« The English patient | Main | The Demolished Puppy »

May 14, 2015

Comments

TNC had something to say--

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/05/color-blind-policy-color-conscious-morality/393227/

I'd comment, but I have to go.

My thought about poverty is generally that the cause of poverty is not enough money. The simplest and best fix for that is for people to have jobs and get paid enough to live on.

I don't have numbers at my fingertips, but at a minimum a very significant number of people who are poor are not poor because they are either unable to work or decline to do so. They're poor because they either can't find work, or can't find enough work, or can't find work that pays enough to live on.

Fixing that does not require a government program, although the government could help motivate folks making hiring and compensation decisions to make them in ways that are more favorable to working people.

"Broken families" covers a lot of ground. Middle to upper middle class or even wealthy families where the parents are divorced are a different kettle of fish from families where, for example, a parent is in jail, or dead, or is addicted to something or other.

And regardless of the reason that the family is "broken", the bigger question probably has more to do with stability and continuity than it does with how many adults live in the home, or what their specific biological relationship is to the kids.

If we're going to talk about "broken families", it is probably more relevant to talk in terms of function vs dysfunction, and less relevant to talk about single vs multiple parents etc.

There is certainly a connection between dysfunctional family life and poverty, as there is between dysfunctional family life and mental illness, and crime, and substance abuse, and any number of other things.

All of those things are species of personal and social dysfunction. The only way you change those is by changing the people involved, which is a tall order.

Poverty, per se, is a much simpler thing to tackle.

Hire people. Pay people. Poverty declines, as if by magic.

I'd echo russell's sentiment that what kills poverty is jobs. Accessible jobs in the communities people live in...or enough jobs in a different community that it makes relocating worthwhile.

A former neighbor of mine used to struggle to find work, and it was made worse by his inability to drive. Biking and buses don't get you very far in a lot of communities. While I lived next door (about 3 years), he lost two jobs based on transportation alone (the ride he was hitching disappeared).

But I think part of the solution to both broken families and to poverty is the same: end the war on drugs, limit pretrial confinement, and get rid of civil forfeiture.

Families stay together better when one parent isn't wasting away in prison. More people will hire you if you don't have a criminal record, and you are more likely to keep your job if you don't have to miss work due to months of pretrial confinement.

Dumping the War on Drugs has the additional benefit of not costing the government any money. Indeed, there would be a substantial decrease in costs for enforcement, prisons, etc. More than enough to fund a modest increase in medical care for the addicted.

And that ignores the (eventual) reduced costs from people unemployable due to criminal records. Not to mention increased tax revenue from more people working and paying income taxes.

It's hard to get more win-win than that.

thompson's suggestion is good. It *does* have the effect of increasing the supply of labor, but there already seems to be an oversupply compared to demand.

Gotta make the jobs that go with the people, otherwise it's just more guys on the street with nothing to do.

As I understand it, the EU notion of border-free was in part based on the idea that it would help deal with labor over/undersupply with the notion that for jobs such as construction, the skills are portable and aren't going to be too different from place to place and people can relocate to the areas that are doing well. What they didn't count on was the requirement to plant yourself in another culture was a bit too high a hurdle to get over for most people and that if they did go in any kind of numbers, you were going to get a reaction, as you can see in the UK.

Granted, the differences in culture between various parts of the US are not as pronounced as parts of the EU, but there is nowhere near the frictionless ability to change locations that is necessary and you aren't going to get the sort of balanced controlled influx that you need to keep the culture of the area intact. Post Katrina New Orleans saw a large chunk of its AA population leave and is now becoming more like Nuevo Orleans with the influx of Hispanics and places with lots of low wage factory labor, like chicken plants, find themselves dealing with large influxes of people who bring there own culture, food and behaviors there.

This is enabled by companies that off-shore production, which drives industries that need to stay to low-ball wages, as well as places like Wal-Mart that often destroy any local businesses because they can sell everything at a lower price.

This is not to suggest that anyone here doesn't realize that, but when we talk about making jobs with living wages available, it is actually running headlong into trends that work against that.

I thought everyone's comment here, so far, is valuable, but I have a couple of quibbles:

Donald Johnson: I love TNC's articles on race. My problem is that he (like most people) can analyze and criticize more easily than offer solutions. It's difficult for public policy initiatives to pass Constitutional law muster without being race-blind. TNC's problem with Obama's policies is that they're race-blind. Solution, anyone?

russell: have to agree with everything you said here, except for the "government program" part of it. In fact, we need government programs for infrastructure projects, which are sorely needed, and which would create jobs. And we need the government to make sure that slave wages aren't the norm. What's wrong with government programs, and why do we have to dismiss the possibility of them? "The era of big government is over..."? No, it's not. We need to figure out why we prefer the era of big corporations and big wealth to big government. Are we really better off with that dynamic?

I agree with what much of what thompson says. But, again, jobs? Government can and should create jobs. Also, government needs to figure out what circumstances exist where people can't work, and fill that gap. I'm completely in favor of ending the "war on drugs" and making the most of sensible drug policy.

Solution, anyone?

No easy ones, that's for sure! But something must be done and "equal opportunity" just doesn't cut it.

As for government programs, Max">http://maxspeak.net/work-makes-fritos/">Max has some suggestions.

I don't think TNC was pushing reparations in that piece, sapient, though one could do so without running into the Constitution. Blacks were singled out because of their race, so they could in theory be compensated for this. The issue there is one of politics, as I assume even TNC would agree. There's zero chance of reparations, as many whites go apish** at the very notion.


What TNC was objecting to (while also admitting that politically Obama can't afford to be overly honest about America's sins) is the lecturing that is aimed at black dysfunction when there isn't a comparable sort of lecturing directed at the government or America in general. If a black man criticizes other black men for irresponsibility, well, he's just being honest. If he criticizes the racism of our society, he's a hate-filled anti-American radical. That, I think, is what TNC is writing about in my link.

Numbers:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/05/13/1383179/-The-absent-black-father-myth-debunked-by-CDC?showAll=yes

Actually, don't think it matters what race someone is. There are those for whom, if he criticizes the racism of our society, he's a hate-filled anti-American radical. (Which probably says more about them than anything else.)

Although, admittedly, a black President saying it will get a more hysterically negative reaction . . . albeit from those who have that reaction no matter what he says.

I don't think TNC was pushing reparations in that piece, sapient, though one could do so without running into the Constitution.

Donald, I disagree that there is a meaningful "restitution" remedy that would easily pass Constitutional scrutiny. TNC's restitution article didn't really suggest anything specific.

Count: Don't you just love the CDC? The Government gave them those jobs.

Yep, wj. You're totally correct, as per usual, especially in the judgment of Republican legislators (which is why I still don't get why you identify as a Republican ... but more power to you.)

Well, they do take lunch breaks and have certain job protections, so they probably made up all of those numbers.

sapient, call it massive stubbornness on my part. I am simply unwilling to walk away from the Republican Party as the Party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. It may not be possible to take it back from the reactionary scum who have largely taken it over. But I feel unwilling to just walk away.

The good news (as I see it) is that we are starting to once again see some Republican politicians at the local level who are not captives of the far right. They are more interested in governing their cities successfully than in scoring ideological points. Increasingly, they are unwilling to waste time fighting culture war battles that have long since been lost. They are, typically, fiscal conservatives but socially tolerant.

I expect it will take another decade or two. But I persist in believing that we can pull it off. (If they want to revive the Dixiecrat Party, more power to them.)

have to agree with everything you said here, except for the "government program" part of it.

I think we are in agreement.

My comment wasn't intended to disparage or rule out government intervention to address poverty. My point in saying we "don't need government programs" was simply to point out that private employers could, on their own initiative, hire people and pay them more.

At some point over the last 50 years or so the stated, and commonly understood, purpose of for-profit enterprises has narrowed to "maximize shareholder value", full stop. No other responsibilities, other than perhaps not breaking the law, are recognized.

It's toxic.

I am generally in favor of public efforts to foster employment and the creation of wealth. Those things can and ought to include investment in infrastructure, basic research, education and professional training, basic industrial policy, as well as the creation and maintenance of a basic social and economic "safety net" so that the vagaries of the market economy don't result in large numbers of people living in cardboard boxes and eating from dumpsters.

And, without the safety net we currently have, that last would be a reality, for a hell of a lot of people. Even with the safety net that we do have, homelessness and hunger have been a common experience.

As was seen in the train wreck in Philly this week, we're coming to the end of the shelf life of the infrastructure investments that were made by our parents and grandparents. We are on track to be nation that offers a generally second-rate way of life for 90% of its people. If that comes to pass, it will not be because of the oppressive burden of an intrusive nanny state. It will be because the proper functions of government have been neutered by the freaking zombie cult of the Nine Most Terrifying Words.

We absolutely need the government to be actively involved in addressing social and economic issues.

And, it would be really freaking great if the folks responsible for managing the great, amazingly, stunningly, truly astoundingly big pots of lovely green money known as for-profit corporations would direct some of that wealth toward HIRING PEOPLE and PAYING THEM.

And, they could do that tomorrow, without any government intervention at all.

Though not perfect by a long shot, Henry Ford knew enough to pay people well - more than he "had to." He's a legend of industry in this country. What happened?

At some point over the last 50 years or so the stated, and commonly understood, purpose of for-profit enterprises has narrowed to "maximize shareholder value", full stop. No other responsibilities, other than perhaps not breaking the law, are recognized.

WRS

Come to think of it, I would amend what russell said somewhat. What's really happened isn't that corporations try to maximize shareholder value. It's that they try to maximize perceived shareholder value (or maybe short-term shareholder value). Maximizing shareholder value over time would align more closely with making decisions in the long-term interests of a given enterprise, and that has a better chance of aligning more closely with the long-term interests of the larger society. (They don't necessarily align, or you wouldn't have things like anti-trust laws.)

I'd agree with HSH's 9:55.

What happened?

We glorified the pursuit of endless wealth in the absence of any societal value. For example, the financial products industry.

I have a friend who used to work sales for a rather large and well known retirement/investment company. The pressure on him and others to get sales, and the utter lack of repercussion for basically working against a client's interests, ultimately drove him away. He was reasonably compensated by always hitting benchmarks and honestly tried to help the people he was selling to, but some of his coworkers became insanely wealthy by overselling.

If that didn't work out for the client, hey, there's always some risk in investment, right? Zero repercussions.

Additionally, we're losing our small business base: https://www.sba.gov/content/small-business-gdp-update-2002-2010

Which I think is a contributor to the trend of centralizing wealth. The more trade that runs through a few large firms, the easier it is to concentrate wealth with their board and upper management.

...but some of his coworkers became insanely wealthy by overselling.

These are The Makers, folks. What do they make, besides money for themselves? Who cares? They're rich. They must deserve it.

Sapient, if one can identify specific people hurt by specific policies, as TNC did in the article last summer, it shouldn't ( to my non lawyer's eye) be impossible to remedy that. But anyway, in the link I provided here, TNC wasn't 't proposing remedies, but pointing to the double standard in the moralizing people do on this topic.

We glorified the pursuit of endless wealth in the absence of any societal value.

i can't think of a period in US history when this wasn't true. *

the 'greedy unscrupulous businessman' character in literature and movies has been with us forever. and the good guys are always fighting him.


* - and UK history. i can't say i know much about the history of other countries.

These are The Makers, folks.

No, these are the Makers: http://makerfaire.com/maker-movement/

could an admin put an #ifdef 0 ... #endif around my last comment? i don't have checkout rights, so i can't do it myself.

and then chance #ifdef 0 to #if 0. and fire me for breaking the build.

"..they try to maximize perceived shareholder value (or maybe short-term shareholder value)"

Hey, those CEO stock options aren't going to "pump and dump" themselves, you know.

Corruption with a thin veneer of legality. It's what makes America great, amirite?

We glorified the pursuit of endless wealth in the absence of any societal value.

There's something to this, but this has pretty much been the norm ever since the Gilded Age.

The real driver is public policy. We have adopted policies that overwhelmingly favor wealth and capital and circumscribe the power of labor.

The disparities we see now should hardly come as a surprise.

Donald, I disagree that there is a meaningful "restitution" remedy that would easily pass Constitutional scrutiny.

BFD. That should not dissuade us from exploring other public policy options.

We can do this.

There was a recent interview on NPR that's relevant:

http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=406699264

We've forgotten all this history. It's not that we never knew it. But we've forgotten it. We have a myth today that the ghettos in metropolitan areas around the country are what the Supreme Court calls de facto, just the accident of the fact that people have not enough income or - to move into middle-class neighborhoods - or because real estate agents steered black and white families to different neighborhoods or because there was white flight. But the truth is that while those things existed, the major reason we have ghettos in every metropolitan area in this country is because federal, state and local governments purposefully created racial boundaries in these cities. It was not the unintended effect of benign policies. It was an explicit, racially purposeful policy that was pursued at all levels of government. And that's the reason we have these ghettos today, and we are reaping the fruits of those policies.

I'd also recommend bobbyp's link, for those who haven't read it yet:

The racial wealth gap is reinforced by federal policies that largely operate to increase wealth for those who already possess significant assets. The Corporation for Enterprise Development finds that more than half of the $400 billion provided annually in federal asset-building subsidies—policies intended to promote homeownership, retirement savings, economic investment and access to college—flow to the wealthiest 5 percent of taxpaying households.5 Meanwhile, the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers receive only 4 percent of these benefits and the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers receive almost nothing. Black and Latino households are disproportionately among those receiving little or no benefit. Unless key policies are restructured, the racial wealth gap—and wealth inequality in general—will continue to grow.

Yep.

Russell, there are hundreds of thousands of companies in the US, and there are 14000 publicly traded companies. While, if I recall correctly, publicly traded companies employ something between 1/4 and 1/3 of the workforce, that leaves a huge portion of employers NOT effected by maximizing shareholder value, short or long term.

So it is convenient but not accurate to blame the shift in cultural focus on that.

Not disagreeing in any way really, but government represents.

It's an artifact and instrument of those who buy their desired outcomes.

Some hazy genie, some driver-less vehicle called "government" didn't make up its crapulous policies regarding racial and wealth disparities.

The representatives elected to government "purposefully create" these desired outcomes on behalf of those who paid them to do so.

Is there any sign whatsoever, in political rhetoric or legislative action, given the flood of money into politics as a result of money-in-politics judicial decisions bought and paid for by those who have accumulated overwhelming assets, and in the vicious, sadistic, hostile attitudes of those elected to representative government on behalf of those same high-asset classes in this country, that the direction of both the racial divide and the income disparities are going to change direction?

No.

It's speeding tout suite in the opposite direction.

Get a load of the budget the House just retched up.

Richard Hofstadler described the driver of this speeding bullet-train to bullsh*t in 1964 in his essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics".

He was talking about the John Birch Society, among other groups, but really, if you examine the statements of the leading lights in the conservative "movement" in this country regarding their aims and methods to defeat their enemies -- us --- over the past 40 years, a spade is a spade:

"The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through "front" groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy. Spokesman for the various fundamentalist anti-Communist "crusades" openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth."

Thus health care "policy" is fought by these murderers along the same lines as Stalin's agricultural "policies" in the Ukraine.

No compromise. Unmitigated murderous, sadistic suffering for the victims.

Fine. The train is approaching a curve at twice the speed that bullsh*t regulations say it should be traveling. If you've cracked open a beer, I'd place it in a cup holder, because the drivers of the train are holding onto their kochs for dear life.

Which is why I think the tracks should be blown up too, just to make sure.

"Russell, there are hundreds of thousands of companies in the US, and there are 14000 publicly traded companies. While, if I recall correctly, publicly traded companies employ something between 1/4 and 1/3 of the workforce, that leaves a huge portion of employers NOT effected by maximizing shareholder value, short or long term."

Well, to the degree one can generalize, and what fun would I have if I couldn't generalize, some huge portion of privately-held employers answer to boards of directors and private shareholders, most likely themselves only.

Cargill, Koch Industries, Albertson's, etc.

Despite not being held to the short-term profit horizons of much of Wall Street and the hedge fund industry, many of these companies have just as large of an effect on public policy as their publicly-held counterparts, which affects employees and other stakeholders (oops, the John Birch Society isn't going to like that sort of talk), to various degrees.

"Various degrees" being my mealy-mouthed way of being broad minded.

The representatives elected to government "purposefully create" these desired outcomes on behalf of those who paid them to do so.

Yup.

Yes, there are tens of thousands of small private companies run by people who, for the most part, share the ideology of untrammeled greed as a public good and side politically with the malefactors of big wealth in a solid display of class unity.

Perhaps Marty, you should consider this.

The article is a bit dated and this...

"..., 90.1 percent of all people live in a household that is not connected to a telephone line."

is a bit misleading. Especially now. The developing and third worlds are bypassing telephone lines and going straight to cell phones. One projection is that, by 2020, 80 percent of the world's adults will have smart phones.

publicly traded companies employ something between 1/4 and 1/3 of the workforce

First, 1/4 to 1/3 of the workforce is a lot of people.

Second, as the Count notes, privately held companies are also beholden to their investors, in spite of not being publicly traded.

It appears, to me, that both the common and the legal understandings of what the purpose and obligations of for-profit enterprises have changed over, say, the last 50 years or so.

Do you disagree with that?

There's something to this, but this has pretty much been the norm ever since the Gilded Age.

I think it was the norm long before the Gilded Age. The period that I think was exceptional was the middle of the 20th C.

The Gilded Age was, however, rather more extreme than era before it. At least in the public perception.

And it may be worth noting that the Gilded Age gave rise to a substantial reform movement at the beginning of the 20th century. Cf Teddy Roosevelt, et al. It will not be astonishing if the current situation gives rise to something similar -- although whether it will again the party of the wealthy (now, as then, the GOP) which sees the changes start is a different question.

"Second, as the Count notes, privately held companies are also beholden to their investors, in spite of not being publicly traded."

I think most privately held companies work on substantial longer horizons than a quarter. I suppose everyone is accountable to someone.

The largest change in corporations in the last 40 years is the general public visibility to their activities. I certainly don't remember any significant differences, although executives in public companies are now held to a much higher standard in terms of legal responsibility for accuracy in financial fiiings.

"someone" run out and bring me a 4-year-old child:

Bingo!:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/06/26/the-origin-of-the-worlds-dumbest-idea-milton-friedman/

If you're "accountable" exclusively to your own interests, that's not what Christ, the hedge fund manager, meant by "suffer the little children come unto me".

The largest change in corporations in the last 40 years is the general public visibility to their activities. I certainly don't remember any significant differences

Here was my statement:

At some point over the last 50 years or so the stated, and commonly understood, purpose of for-profit enterprises has narrowed to "maximize shareholder value", full stop.

If you want to say that the number of people employed by folks affected by this change is too small to account for the overall stagnation of wages, that's an argument that might have some legs.

If you want to say that the phenomenon I refer to does not exist, I refer you to notable rabble-rousing commies Forbes magazine, the CEO of Salesforce, the Washington Post, and James Montier from GMO Capital.

Take it up with them, it's not my idea, it's theirs. And, that list could be expanded almost ad infinitum.

I personally avoid working for publicly traded companies, almost completely because of the phenomenon we're discussing, but I can also tell you from personal experience that it is not limited to those. Privately held companies are quite often funded by angel money, or are owned by other, larger, privately held companies, and those people are also highly motivated by getting a return on their money, and in not waiting around too long to get it.

Have a bad quarter, then it's time to cut costs, which invariably means reduce the head count.

All of that has contributed materially to the stagnation of wages and the general insecurity of the labor force.

Again, these are not my brilliant insights, if you want to debate them I suggest you take it up with brighter minds than mine.

I am, frankly, surprised to find that the idea is controversial.

I think it was the norm long before the Gilded Age.

Not to quibble, but the industrial age really took off after the Civil War, and it was then that we witnessed the rise of large industrial corporations, industry wide trust arrangements, and the open war against labor.

This was buttressed by ideas such as the "social Darwinism" of Herbert Spencer, ideas that echo down to this day.

Prior to that, greed was a sin endemic to most if not all societies. After that, we get the "greed is good" gospel.

Herbert Spencer has gotten a bum rap.

A companion piece to Russell's Forbes link by the same author on the same subject:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/06/26/the-origin-of-the-worlds-dumbest-idea-milton-friedman/

Of course, Friedman was an unknown academic, ignored and dismissed by both corporate powers and the conservative movement as it began its assault on civil governance.

Friedman was not summoned to work for Richard Nixon nor had Ronald Reagan ever heard of him, thus precluding his aspirations to serve as an informal advisor to Reagan during the 1980 campaign and having his narrow theories adopted by Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors in the early 1980's.

PBS turned down his series "Free To Choose, But Don't If It Means Doing ANYTHING BUT Maximizing Profits and Shareholder Value", which also precluded the idea of "shareholder value and ONLY shareholder value, especially if its done thru options for corporate leaders" from becoming a mantra in boardrooms, think tanks (which stopped thinking altogether once Friedman's and Ayn Rand's absurdly exclusive nostrums became so easily bumper sticker repeatable ad nauseum far and wide), and in Congress and the White House.

I've certainly never heard of Friedman. I think he's a hoax, like global warming.

Now, of course his previously ignored simplicities for simpletons are besieged once again by the same conservatives today as they've decided corporations and shareholders may have religious convictions in addition to profit-making convictions and exercise them to the detriment of the same stakeholders who were pig-f*cked the last go around.



A thought occurs to me. Does it seem that a disproportionate number of those enthused by the idea of social Darwinism are folks who reject evolution when it comes to biology. Hmmm.....

Rewriting this comment, the other went poof!:

A companion piece to Russell's Forbes link by the same writer on the same subject:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/06/26/the-origin-of-the-worlds-dumbest-idea-milton-friedman/

Of course, Milton Friedman, to this day, is a completely unknown academic economist, who was never summoned to the Nixon White House and certainly Ronald Reagan had never heard of him, precluding the man's aspirations to serve as informal advisor to Reagan's campaign and having his nostrums for numbskulls adopted in toto and exclusively by Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors.

This is why we still have a military draft today, by the way.

PBS turned down his show "Free To Choose, Unless It Means Choosing To Serve ANY Master BUT Shareholder Value and Profit", thus denying corporate board rooms, conservative think tanks (who stopped thinking altogether once Friedman's and Ayn Rand's simplicities for simpletons were stitched into their underwear for convenient referral), and Congress and the Shite House access to Friedman's sloganized license plates and inspirational rules for business crocheted, framed and hung on the wall far and wide, to be followed exclusively, no exceptions permitted.

I've never heard of the guy. Is he a hoax, like global warming?

Today, of course, Friedman's narrow rules for corporate behavior we must all bow down to are under assault by the very same conservatives, who now proclaim that corporations have religious convictions to accompany the formerly exclusive profit-making convictions, which may be exercised at will, just like stock options, but once again to the detriment of various other stakeholders.

Monkey do, but he doesn't see.

russell,
I think the "shareholder value über alles" has infected the entire society. When college presidents act like CEOs, for example.

I'm not sure why conservatives get all bent out of shape about fathers abandoning their families. They're just putting that "look out for #1" philosophy to work, and cutting lose from some "takers", amirite?

Loyalty, trust, respect, are two-way streets. Too bad someone put up a bunch of "one way" signs.

"If you want to say that the number of people employed by folks affected by this change is too small to account for the overall stagnation of wages, that's an argument that might have some legs."

Pretty sure this was the point I was making. In this thread there were a few places where corporation and publicly traded corporation seem to have gotten blended together.

corporation and publicly traded corporation seem to have gotten blended together.

Fair enough. My bad.

Much of the point I'm making about publicly traded corps also applies to privately owned corps, for the reasons that I and others have stated.

For "maximize shareholder value", substitute "maximize return on investment", you get much the same result.

And, as noted throughout my comments, I'm not presenting some radical new insight here. I'm not that smart.

The culture has changed over the last 50 or so years.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad