Thursday, October 30, 2008

You Have Set the World on Fire 

What with an unscientific estimate of half of Sen. Obama's supporters thinking they've found the new messiah I'm getting more and more pessimistic about the upcoming election. Not the results as to who will win (I remain, for reasons unexplainable, borderline optimistic that Sen. McCain will once again previal against the odds and conventional wisdom), but the effects after regardless of whomever is declared the victor.

If you tired of ridiculous conspiracy theories and mindless hating after Bush beat Gore in 2000, then stand by for worse if McCain wins in 2008. After all, how could McCain possibly defeat the Chosen One except for cheating, racism of the electorate or a diabolical combination of the two. The millions of white supporters gained by Sen. Obama will be forgotten. The fact that he, despite a paucity of content, ran a formidible campaing and came within striking distance and was, throughout the process, treated as a serious and respected opponent by all but the most mindless and blatant racists will be forgotten. The "R" in the win column will be all the evidence required by the Rev. Wrights of this country to confirm every silly idea about the white devils they've ever dreamed up.

And if Jesus Jr. does pull through and come out on top? Inside six months there will be legions still wondering when their pony will be coming. And if there's one thing I've learned from living the past decade in a majority minority city it's that black Democrat politicians are masters at convincing their constituency that their failure to produce any real meaningful improvements in government or community isn't their fault, but still a problem with the racist history of America or institutionalized racism or any other problem letting them pass the buck on in order to keep getting reelected. Sorry if I seem cynical about this, but you can frequently tell in this town when election season is coming up by the volume of allegations of racism raised.

Sorry, no answers from me, just doom and gloom today.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Resources to Save the Poor from Their Lot 

In thinking of both Sen. Obama's proposed "tax cut" and the sub-prime mortgage crisis I keep hearing the chorus from Arrested Development's song "Give a Man a Fish." Rare is the man who has been raised from his social and economic conditions without having to do the lion's share of the work himself. The dirty secret that politicians are loathe to admit but I will say without prejudice is that in most cases there is a reason those in poverty stay in poverty and in today's America it rarely has to do with oppression or institutionalized anything-ism.

Poverty produces poverty for the simple reason that it doesn't know how not to. If you give every family in poverty $1000 today you'd end up with a bunch of poor folks watching some really nice LCD HDTV sets but very little actual improvement in their general standard of living. Likewise, extending shaky credit to unsteady borrowers at the government's bequest was, from any objective position, a bad idea. Yet there was the perpetual idea that putting someone in a nicer house with a little money in their pockets would result in a mystical metamorphosis that would alter their entire lives and that of their children without having to do the heavy lifting of changing their economic patterns. It was nice to give big, three bedroom fish to all those hungry folks, but what are they eating today?

I said before the I say this without prejudice, and by that I mean that there is nothing intrinsic in the poor that requires they stay poor or that being poor reduces their worth as people. But being poor is not a phenomenon, but often rather the logical result of a pattern of behavior. Ask any entry-level employer and they'll tell you one of their biggest problems is just getting people to show up for work and doing it on time. I see it at my daughters' school, where I volunteer to help with morning traffic. The tardy bell rings and still the parents are pulling in or walking up with their kids, usually with no sense of urgency at all. And this is at a good school in a middle-class neighborhood. It pains me no end to see the bad lesson these parents are demonstrating daily to their children. (I am sure others have looked on me with the same complaint, but as this essay is addressing poverty and contributing factors I'll give myself a pass at this time)

If you really want to reduce poverty, then help develop a good work ethic to allow a person to get, keep and excel in a job. After that, teach budgeting skills and the idea of delayed gratification in order to encourage savings. Use that savings and economic sense to secure a conventional mortgage and you've taught that fellow how to fish and not just given him a meal. You've provided him with tools that allow him to make a secure economic base for himself and his family.

This, then, is what I see as the heart of the anti-redistribution sentiment felt by many Americans. Help out your neighbor, educate the poor, but handout after handout just prompts the response of, to quote one of my least favorite songs ever, "what have you done for me lately?" Unless a person changes their patterns of behavior it is folly to believe that the results of giving them $1,000 or $10,000 would be too different from giving them $20.

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