportionate to the percentage of crimes they commit.

    • armstp

      But, Paul you miss the point. Why do native people commit disappropriate numbers of crimes? That is the issue. Are natives just bad people or worse than other groups or have different moral compasses or are their other issues at play there?

      • rbottoms

        Or are poor people more likely to commit crimes in public view, have less competent counsel to get that first conviction knocked back to community service or probation so they don’t enter the system at 14?

        Are cops more likely to assume youthful indiscretion and cut a break for a non-threatening suburban kid and jack up similar adolescent misbehavior in poorer neighborhoods?

        How many bites at the apple for Ms. Lohan? How far did Robert Downey Jr. go before hitting bottom? Why is Conrad Black not in Supermax? Why isn’t Tim Allen doing life without parole? Different outcomes for similar crimes based on what, the weather?

      • paul_gs

        armstp, I think that is the point: why do some ethnicities commit more crimes or have a higher percentage of people living in poverty? I dislike the use of the word “disproportionate” because I think its usage suggests there is an unfairness regarding the statistics. The numbers are just what they are; what they mean and where they lead us is a deeper issue.

    • baw1064

      Just think of the crime wave that must have been sweeping North America up until about 1600. Good thing the Europeans came along to clean up the place. ;)

      • Banty

        LOL! Bingo.

      • paul_gs

        Lame baw1604. Not true and every worse, not funny.

        • baw1064

          Of course it’s not true. That’s the whole point. There’s a lot more at play. For native peoples, the fact that their traditional way of life has become pretty much impossible for the last 150 year, replaced by a culture of dependency (in the U.S. this was instituted under Republican administrations in the late 1800′s). For African-Americans, 250 years of slavery plus 100 years of institutionalized discrimination in much of the U.S.

          When you say that “The numbers are just what they are; what they mean and where they lead us is a deeper issue,” my point is that the problem can’t be addressed without delving into the deeper issue.

    • Primrose

      For example, in contrast, more wall street types committed the crime of using cocaine but how many were busted? A friend of mine who grew up in Aspen remembers giant bowls of cocaine being set out. None of those people were ever arrested, let alone sent to jail. (I’m not even talking difference in sentencing here, assume the same punishment.) Poor people are the focus.

      As for native peoples, there was a study recently that noticed that native children were taken away by their parents three times more often, even adjusting for similar circumstances, and when taken away more likely to be given to non family members and non-native people.

      The law tends to care very much how middle class one appears and it can make giant differences in perception of culpability.

  • Banty

    Conservatives may be focusing on this one aspect of the lack of social mobility and y’all say it’s a good thing that they’re focussing on the issue at all. But I’m suspicious, as in “no child left behind” suspicious.

    This spotlight on the bottom fifth, when it is clear that even college educated former middle class members are falling back, is an opportunity to sound the old alarms about family structure, acquired work habits, yadda yadda, and just another way to blame everyone for their station in life. And, worse, an excuse for legislation to bind whatever social institution (as NCLB did to public schools), unpopular with them, that can possibly be tied to the problem as defined.

  • Fart Carbuncle

    Wow.

    Noah not only is advocating class warfare but now suggests a race war would be the only way to solve the issue.

    Noah, unforunately, based on your picture, you would be considered the enemy of the lower mobile percentile, no matter what your personal beliefs.

    • Xclamation

      “I will stand with anyone, I don’t care what color you are, as long as you want to change the miserable condition that exists on this earth.” Malcolm X.

      I’m sure Noah appreciates your concern, but I don’t think you need to worry so much. Also, if you must troll, can you try to be slightly more interesting?

  • think4yourself

    Noah, wonderful points. I struggle to even imagine a Conservative giving lip service to these ideas.

    Here’s what I’d like to see. Conservatives proposing initiatives aimed at helping those stuck in the bottom 20%. It doesn’t have to be legislative initiatives. How about Conservatives promoting NGO and corporate partnerships designed to increase access to better jobs?

    I see today’s Conservatives doing all they can to limit gov’t and limit those who need help. I don’t see too many Conservatives looking for innovative ways to help others. Interestingly enough, I do see people like Gates and Buffett using both their wealth and business acumen to address the world’s problems – that’s a pretty good model to follow but of course since it’s Buffett…

  • ottovbvs

    We have a deeply impoverished bottom 20% that’s relatively immobile and disproportionately black…what else is news. And improving this situation has generally been a national policy goal for 50 years but far from trying to improve matters Republicans have long been engaged in efforts to roll back such advances as have been made. For example, are the attempts to defund Planned Parenthood likely to increase or decrease pregnancies among poor black teens? As for the 47% who don’t pay taxes a very large number of them are seniors where non taxed SS payments are most of their income. Remember those stats that showed that for 50% of seniors SS payments were 100% of their income and for 80% it was over 50% of their income. Thus with deductions vast swathes of seniors many with gross incomes approaching the national median of $56,000 are paying little or no taxes so it’s only partly an issue of poverty that accounts for the large percentage of non payers.

    The entire inequality debate isn’t about movement in the bottom four quintiles (which as others have observed are a very crude measure) but the inequality between the top 1% and the rest. The right doesn’t want to talk about this so they try to turn it into a largely meaningless parsing of movement between quintiles which has some limited validity when it’s focussed on movements out of the bottom quintile but otherwise is largely phony. It’s long been recognised the US class/income structure is roughly diamond shaped. The difference in material circumstances between those in the middle three quintiles and even extending way up into the first quintile are relatively insubstantial when you get right down to it.

  • nhthinker

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/21430/americans-more-likely-donate-money-time-charities.aspx

    Of course paul_gs was right about charity and volunteering of the actually congregationally religious (as opposed to those of the lower bar that claim to believe in God).

    But will any of the FF contributors here that dislike the congregationally religious ever concede the liberally leaning gallup polling organization has it right? I surely doubt it…more likely they will just think that the religious were more likely to lie on the survey.

    Conservatives tend to believe that society needs multiple pillars to survive. A code of morality (typically Religion) and independent of the powers of the federal government is what the founding fathers believed in.

    Some conservatives, seeing loss of the influence of religion, (and some liberal, seeing the need for social change) consider that government is a better place for codifying morality. I think they have it wrong. Government should provide the big black and white lines of illegal and legal behavior. Moral codes should provide all the grey area good versus bad.

    • ottovbvs

      Since when has the practice of religion been an exclusively conservative activity?

      • nhthinker

        Otto has to use words like “exclusively” to attempt to make silly points.

        Here is another poll question from Gallup to show weekly service goers lean much more conservative than liberal…
        http://books.google.com/books?id=WOug0pzW6_IC&pg=PA246&lpg=PA246&dq=religious+weekly+service+liberal+conservative+poll&source=bl&ots=b3Zgy6kh1O&sig=9G7dl1eUh3ZRbeHs2jeyt4Bgw1c&hl=en&ei=NN2-TsuoBbPC0AGGity6BA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

        “Suppose one of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices retires at the end of this term. Would you like to see President Bush nominate a new justice who would make the Supreme Court -[Rotated: more liberal than it currently is, more conservative than it currently is] or who would keep the Court as it is now?

        Those who seldom/never attend church: more lib 37% more con 30% keep the same 27%
        Weekly church goers: more lib 19% more con 55% keep the same 22%

        The weekly church goers trend conservative BY A WIDE MARGIN.

        Yes, Otto can take little comfort that there a few decent liberals out there that go to church and are social volunteers and contributors: No exclusivity by conservatives.

        • ottovbvs

          “Yes, Otto can take little comfort that there a few decent liberals out there that go to church and are social volunteers and contributors:”

          It has nothing to do with my personal comfort since I think religion is bunk but I just objected to “the thinkers” annexation of religious do gooding by conservatives. And how are we to know whether religious conservatives are individually “more” charitable than religious liberals. Given the bigotry generally exhibited by the churchgoing classes particularly southern evangelicals these poll numbers don’t mean a thing. And what about the jews who are generally pretty charitable in my experience and 80% of them vote Democratic.

    • baw1064

      nh,

      I very much agree with your final paragraph. That’s why I find the “social conservatives” so distasteful. Not that there’s anything in my lifestyle that they would probably object to, or vice versa. I just don’t think that legislating morality is an appropriate activity for government, beyond trying to avoid people harming each other. When you try to go in that direction, in my mind it tends to demean both government (because it’s doing something it shouldn’t) and morality (because people tend to only behave because there’s a law, not because they want to do the right thing).

      While there may be a difference between congregants and non-congregants, the fact remains that 4/5th of even non-congregants donate money to charitable causes, and half donate their time. It doesn’t appear that the problem is that there’s nobody who’s willing to help, but rather that nothing we are doing seems to be making much headway. That, I think, is something that should concern all of us.

      • nhthinker

        I believe that belief in religion helps many people, especially the less intelligent and the impulsive. The very smart can think about where they want to be long term and and can understand the importance of developing the willpower to forego indulgences that are counter to longterm desires.

        Liberals want to codify humanism into law and then cry foul when social conservatives try to codify their own morals. Personally, I am very libertarian and not religious.

        Religion is typically very good at charity- my assessment is it is primarily because those that receive the charity treat it as a gift to be respected as opposed to when government provides an entitlement- entitlements are “gifts” that one feels entitled to riot against if it is no longer provided.

        The gifts of charity are usually given with a lesson of morality.
        Democratic social governments do not do not do that well- Actually, communism is much better at it.
        Over time, Democratic social governments that codify humanism are typically doomed to overspend their grand-children’s money- Until they end up like Greece.

        • ottovbvs

          “Democratic social governments that codify humanism are typically doomed to overspend their grand-children’s money- Until they end up like Greece.”

          Or like Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Holland? Your sheer inanity nh thinker never fails to raise a smile.

          “Actually, communism is much better at it.”

          Apart from the fact it impoverished entire societies that is.

          Two hoots in one morning thinker.

  • CarbonDate

    Far from being as simple (which is not to imply that you presented it as such) as an issue of getting people off of government assistance, it’s also an issue of crime. For an poor kid growing up in the inner city (or trailer park, for that matter), drug dealing or prostitution are much more lucrative than going to college or getting a job. It’s quick, easy money in the short term — much quicker and easier than welfare, and definitely quicker and easier than acquiring a college education. They can have it all by the time they’re 18; fast cars, fancy clothes… at least until they’re dead or imprisoned by their early 20′s. But then, catch them early (say, 15 years old), and of course they’re not thinking about the future. And looking at the world around them, of course they just accept that that’s how things are.

    The promise of being a busboy as opposed to being a drug dealer just because it’s “honest work” isn’t really enticing enough in and of itself. That’s the dynamic which conservatives need to accept and understand. And the promise of a four year college education with the possibility of maybe getting a job which pays as well as dealing drugs isn’t really enticing to someone who figures they’ll be dead or in jail by 21 years of age. That’s the dynamic which liberals need to accept and understand. Dealing with the cycle of poverty requires attacking from both sides, not just one. That’s why the “debate” about it between conservatives and liberals is so ridiculous: they’re *both* right. Educational opportunities (social responsibility) *and* strong law enforcement (personal responsibility) are both necessary. Make education worth the trouble, and make crime not pay. Now let’s get to work.

    • Houndentenor

      Does a child growing up in a project or trailer park ever see anyone who went to college? Maybe their teachers at school. Anyone else? The only people they see who have money are dealing drugs or turning tricks. The people who got educated and got out don’t live in their neighborhood.

    • Traveler

      Interesting thread. I am impressed that NKG called the race issue for what it is. And you are dead on that both sides/communities need to come together. When citizens with “no snitchin” tee shirts won’t assist enforcement, how can you protect their community? If you try hard at school, is that “acting white”? It’s the culture that needs to change. To do that, there needs to be more opportunities as well. Better schools would sure help, but there are responsibility issues here.

  • valkayec

    I’ve just finished reading a new article in Rolling Stone that everyone should read: How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich. My blood pressure skyrocketed from my anger at the GOP.
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-the-gop-became-the-party-of-the-rich-20111109

    • paul_gs

      Rolling Stone? Nobody takes that rag seriously. They’re the magazine that published an article several years ago claiming that childhood vaccinations cause autism.

  • Chris Balsz

    “It should be possible to get conservatives to at least be aware that more mobility is needed at the lower quintile and that America would benefit from being able to have a wider tax base and fewer Americans who make use of welfare services.”

    Like what?

    Teaching children that racism is not a barrier to success; that focusing on wealth creation will help you earn and keep more money; that personal responsibility will overcome environmental setbacks?

    That kind of message?