Consumerism, Poverty, and Economic Mobility

There is an article from the New York Times that points to a distinction made before. It is “Changed Life of the Poor: Better Off, but Far Behind” by Annie Lowrey. The author also includes a nifty graph that starkly portrays the data, which should definitely check out.

She begins with an observation that many on the right have brought up to question that poverty is a real issue.

“Is a family with a car in the driveway, a flat-screen television and a computer with an Internet connection poor?

“Americans — even many of the poorest — enjoy a level of material abundance unthinkable just a generation or two ago. That indisputable economic fact has become a subject of bitter political debate this year, half a century after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty.”

In a consumerist society, wealth is defined as access to consumer products. Is that actual wealth in any meaningful sense?

“Indeed, despite improved living standards, the poor have fallen further behind the middle class and the affluent in both income and consumption. The same global economic trends that have helped drive down the price of most goods also have limited the well-paying industrial jobs once available to a huge swath of working Americans. And the cost of many services crucial to escaping poverty — including education, health care and child care — has soared.”

From the perspective of the poor, consumer products don’t likely make them feel all that wealthy. The poor are struggling today, just as they did in the past.

“For many working poor families, the most apt description of their finances and lifestyle might be fragile. Even with a steady paycheck, keeping the bills paid becomes a high-wire act and saving an impossibility.”

Not just struggling, but living on the edge. They aren’t faced with mere poverty. They also have to fear life getting much worse, such as losing their homes and not being able to keep food on the table.

“Two broad trends account for much of the change in poor families’ consumption over the past generation: federal programs and falling prices.”

More federal programs to make being poor relatively less desperate and uncomfortable. And more access to cheap consumer crap from Walmart.

“Many crucial services, though, remain out of reach for poor families. The costs of a college education and health care have soared. Ms. Hagen-Noey, for instance, does not treat her hepatitis and other medical problems, as she does not qualify for Medicaid and cannot pay for her own insurance or care.

“Child care also remains only a small sliver of the consumption of poor families because it is simply too expensive. In many cases, it depresses the earnings of women who have no choice but to give up hours working to stay at home.

““The average annual cost for infant care in the U.S. is $6,000 or $7,000 a year,” said Professor Ziliak of the University of Kentucky. “When you look at the average income of many single mothers, that is going to end up being a quarter of it. That’s huge. That is just out of reach for many folks.””

What isn’t available to the poor is opportunity to be anything other than poor. Economic mobility has decreased these past decades. Poor people in the past were worse off in many ways, but they also had more opportunities in many ways for economic mobility (cheap housing and college education, high paying jobs with good benefits, etc). Most poor people don’t want to be poor, don’t want to rely on federal programs, and don’t want cheap consumer crap from Walmart as the only appeasement for a life of misery and desperation.

“And many poor families barely make it from paycheck to paycheck. For evidence, economists point to the fact that children living in families with food stamps eat more calories at the beginning of the month than the end of it.

“Economists pointed out that many low-income families struggled to use even the assets they had: keeping gas in the car, paying for cable and keeping the electricity on. Many families rely on expensive credit. And even if those families sold their assets, often it would only provide them with a small buffer, too. “

Owning a car was once a luxury. Now a car is a necessity and a burden. Traveling further distances to work and shopping has become more common, for the small local factory and corner store have become rare. Meanwhile, public transportation hasn’t grown with the need for it. Poor people need vehicles, even when they can barely afford to pay for gas and repairs.

Sometimes the forced choice is between a tank of gas and buying groceries. But if there isn’t a tank of gas, a person can’t get to work and might lose their job. So, basic necessities such as food get sacrificed. Skipping meals isn’t healthy, but it won’t kill you right away. People can survive on very few calories, when they have to, although most people would like more than mere survival.

“In the end, many mainstream economists argue, the lives of the poor must be looked at in light of the nation’s overall wealth and economic advancement.

““If you handpick services and goods where there has been dramatic technological progress, then the fact that poor people can consume these items in 2014 and even rich people couldn’t consume them in 1954 is hardly a meaningful distinction,” said Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution. “That’s not telling you who is rich and who is poor, not in the way that Adam Smith and most everyone else since him thinks about poverty.””

There is the rub.

Many things have become cheaper. But the most important things have become more expensive, specifically the very things that help people get out of poverty. It costs more to not be poor than it once did.

Race & Wealth Gap

I heard something truly disgusting last night. The worst part is that I heard it on NPR.

Several guests were discussing how poverty and the wealth gap have increased and how it has increased the most among minorities. One factor given was that blacks are disproportionately employed in government jobs which have been hit the hardest because of funding cuts. One of the guests had the audacity to portray government jobs as just another welfare for blacks. He was arguing that even blacks who work hard for their money still are just being lazy welfare recipients. WTF! In the eyes of a bigot, minorities can’t win for losing.

He said this on the supposedly ‘liberal’ NPR. Did any of the other guests challenge his racism? No. Did the host demand he explain why he made such a racist comment? No. Apparently, no one on this NPR show thought it was unusual or immoral to express such bigoted views on public radio. I’m sure they were all upper class white people.

http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

Figure 3: Income and wealth by race in the U.S.

http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/151830/debunking_the_big_lie_right-wingers_use_to_justify_black_poverty_and_unemployment?page=entire

It’s a myth that should be put to rest by the economic experience of the African American community over the past 20 years. Because what Kern and other adherents of the “culture of poverty” thesis can’t explain is why blacks’ economic fortunes advanced so dramatically during the 1990s, retreated again during the Bush years and then were completely devastated in the financial crash of 2008.

In order to buy the cultural story, one would have to believe that African Americans adopted a “culture of success” during the Clinton years, mysteriously abandoned it for a “culture of failure” under Bush and finally settled on a “culture of poverty” shortly after Lehman Brothers crashed.

That’s obviously nonsense. It was exogenous economic factors and changes in public policies, not manifestations of “black culture,” that resulted in those widely varied outcomes.

http://www.alternet.org/economy/151809/white_families_have_20_times_the_wealth_of_black_families%3A_how_racism%27s_legacy_created_a_crushing_depression_in_black_america/?page=entire

It’s crucial to understand the relationship between wealth accumulated over generations and one’s economic prospects today. Central to that relationship is the concept of “intergenerational assistance.” That’s a fancy way of saying that a person’s chances to advance economically are very much impacted by whether his or her family can help get him or her started on the path to prosperity.

Conservative Ideology & Economics

This is an interesting video, but not because I agree with this person’s views, especially not on economics (that is, to the extent I understand economics).

I have a different worldview. I’ve always been a liberal in a general sense. I’ve found insights from many social, religious and political systems of thought (anarchism, socialism and libertarianism; psychology, sociology and anthropology; Christianity, gnosticism and philosophy; Et Cetera), but I’ve never been drawn to identify with any single ideology… which to me seems like liberalism at its best (or, if you’re a conservative who hates relativism, liberalism at its worst).

I’ve never understood the ideological mindset, especially when dogmatic. I respect anyone who with self-awareness and intelligence can change their mind. As such, I have basic respect for how the guy in the video has been willing to change his opinions as discovered new info and new perspectives. Nonetheless, I don’t resonate with the life story he shares. I’ve come across a few people like him who started life off with an ideological version of Christianity and spent many years jumping from ideology to ideology hoping to finally find the one true ideology. It’s odd to me. Such a person sees the problems in the ideology they previously held, but they often don’t see the problem in the ideological mindset itself. This guy, however, does seem to have come to a point in his life where he is beginning to step back from the ideological mindset.

I’ve struggled with trying to understand the attraction to ideology. I’ve written about how ideology is more attractive to those with right-leaning worldviews and mentalities (Liberal Pragmatism, Conservative Dogmatism and The War on Democracy: a personal response). It apparently is rooted in the correlation between conservatism and thick boundary types, along with other psychological traits. An ideology is a thick boundary and becomes ever thicker the more dogmatic it is held.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/15893285/Conservatism-and-cognitive-ability

Jost et al.’s (2003) meta-analysis confirms that several psychological variables predict political conservatism. The list includes death anxiety; system instability; dogmatism; intolerance of ambiguity, low openness to experience, and uncertainty; need for order, closure, and negative integrative complexity; and fear of threat and loss of self-esteem.

As a liberal, I find something inherently repulsive about the ideological mindset. I’m sure this is the reason why liberal atheists and conservative theists are always at each other’s throats. There is just some irreconceivable difference between these worldviews, these attitudinal predispositions.

Looking beyond my own biases, I wonder about the positive results of the ideological mindset. I can see how such a mindset would be beneficial in a traditional society, but there does seem to be benefits in general. From the same above link:

Recent evidence indicates that some existing stereotypes are not supported by the available data. For example,Brooks (2006, 2008) reports that conservative sengage more than liberals in charitable activities and people on the political right are nearly twice as happy as those on the left. The work of Napier and Jost (2008) shows that con-servatives tend to be happier than liberals because of theirtendency tojustify the current state of affairs and because theyare less bothered by inequalities in the society.

It’s kind of humorous. Conservatives are less bothered by inequalities and yet more likely to be involved in charitable activities.

I think some factors are being conflated here. In the US, conservatism correlates with religiosity. Being a part of a well established social institution such as a church makes one more likely to be involved in charitable activities. If this factor were controlled for, the difference might disappear. To clarify this, a study would have to compare church-going conservatives with church-going liberals or compare non-religous conservatives with non-religious liberals.

However, it’s possible that dogmatic people are more attracted to religion. A study would be necessary to compare conservatives and liberals in different countries. In a non-religious country, are non-religious conservatives more likely to be involved in charitable activities?

My other complaint about this kind of data is that liberals give more money and time by way of government and political activism. Unlike conservatives, liberals are bothered by inequalities. Liberals spend more time involved in political activism that the liberals themselves would perceive as charitable. Also, liberals are more likely to work as a public servant for less money than they would in the private sector because they like the idea of personally sacrificing in order to work for the common good. Furthermore, liberal states give more money in federal taxes than they receive in federal benefits, whereas the opposite is true for conservative states.

For some reason, social scientists (and pollsters) often seem to use a conservative definition of charity when measuring charitable activities. Still, that doesn’t undermine the charity conservatives do, even if they only do it because their minister told them to or because they’re afraid of going to hell.

- – -

There is one criticism of liberalism in this video which I don’t know if it is generally true but I know is true in my own case. I have an analytical mind & so I’m sure I could learn about the complexities of economics, but I’ve never had much interest in it. As for systems of ideas, philosophy, theology & politics seem more relevant to my own life than economic theories. As for systems of facts, sociology, psychology & anthropology often seem more based in concrete facts than economic theories.

I’m not sure if my liberal mindset has anything to do with my bias against or at least disinterest in economics. I’ve never understood the type of conservative, right-libertarian or anarcho-capitalist who sees all the world through economics. I don’t dismiss economics. It just seems like one small piece in a big puzzle. I wish I knew more about economics in the way I wish I knew more about anything and everything. But I don’t want to see the world through any single lense.

Still, it is a curious observation that liberals might have less interest or understanding of economics. Or. to be more specific, that a conservative would perceive liberals this way. I can’t see any fundamental reason that would make a liberal less capable of understanding economics.

It could be just that the two groups tend to understand economics differently. I think this relates to the ideological differences found in higher education.

http://www.psych.umn.edu/sentience/files/Gage_2010.pdf

Unlike the relationship between area of study and political stance with respect to social issues, a significant effect of area of study code group on self-rating of political stance regarding economic issues was found. Based on the post-hoc comparison, business and economics students were found to be significantly less economically liberal than the students in the biological/related lab sciences, social sciences and fine arts students.

Interesting. Business and economic students tend to be more fiscally conservative. I’d guess that business and economic professors, teacher assistants, and textbook writers also are more fiscally conservative.

Why is this the case?

A possible explanation for this could be that, because business students often encounter more economic problems in their curriculum than those studying other concentrations, their increased knowledge of the effects of economic issues could make them act more conservatively when considering these issues. Another explanation could be explained by the self selection theory; when students enter the university they have their political views and select their major by finding the one whose views most closely matches their own.

Does this mean that economically well informed people are more fiscally conservative for the very reason of their being economically well informed? Or is it just that business and economic departments are dominated by fiscal conservatives? Considering that fiscal conservatives have dominated American society since Reagan, it would seem that the latter possibility is more likely.

This could be tested by finding a school that has fiscally liberal business and economic departments. Assuming such things exist in this post-Reagan era: Would a fiscally liberal curriculum attract fiscal liberals? Or is business and economics inherently attractive to fiscal conservatives no matter what the bias? I could make an argument for the latter.

Conservatism as a psychological trait predisposes one to being more more focused in a thick boundary sense and predisposes one to be attracted to ideology (i.e., systematized ideas and beliefs). Economics is a very theoretical field, more coldly pragmatic. Unlike psychology or physics, economics seems to be less grounded in researched facts because it’s very difficult to study large systems involving so many factors (individual humans, cultures, politics, environment, international influences, etc). An economic theory is more pure, more absolute than a psychological theory. Many conservatives, especially fiscal conservatives, are suspicious of scientific research and most suspicious of social science research. Conservatives are attracted to economic theory for the very reason that it seems above all the messy subjective factors, whereas liberals love all the messy subjective factors.

Contemporary economics, as it is taught and practiced, fits the conservative worldview. But that isn’t to say that is the only or best way economics could be taught and practiced.

Additionally, I see one major problem that no one ever deals with. What gets called fiscal conservatism doesn’t seem very conservative. The meaning of conservative is to conserve, to maintain social order, to uphold institutions of authority, to resist radical change. Accordingly, what Americans call fiscal conservatism seems radically liberal in essence.

Fiscal conservatism in the form of laissez-faire economics is extremely unstable with booms and busts and with a wide variety of deregulation fiascoes.

Fiscal conservatism in the form of supply side economics (trickle down, Reaganomics) has led to increasing poverty and wealth disparity which also creates an unstable society with a lot of social problems.

Fiscal conservatism as a minarchism that sees military as the only role for government has undermined the government’s ability to regulate in order to maintain economic order and has created massive debt with military spending.

If fiscal conservatives are more well informed about economics, why has fiscal conservatism failed so massively at the very time when it’s held the most influence over the entire economic system of the US and of the world? And why do fiscally liberal countries like Germany have such strong economies?

If fiscal conservatives understand economics better, why are most liberal states economically better off than most conservative states? And why do liberals put more priority on balancing the budget deficit than any other demographic, are more willing to raise taxes and cut major expenditures to balance the budget?

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/national-debt-starve-the-beast-wealth-disparity/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/liberals-are-the-new-fiscal-conservatives/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/poor-rich-better-off-with-democrats/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/demographics-red-states-blue-states/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/10-states-with-ridiculously-low-unemployment-and-why/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/capitalist-us-vs-socialist-germany/

To continue with more from the same link:

One interesting finding of this study was that, for each code group, the mean rating for political stance with respect to economic issues for each group was less liberal than their mean rating of political stance with respect to social issues, with the exception of the fine arts group, whose mean ratings did not differ. This means that, with the exception of the fine arts group, all code groups on average reported that they were less liberal economically than socially. This result is consistent with the findings of Hodgkinson and Innes (2001) in which all participants gave responses that were less pro-environmental when the condition involved an economic/environmental tradeoff. This implies that students in most areas of study become less liberal when an economic policy is in question. A possible explanation for this could be that people feel more directly affected by economic issues than they do by social issues, leading them to be more conservative in their perception because it is more likely to affect them. For example, having a neighbor who loses their job does not directly affect you, because your neighbor not having a job does not change your own circumstance. Yet, if a neighbor’s house is foreclosed on, this directly affects the person because it in turn decreases the value of their house and a person will more likely take greater caution in dealing with this issue than the previous one.

This once again shows the confusion in defining fiscal conservatism (and conservatism in general). What is conservative about helping oneself at the cost of others? What is conservative about destroying (i.e., not conserving) the environment? What is conservative about forcing future generations to deal with problems that we are creating now? What is conservative about putting greed and profit, ambition and hyper-individualism above all other values and issues?

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/conservative-critics-of-conservatism/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/moderate-republicans-an-endangered-species/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/does-poverty-rise-as-biodiversity-falls-pavan-sukhdev/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/true-costs-are-punitive/

Part of the problem is there are very few people putting economic issues in fiscally liberal terms. And Americans are notoriously uninformed and misinformed about social issues such as related to economic inequality and about scientific issues such as environmental science. Contemporary economics (along with contemporary politics, media, culture, etc) is dominated by a fiscally conservative worldview which has become so ingrained in our society that it seems like commonsense, that it seems like pragmatic ‘reality’.

It’s not surprising that, when presented with an issue in a fiscally conservative framework, many people give fiscally conservative responses. But that probably doesn’t say anything about the merits of fiscal conservatism. Nor does that probably say anything about the economic learnedness of those espousing fiscal conservatism.

To counter the conservative ideology, I’ll end this post with a video series that presents the argument for the fiscally liberal worldview.

White Supremacy Defeated… yet again

I keep coming across racists/racialists who are obsessed with IQ. I dealt with this some in what I posted yesterday. Here is the relevant section:

The white supremacists love IQ because African Americans on average have lower IQs. The white supremacists argue that this is genetic, but there is no conclusive evidence for this hypothesis and much evidence against it. For example, the IQs of all children tend to be more similar and significant IQ differences are mostly seen in later education. The most obvious and simplest explanation is poverty. There are many factors related to poverty that are known to impact brain/cognitive development and hence IQ: pollution (such as lead poisoning from older houses), malnutrition (especially during pregnancy and early childhood), social stress, lack of educational resources, etc.

Here is a map showing the IQ differences in America with, once again, the same North/South divide (with the exception of West Virginia with its Scots-Irish population). The source of the map was using it apparently to make an argument for racism/racialism:

“Finally, it can be viewed in relationship to race. Alone, the racial composition of a state‘explains’ 72% of that state’s estimated IQ, with the two correlating at a robust .85. Expenditures per student, teacher salaries, and classroom size combined explain a paltry 15%. Considered independently, they are statistically insignificant and explain virtually nothing.”

There are different measures of IQ. This map is measuring math and science test scores. There does seem to be a correlation with ethnic diversity and lower average IQ (such as with California and the Southern states), although the ethnically diverse Texas is similar to some Northern states.

This map, however, makes the issue of race seem simpler than it actually is. When looking at other maps of IQ data, black populations in some Northern states have on average higher IQs than black populations in Southern states. And, even more significantly, white populations in many Northern states have on average higher IQs than white populations in Southern states (excluding Texas). So, doing comparisons just within single races, there are IQ differences that show a North/South divide for both black and white populations. However, the difference is most clear for white populations. This can only be explained, as far as I can tell, by poverty being the central factor in IQ differences. Blacks experience higher rates than whites of poverty in all states, but whites mostly just experience high rates of poverty in the South.

It seems the maps of IQ are essentially just another way of mapping poverty. So, why does poverty show a North/South divide? I’d also include in this question the issue of wealth disparity which also shows a North/South divide:

The 10 Most (and Least) Tolerant States in America

California and Texas are good ways of disentangling the poverty from wealth disparity. Both are wealthy states with high wealth disparity which causes them to measure positively on some indicators and measure negatively on other indicators. However, excluding Texas, most Southern states are both poor and have high wealth disparity. Many Northern states have both wealth and low wealth disparity, but there are states like Iowa which are relatively poor and yet have low wealth disparity. In a developed nation like the US, wealth disparity seems to be the more important indicator of social health (rates of high school drop outs, bullying, STDs, teen pregnancy, etc).

I decided to make a new post just with this material because of a response someone gave me on YouTube. NAARandom wrote:

“Whites in Northern states have higher average IQ than whites in southern states”

The south is “dumber” overall because it has a larger proportion of blacks than the north. The intra-racial differences in regional IQ are, at most, 3 points for blacks and 1 or 2 points for whites, and this can be easily explained by selection effects (more intelligent, ambitious, upwardly mobile southerners generally moved north, at least until the late 1940s, early 1950s).

As for southern west coast states having large ratios of nonwhites but “not the same degree of problems”, the two majority nonwhite western states (California and New Mexico), are having quite a few problems. The problems of California are relatively recent (probably in part because their rise in nonwhite population is a relatively recent phenomenon), and New Mexico has been near the bottom in most indicators for quite a while. To the extent that these problems are milder…

…in the west, it’s largely because they have different groups of nonwhites. Northeast Asians, for example, tend to have slightly higher IQs (by 3 to 6) than whites, so their presence in California partially offsets the economic effects of the huge mestizo population, which also has a slightly less severe depressing effect on average IQ than blacks (average Hispanic, which mostly means mestizo, IQ is 89, as opposed to 85 for blacks).

I find it endlessly amusing that people will avoid the simplest answers based on the data when it doesn’t fit their preconceived ideology. It’s scientifically known that poverty (and the factors related to poverty) has a negative impact on brain/cognitive development which is what is being measured by IQ tests. On the other hand, the hypothetical causal relation between racial genetics and IQ is unproven. There has been a fair amount of research and yet no conclusive data so far and no scientific consensus. So, why do racists/racialists prefer the inconclusive data instead of going with the simplest and most obvious explanation?

I realized this was a good opportunity to see if further data upholds the simplest and most obvious explanation of poverty. NAARandom mentioned Hispanics and Northeast Asians. NAARandom points out that Hispanics have higher average IQ than blacks, whites have higher average IQs than Hispanics and blacks, and Northeast Asians have higher average IQs than all of them (this is the case for the average IQ of all Asians in the US). If the poverty explanation is correct, a similar pattern should be seen.

In fact, that is the case with one exception. Yes, Hispanics have a lower poverty rate than blacks. Yes, whites have a lower poverty rate than Hispanics and blacks. Yes, Asians have a lower poverty rate than Hispanics and blacks. But, no, Asians don’t have a lower poverty rate than whites. Actually, Asians have around the same as or even slightly higher poverty rate than whites (depending if Pacific Islanders are included as part of the Asian demographic). Poverty alone explains the lower average IQ of Hispanics and blacks, but poverty alone doesn’t explain why whites have a lower average IQ than Asians. I suspect it’s just a matter of the intelligent (i.e., wealthy) Asians moving to Western countries. However, if one insists on racial genetics explanations, then it would be logical to assume whites (once adjusted for poverty) have inferior genetics.

I personally think that such an argument is just as silly when used against minorities as when used against whites. There are always complex factors, but it’s rational (going by Occam’s razor) to go with the simplest explanation. We know poverty causes lower IQ and we know poverty rates are different racial demographics. We know that black Americans have experienced centuries of enslavement and oppression which caused their present high rates of poverty. We know white Americans experienced centuries of privilege and opportunity which created their present lower rates of poverty. We know that whites in areas with higher poverty rates have lower average IQs. We know that blacks in areas with lower poverty rates have higher average IQs. We know all this. So, why speculate about racial genetics and IQ which we know so little about?

Related to poverty is the factor of wealth disparity. Many of the states (but not all) with high rates of poverty also have high rates of wealth disparity. The states with both whites and blacks with lower average IQs are states with both high rates of poverty and high rates of wealth disparity. Even if you wanted to try to blame their poverty on being dumb, you couldn’t blame the high wealth disparity on their being dumb. Afterall, if most of the smart people (white and black) left these problematic states, then wouldn’t all the population end up being poor and stupid instead of having an elite with most of the wealth?

To me, it seems like a vicious cycle. These poor conservative states are mostly the former slave states and so have societies that were based on class and race. For centuries, the ruling elite of these states intentionally created a poor and disenfranchised class (including both whites and blacks). We know that poverty causes low IQ. And we know that low IQ causes poverty. When you have a society that is built on a certain class staying stupid and poor, why would you expect any other results? You don’t need racial genetics to explain any of this. In fact, racial genetics has no explanatory value considering poor whites in poor states are experiencing similar problems as the poor blacks in poor states. Why not just accept the obvious? Why use convoluted logic to try to prove one’s racist/racialist beliefs? Why?

I brought up Southern West Coast states as an example of states with racial diversity and yet fewer problems than states in the Deep South. NAARandom pointed out that California also has problems. Yes, but fewer than the Deep South. California is more similar to Texas, both massively wealthy with high wealth disparity (also, California has the 5th and Texas the 3rd largest black population). Let’s look at Texas since few other states have such high rates and a long history of racial diversity. The blacks in Texas have an average IQ (92) around 5 to 7 points higher than the national average for average black IQ (depending if you go by the average of 85 or 87) and only 3 points below the Texas overall average (i.e., all races). What is one thing that distinguishes Texas? The most obvious factor is that Texas is wealthy. I’m sure, because of that wealth, blacks have more opportunities for education and self-improvement. Look at Alaska which is also a wealthy state and has the lowest wealth disparity in the entire country (by the way, Alaska has many positive factors, correlated to low wealth disprity, such as the best state for low rates of low birthweight). Blacks there have an average 95 IQ which, interestingly, is the average IQ of all Alaskans and which is the highest average black IQ in the country. This is even with blacks experiencing higher rates of poverty than whites in states like Texas and Alaska.

– - –

In the video where NAARandom responded to me, the issue of violence and race is brought up. That happens to be one of the issues I also analyzed in my post from yesterday. If you look at maps of various kinds of violence and homicide, you find a consistent pattern. Here is one example of a gun violence map (note that this is one of the factors on which California rates well):

So, how can this be explained? The white supremacist will immediately jump to the explanation of blaming it on the blacks simply because blacks live in the region. I’d respond in two ways.

First, a map of black doesn’t directly correlate with the gun violence map.

File:USA 2000 black density.png

Second, a study of this violence proves there is no correlation between Southern black populations and Southern high rates of violence.

A Matter of Respect
James D. Wright

Culture of Honor makes a compelling case that there is something about Southernness itself that accounts for the link between region and violence. The case begins with a review and reanalysis of the extensive research on region and homicide. University of Michigan psychologist Richard E. Nisbett and University of Illinois psychologist Dov Cohen find many common explanations for the South’s higher homicide rate wanting. The legacy of slavery is probably an inadequate explanation because the non-slave regions of the South show the highest homicide rates; temperature fails as an explanation because the cooler upland regions have higher homicide rates. Relative poverty rates cannot be ruled out as a causal factor, but the regional effect remains even when poverty is taken into account.

Two other results point to a fundamental cultural factor. The regional effect does not seem to operate in big cities (big-city homicide rates are about the same in the South as elsewhere); it appears only in small cities and towns (Southern small towns are a lot more violent than small towns in other regions). Also, there is little or no regional difference in black homicide rates, only in the white rates. So the Southern distinctiveness in homicide and violence is concentrated among small-town whites, strongly suggesting the impact of regional culture.

– - -

The entire argument of the white supremacist falls apart like the meaningless bigotry that it is. People are racist because they want to be racist. Yes, a racist can cherry-pick data to rationalize their racism, but they probably wouldn’t be looking for data that supports racism unless they already wanted to be racist. They are, of course, free to be racists. As has been said before, everyone is free to have their own opinion, but that doesn’t mean everyone is free to have their own facts.


A Fundamental Flaw of Free Markets

This video is an explanation of the type of issue I often consider. Listening to it, it got me thinking about why this needs to be explained.

Going by the data I’ve seen, this explanation seems obvious. I honestly can’t see any other convincing explanation. Yes, some rich people are deserving, but many aren’t deserving of being as rich as they are or aren’t any more deserving (in terms of talent, intelligence, ambition, etc) than many less advantaged people.

So, why doesn’t this seem obvious to many conservatives? What keeps them from seeing it? I suspect many refuse to seriously consider the data because it contradicts their beliefs and assumptions. That is understandable. If they get all their news from Fox News, Wall Street Journal, and right-wing talk shows, they probably never (or, at least, very rarely) would even come across any data that contradicts their beliefs and assumptions. That is sad, but understandable.

Still, I doubt that this explains it all. There has to be many conservatives who are familiar with the data and yet still support the rich having advantages. Why?

Is it just team sports mentality, just rich people defending other rich people that they personally identify with as being part of their group? That makes sense psychologically. Poor people do the same thing, although less effectively since they less power.

Another explanation is that some people believe that, despite inequality being morally wrong or less than perfect, is still better than the alternative. Maybe it’s a belief that the egalitarian vision is dangerous. It’s better to have an imperfect system than to risk its destruction by trying to improve it. Certainly, some conservatives do believe this, but I find it a bit too convenient that they many rich conservatives just so happen to support the analysis that benefits them personally.

Yet another explanation is that some people are just cynical. They have theirs. Fuck everyone else. They are on top of the wall and so they kick the ladder away to ensure no one can challenge their position of power. I wonder about this. How many conservatives are this cynical? Or, if not quite this cynical, how many conservatives are to varying degrees motivated by cynicism?

I don’t ask this as a way to dismiss all conservatives and all rich people. I genuinely want to understand what motivates people, want to understand why inequality keeps growing in this country. I can’t believe it’s a mere accidental side effect of an otherwise moral system. There is a class war going on, but I don’t know how many people even see it. For those who don’t see it, what is their incentive in remaining blind to the suffering of others?

The 10 Most (and Least) Tolerant States in America

I love data! :)

If you want to see a previous state comparison I wrote about, here is the link. The following is the list of states with the least unemployment:

  1. North Dakota
  2. South Dakota
  3. Nebraska
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Vermont
  6. Hawaii
  7. Kansas
  8. Wyoming
  9. Minnesota
  10. Iowa

And here is the top 10 most tolerant states according to the data (discussed in the video above and with links below):

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Maryland
  3. Illinois
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. Hawaii
  6. California
  7. Minnesota
  8. New Jersey
  9. New Hampshire
  10. New Mexico

It’s interesting to compare the two comparisons. Some of the states are found on both Top 10 lists: New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Hawaii. On the other hand, looking at the ranking of all the states, some of the least tolerant states did very well economically (both in terms of low unemployment and low economic disparity): North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming.

I don’t know why that is or what it might mean. The similarities confirm a correlation of data, but differences makes me wonder about what is exactly is being measured in terms of tolerance and intolerance. Social problems, in general, correlate to both poverty and economic disparity. According to other data (from The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett): North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming have some of the best rankings in the country according to the “Index of health and social problems” (North Dakota is ranked as the fourth best). There must be other confounding factors, but I don’t know what they could be.

The following is the details of the data about the comparison of tolerance across the US:

http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/440581/10_most_(and_10_least)_tolerant_states_in_america/

And now for the breakdown … Wisconsin wins for being the most tolerant. Its religious tolerance was quite good, its gay tolerance leaves room for improvement. Others in the top 10 were Maryland in second, then Illinois, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, California, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

And on the flip-side, the 10 least tolerant states are Alabama, finishing 40th in the nation, then it gets worse going to Kentucky, North Dakota, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas and then Wyoming finishes dead last.

This wasn’t included on the list, but interestingly, the 10 most tolerant states all went Democratic in the 2008 election and the 10 least tolerant states are all red states, with the exception of Ohio.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-01-16/ranking-the-most-tolerant-and-least-tolerant-states/full/

1, Wisconsin
Tolerance score: 77 out of 100
Hate crime score: 27 out of 40
Discrimination score: 39 out of 40
Gay rights score: 3 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.0 (10 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 9.2 (5 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 44%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 79%

2, Maryland
Tolerance score: 75 out of 100
Hate crime score: 25 out of 40
Discrimination score: 37 out of 40
Gay rights score: 5 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.8 (19 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 7.8 (1 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 51%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 72%

3, Illinois
Tolerance score: 74 out of 100
Hate crime score: 30 out of 40
Discrimination score: 31 out of 40
Gay rights score: 5 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.5 (16 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 14.5 (24 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 48%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 74%

4, Pennsylvania
Tolerance score: 72 out of 100
Hate crime score: 29 out of 40
Discrimination score: 31 out of 40
Gay rights score: 4 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 0.4 (5 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 11.8 (13 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 51%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 75%

5, Hawaii
Tolerance score: 71 out of 100
Hate crime score: 34 out of 40
Discrimination score: 27 out of 40
Gay rights score: 4 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 0.1 (1 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 20.3 (35 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 54%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 66%

6, California
Tolerance score: 70 out of 100
Hate crime score: 30 out of 40
Discrimination score: 29 out of 40
Gay rights score: 5 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 2.7 (29 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 15.9 (28 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 56%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 67%

7, Minnesota
Tolerance score: 70 out of 100
Hate crime score: 21 out of 40
Discrimination score: 38 out of 40
Gay rights score: 3 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 6.0 (49 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 8.7 (4 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 47%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 74%

8, New Jersey
Tolerance score: 69 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 35 out of 40
Gay rights score: 8 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 6.3 (50 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 12.1 (14 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 55%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 74%

9, New Hampshire
Tolerance score: 68 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 32 out of 40
Gay rights score: 10 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 2.1 (21 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 12.3 (16 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 55%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 79%

10, New Mexico
Tolerance score: 67 out of 100
Hate crime score: 32 out of 40
Discrimination score: 25 out of 40
Gay rights score: 4 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.3 (12 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 12.2 (15 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 49%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 62%

11, Virginia
Tolerance score: 66 out of 100
Hate crime score: 24 out of 40
Discrimination score: 35 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.9 (20 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 8.5 (2 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 42%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 69%

12, Iowa
Tolerance score: 64 out of 100
Hate crime score: 34 out of 40
Discrimination score: 16 out of 40
Gay rights score: 6 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 0.6 (7 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 37.5 (48 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 44%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 73%

13, North Carolina
Tolerance score: 63 out of 100
Hate crime score: 25 out of 40
Discrimination score: 30 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.1 (11 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 11.5 (10 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 36%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 62%

14, Connecticut
Tolerance score: 63 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 27 out of 40
Gay rights score: 10 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 5.6 (47 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 16.8 (30 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 57%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 73%

15, Florida
Tolerance score: 61 out of 100
Hate crime score: 32 out of 40
Discrimination score: 21 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 0.7 (9 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 18.7 (32 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 41%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 72%

16, Louisiana
Tolerance score: 59 out of 100
Hate crime score: 34 out of 40
Discrimination score: 19 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 0.5 (6 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 14.8 (25 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 36%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 70%

17, New York
Tolerance score: 59 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 27 out of 40
Gay rights score: 6 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 3.3 (35 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 17.8 (31 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 58%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 77%

18, Massachusetts
Tolerance score: 59 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 23 out of 40
Gay rights score: 10 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 5.1 (43 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 21.1 (37 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 62%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 79%

19, West Virginia
Tolerance score: 58 out of 100
Hate crime score: 24 out of 40
Discrimination score: 26 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.4 (13 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 12.6 (18 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 41%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 70%

20, Nevada
Tolerance score: 58 out of 100
Hate crime score: 25 out of 40
Discrimination score: 23 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 2.1 (23 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 15.9 (27 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 50%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 73%

21, Montana
Tolerance score: 58 out of 100
Hate crime score: 15 out of 40
Discrimination score: 36 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.9 (30 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 8.7 (3 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 45%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 63%

22, Rhode Island
Tolerance score: 57 out of 100
Hate crime score: 22 out of 40
Discrimination score: 22 out of 40
Gay rights score: 5 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.4 (37 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 24.4 (45 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 60%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 73%

23, Alaska
Tolerance score: 56 out of 100
Hate crime score: 13 out of 40
Discrimination score: 34 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.1 (31 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 9.3 (6 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 45%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 77%

24, Washington
Tolerance score: 56 out of 100
Hate crime score: 22 out of 40
Discrimination score: 22 out of 40
Gay rights score: 6 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.1 (32 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 20.6 (36 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 54%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 68%

25, Vermont
Tolerance score: 56 out of 100
Hate crime score: 16 out of 40
Discrimination score: 22 out of 40
Gay rights score: 10 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 4.0 (39 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 21.7 (39 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 59%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 79%

26, Oregon
Tolerance score: 56 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 28 out of 40
Gay rights score: 4 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 5.5 (45 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 12.9 (20 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 52%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 70%

27, Maine
Tolerance score: 55 out of 100
Hate crime score: 19 out of 40
Discrimination score: 19 out of 40
Gay rights score: 7 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 10 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.8 (38 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 22.5 (40 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 55%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 82%

28, Delaware
Tolerance score: 53 out of 100
Hate crime score: 13 out of 40
Discrimination score: 28 out of 40
Gay rights score: 4 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 4.2 (40 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 15.8 (26 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 50%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 71%

29, Texas
Tolerance score: 52 out of 100
Hate crime score: 32 out of 40
Discrimination score: 15 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 0.7 (8 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 18.8 (34 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 35%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 65%

30, Michigan
Tolerance score: 52 out of 100
Hate crime score: 21 out of 40
Discrimination score: 22 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.2 (34 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 21.2 (38 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 46%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 72%

31, Colorado
Tolerance score: 52 out of 100
Hate crime score: 16 out of 40
Discrimination score: 26 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 4.2 (41 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 10.3 (8 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 52%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 72%

32, Georgia
Tolerance score: 50 out of 100
Hate crime score: 24 out of 40
Discrimination score: 21 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 0.1 (2 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 12.5 (17 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 34%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 63%

33, Indiana
Tolerance score: 49 out of 100
Hate crime score: 18 out of 40
Discrimination score: 21 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 1.5 (14 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 16.4 (29 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 37%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 73%

34, Tennessee
Tolerance score: 49 out of 100
Hate crime score: 21 out of 40
Discrimination score: 23 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.7 (26 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 13.8 (23 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 31%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 63%

35, Oklahoma
Tolerance score: 48 out of 100
Hate crime score: 25 out of 40
Discrimination score: 18 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 1.6 (17 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 13.8 (22 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 26%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 65%

36, South Carolina
Tolerance score: 48 out of 100
Hate crime score: 13 out of 40
Discrimination score: 30 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.7 (27 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 10.6 (9 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 32%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 61%

37, Missouri
Tolerance score: 47 out of 100
Hate crime score: 24 out of 40
Discrimination score: 15 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.1 (22 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 29.4 (46 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 37%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 73%

38, Mississippi
Tolerance score: 46 out of 100
Hate crime score: 27 out of 40
Discrimination score: 16 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 4 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 0.2 (3 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 11.6 (11 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 27%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 59%

39, South Dakota
Tolerance score: 46 out of 100
Hate crime score: 10 out of 40
Discrimination score: 28 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 5.8 (48 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 9.4 (7 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 38%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 79%

40, Alabama
Tolerance score: 44 out of 100
Hate crime score: 26 out of 40
Discrimination score: 15 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 4 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 0.3 (4 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 12.8 (19 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 26%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 59%

41, Kentucky
Tolerance score: 43 out of 100
Hate crime score: 14 out of 40
Discrimination score: 24 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 4.7 (42 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 13.4 (21 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 31%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 69%

42, North Dakota
Tolerance score: 42 out of 100
Hate crime score: 16 out of 40
Discrimination score: 18 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.3 (25 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 32.8 (47 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 38%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 79%

43, Arizona
Tolerance score: 42 out of 100
Hate crime score: 20 out of 40
Discrimination score: 15 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.4 (36 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 18.7 (33 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 48%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 64%

44, Utah
Tolerance score: 41 out of 100
Hate crime score: 16 out of 40
Discrimination score: 24 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 2 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 1.7 (18 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 11.8 (12 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 22%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 45%

45, Idaho
Tolerance score: 41 out of 100
Hate crime score: 22 out of 40
Discrimination score: 16 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 4 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.3 (24 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 23.9 (42 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 33%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 60%

46, Ohio
Tolerance score: 40 out of 100
Hate crime score: 15 out of 40
Discrimination score: 16 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 3.1 (33 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 24.2 (44 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 45%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 76%

47, Nebraska
Tolerance score: 40 out of 100
Hate crime score: 17 out of 40
Discrimination score: 16 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 5.1 (44 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 38.8 (49 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 35%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 78%

48, Kansas
Tolerance score: 38 out of 100
Hate crime score: 12 out of 40
Discrimination score: 18 out of 40
Gay rights score: 0 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 8 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 5.6 (46 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 23.0 (41 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 37%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 71%

49, Arkansas
Tolerance score: 37 out of 100
Hate crime score: 15 out of 40
Discrimination score: 17 out of 40
Gay rights score: -1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 2.7 (28 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 23.9 (43 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 29%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 63%

50, Wyoming
Tolerance score: 32 out of 100
Hate crime score: 16 out of 40
Discrimination score: 8 out of 40
Gay rights score: 2 out of 10
Religious Tolerance score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents:: 1.5 (15 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents:: 201.9 (50 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage:: 37%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life:: 63%

Trust in an age of cynicism

Here is an awesome discussion about an important topic: public trust.

There is an increase of trust combined with gullibility caused by a fragmentation of trust. People trust others like themselves which is a reaction to modern multiculturalism and conflict of identity groups. Also, mistrust has increased because knowledge has increased. The national media informs people of all the bad things all over the world like never before… which has happened simultaneously as local media reporting on communities has decreased.

Many people (especially the older generations) would like to return to the simplicity and ignorance of the past, but the younger generations are more embracing of a complex world. I’ve seen polls that show younger people are less mistrusting of the media and the government. The younger generations are used to dealing with diverse sources of info and used to determining which info is trustworthy.

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/a-portrait-of-generation-next/

One possible solution is finding a new shared culture that will allow for social cohesion that will bridge the diversity between cultures, between communities, between generations. Et Cetera.

There was a central factor not brought up by anyone in this video. High wealth disparity correlates to high rates of social problems (including growing mistrust). Wealth disparity has been increasing in the US for decades and is at a high point not seen for a century. Accordingly, the US rate of social problems has increased above other countries with lower wealth disparity.

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/study-bosses-getting-meaner/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/10-states-with-ridiculously-low-unemployment-and-why/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/the-united-states-of-inequality/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/income-inequality-krugman-dalai-lama/

I just thought of another possible factor: Mean World Syndrome. One example of this is research showing most people (specifically in crowded cities) will walk past someone who is injured or unconscious. People don’t trust others and they realize others don’t trust them. In such mistrust, it’s a major risk to get involved in someone else’s problems or to take responsibility for public problems.

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/mean-world-syndrome/

This relates to something brought up in the above video. One of the panelists said that when everyone is seeking to blame the other side neither side is willing to take responsibility.

One last point. Distinctions should be made. Even though the (possible) loss of trust has impacted everyone, it’s impact has been different in kind and degree for various demographics.

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/trust-compromise-science-religion/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/republicans-support-big-government-just-as-long-as-republicans-are-in-power/

Real Wages & Wealth Disparity

This post is just my gathering some data and analysis about the changes in wages and various factors related to it. But first I want to put it in the context of wealth disparity.

In some ways, average Americans are better off than in the past, but in many ways they are worse off. It’s hard to know if the good is greater than the bad. What is clear is that an increase of wealth disparity correlates to an increase of social problems. So, the increase in wealth disparity is definitely bad and even worse is that it was intentionally created.


– - –

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-winters/americas-income-defense-i_b_772723.html

The debate over ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich sidesteps a serious problem. The issue is not just whether the wealthiest Americans should be taxed, but can they be taxed?

The ultra rich have extraordinary means to engage in tax avoidance and evasion that ordinary citizens do not. In the first decades after World War II, the richest Americans began paying large fees to armies of professionals whose sole task was to help them avoid taxes.

By the 1960s, an entire Income Defense Industry had arisen to satisfy this demand. It has grown more sophisticated and effective with each passing decade.

The industry lobbies key committees in Congress, quietly inserts provisions in a tax code only top attorneys in the industry comprehend, structures complex partnerships and tax shelters few auditors at the IRS can disentangle, and often uses these instruments to move wealth and income offshore.

All of this is done off the political radar screen and there is no countervailing lobby or parallel income defense industry for the average Joe. The few public interest organizations arguing for “tax justice” on behalf of average citizens are vastly out-staffed and out-funded.

The Senate estimates that the industry helps the wealthiest Americans avoid paying nearly $70 billion in taxes a year through “abusive offshore tax avoidance schemes” alone. The number is much higher if corporations are included.

[ . . . ] The ultra rich who avoid and evade taxes in this way face almost zero legal risk and reap huge savings. No matter how massive the tax fraud perpetrated, the wealthy taxpayer is shielded behind a phalanx of Income Defense Industry professionals paid to devise the schemes.

In the notorious KPMG case settled in 2007, it was the firm that was fined for the fraudulent “tax products” it provided to ultra rich clients, many of whom had the chutzpah to turn around and sue KPMG for selling them inferior tax shelters after they had to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes and penalties.

Average taxpayers are far more likely to be held criminally liable for tax evasion than ultra rich citizens who have the resources to litigate for years.

They hire lawyers in the same Income Defense Industry to intimidate IRS auditors and legal teams.

The IRS manual instructs staff to weigh the “necessary expense” as well as the “expected hazards of litigating the case” when considering cutting quiet deals out of court with big tax cheats.

Re-imposing the Bush tax cuts on the top 2 percent of income earners creates the mistaken impression that the richest of the rich will finally have to shoulder a fairer share of the tax burden. But those at the very top will not.

The vast majority of Americans in that top 2 percent are what the wealth management industry calls the “mass affluent,” a segment of the market they do not serve because households earning a few hundred thousand a year up to a couple million cannot afford tax letters, shelters, or the costs of restructuring assets and moving income flows offshore.

These are the doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who are not only in the top tax bracket, but actually have to pay the rate of their bracket — something the ultra rich never do.

In 1992, the top 400 income earners paid 85 percent of the published bracket income tax rate. By 2007 their effective tax rate had dropped below 50 percent.

Ironically, many of the mass affluent professionals in the top 2 percent earn their comfortable incomes through fees they get helping the richest 150,000 Americans above them keep tens of billions in unpaid taxes each year.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/16/your-money/16wealth.html?_r=1

Jeffrey Winters, associate professor of political science at Northwestern University, talked of the wealthy in America in terms of oligarchy. And he advanced an argument against what he called the “income defense industry.”

The term referred to the accountants, lawyers and financial advisers employed by the wealthy — and the merely affluent — to manage their financial affairs. Mr. Winters argued that this group was hurting the non-elite by minimizing tax collection. He estimated that $70 billion was lost yearly just from offshore accounts.

There is no denying that members of the elite have a lot of money and would like to hang on to as much of it as they can. But that’s true of most people.

Olivier Godechot, a French academic on the sociology panel, presented research that quantified just how skewed the increase in wealth at the very top has become. Mr. Godechot, a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research in France, said that two professions — finance and business services — accounted for almost all of the increase in income inequality.

[ . . . ] His concern is what the concentration of wealth means for American society in the future. He said he wondered whether the post-World War II era in America — as defined by prosperity and rising income levels — was a historical anomaly and was coming to an end.

He cited data showing that the United States now had the second-lowest level of intergenerational income mobility in the world, after England.

“If we lose this truly American thing — that you can become anything if you just work at it — then you’re really going to lose what makes America America,” he said. “It already appears that it will take a tremendous amount of time for people to bring their families out of poverty and for the wealthy to fall from the advantages they have.”

http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/running_faster_to_stay_in_place

The data we present here reveal that, for the period 1979-2000, married-couple families with children increased their hours worked by 16 percent, or almost 500 annual hours. Yet the data also demonstrate that without the increase in women’s work, middle-quintile families would have experienced an average real income increase of only 5 percent — instead of the actual 24 percent — while families in the bottom two quintiles would have experienced a decrease in real income over that period — by about 14 percent for the bottom quintile and about 5 percent for the second quintile.

These data reveal that the economic engine for middle- and lower-income advancement is in low gear.

Remarkably, this is true even when productivity has grown at a healthy clip. These trends represent a departure from those of the post-War years when median family income doubled — tracking productivity growth. Today, middle- and lower-income families no longer see increasing returns to their hours worked in the same way that the previous generation did. The only way many of these families can keep their total income growing — or not shrinking — is to work harder and harder. For the complete document, please see the attached PDF version.

Attachments

Here’s my capsule view of the great financial meltdown of 2008: For the past couple of decades, the benefits of economic growth have gone almost entirely to the rich. But the middle class still wanted to prosper, so the rich loaned them money to continually improve their lifestyles. That worked for a while. And then it didn’t.

[ . . . ] Growth in a modern mixed economy2 is fundamentally based on consumer spending, and middle class consumers can increase their spending in only three ways: (1) real wage growth, (2) borrowing, or (3) drawing down savings. Only the first is sustainable. So if we want the American economy to grow consistently over long periods, we have to focus our economic machinery on median wage growth. We’ve done it before, we can do it again if we’re smart, and the result would be good for everyone: the rich would get richer, the middle class would get richer, and the poor would get less poor. The alternative is booms, busts, and continued social erosion.
I do want to point out this section about Raghuram Rajan (whose Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists is a book that I enjoyed and is relevant today). It’s pretty interesting:

In a new book he is working on, entitled “Fault Lines,” Rajan argues that the initial causes of the breakdown were stagnant wages and rising inequality. With the purchasing power of many middle-class households lagging behind the cost of living, there was an urgent demand for credit. The financial industry, with encouragement from the government, responded by supplying home-equity loans, subprime mortgages, and auto loans. (Notwithstanding the government’s involvement, this is ultimately a traditional Chicago argument: in response to changing economic circumstances, the free market provided financial products that people wanted.) The side effects of unrestrained credit growth turned out to be devastating-a possibility that most economists had failed to consider.

I didn’t expect to read that line of thought from Rajan. I’ve talked about this before, both housing equity as the new social contract, as well as the way excessive debt smoothed out the high-risk income-trapped structure of current families. Rather than focusing on how nice of a refrigerator the poorest can buy, it might be worthwhile to look at how inequality has played out in the middle-and-working classes here (which ultimately effects mobility among the poorest too). I’m curious as to the drivers he finds between inequality and a middle-and-working-class squeeze. Spending on housing and education are the obvious ones.
That situation is adding to fears among Republicans that the economy will hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections even though overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.
The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.
As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.

At the very top of the income spectrum, many workers have continued to receive raises that outpace inflation, and the gains have been large enough to keep average income and consumer spending rising.

[ . . . ] Economists offer various reasons for the stagnation of wages. Although the economy continues to add jobs, global trade, immigration, layoffs and technology — as well as the insecurity caused by them — appear to have eroded workers’ bargaining power.

Trade unions are much weaker than they once were, while the buying power of the minimum wage is at a 50-year low. And health care is far more expensive than it was a decade ago, causing companies to spend more on benefits at the expense of wages.

Every 34th wage earner in America in 2008 went all of 2009 without earning a single dollar, new data from the Social Security Administration show. Total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined, but at the very top, salaries grew more than fivefold.
Not a single news organization reported this data when it was released October 15, searches of Google and the Nexis databases show. Nor did any blog, so the citizen journalists and professional economists did no better than the newsroom pros in reporting this basic information about our economy.
The new data hold important lessons for economic growth and tax policy and take on added meaning when examined in light of tax return data back to 1950.
The story the numbers tell is one of a strengthening economic base with income growing fastest at the bottom until, in 1981, we made an abrupt change in tax and economic policy. Since then the base has fared poorly while huge economic gains piled up at the very top, along with much lower tax burdens.
[ . . . ] From 1950 to 1980, the average income of the bottom 90 percent grew tremendously. Not so since then:

1950
1980
Increase
% Increase
$17,719
$30,941
$13,222
74.6%
1980
2008
Increase
% Increase
$30,941
$31,244
$303
1%

Had income growth from 1950 to 1980 continued at the same rate for the next 28 years, the average income of the bottom 90 percent in 2008 would have been 68 percent higher, instead of just 1 percent more.

That would have meant an average income for the vast majority of $52,051, or $21,110 more than actual 2008 incomes. How different America would be today if the typical family had $406 more each week — less debt, more savings, and more consumption.

Wage growth, currently running at about 3% YoY and declining quickly, stinks.  In fact, only twice in the last 45 years has there been real wage growth (i.e., in excess of the inflation rate)for more than a year or so: once, in the post-war economic golden era of the 1960s and early 1970s; and again during the tech boom of the 1990s.  Here is a graph showing that entire 45 years history (as long as the series exists), comparing wages (in orange) with CPI inflation (in blue):

As you can easily see, real wage growth essentially stagnated in 1974, and ever since the Reagan revolution, almost all growth from productivity has been vacuumed up by the very top of the income scale.

Americans have somehow survived despite this stagnation by resorting to a small bag of budgeting tricks. But now, with one possible exception, those tricks aren’t going to work any more.  Simply put, from here on in, we’re not going to have any sustained economic growth until real wages finally grow too.  I’ll show you why, below.

[ . . . ] In other words,  since 1980, facing stagnated real wages, the only way American consumers have been able to significantly improve their lifestyles is either:
- to take on more debt, using assets which have appreciated in value as collateral (stock investments, housing), or
- to refinance their existing debt at lower interest rates.

When consumers were unable to do either of those things, they cut back on spending, triggering consumer-led recessions.  Since 1980, this confluence of negative factors had only happened twice: in the deep Reagan recession of 1981-82, and again briefly from July 1990 to March 1991.

As of 2007, household income was still below 1999 levels.  Interest rates had not receded to their 2003 levels, so refinancing activity could not increase.  House prices were already in marked decline.  Consumers were already starting to cut back, albeit not yet that significantly on debt.  Only stock prices, by the barest of margins (.02%), were positive.  I concluded then that “In order to avoid a recession, house price declines must stop, stock market gains must accelerate, or household income must increase significantly.  Failing at least one these three things, if households have continued to cut back on debt, as appears likely, America will probably enter (or may already have entered) only its 3rd consumer recession since 1980.”

That last conclusion was certainly proven correct!  With a declining 401k value, crashing house prices, increasing Oil-fed inflation, and paltry wage gains, the recession started just a few months later in December 2007.

[ . . . ] is this one of those “your wages won’t increase but Wal-mart has very cheap goods so feel rich” arguments? If you are like me and view money as something that buys both consumption goods and autonomy in a liberal capitalist democracy, then the consumption good deflator only covers half the reason of why a worker values getting a dollar after a day of work.

II: Wage Growth

As for the increase in household median income from the late 1970s to 1999, I’m under the impression from many sources that the majority of it is simply households working more hours, particularly by getting a second worker into the workforce. That’s right, right? Here’s Steve Ross who is quoted as an excellent source in the critique for middle-class numbers:

It is true that much (but not all)* of household income gain can be attributed to wives working more, but neopopulists see the increased female workload in an entirely negative context and as a burden on women and families. We suspect many working women want to work….* If the working hours of wives are held constant at 1979 levels, median incomes at the 50th percentile for prime-age couple households would still have risen by 9 percent in real dollars from 1979 to 2004. For households at the 70th percentile, the increase would be 22 percent.

I’m happy many more women are in the workforce. But if the real driver of household wage growth is simply that households are working more hours, then that isn’t exactly wage growth. “I want to make more money so I doubled my shifts” isn’t really the same statement as “they are paying me more money.” Winship points out male wages have increased around 8% over a 35 year period, for an annual growth rate of 0.23%. Something eventually had to give: maxed out at capacity, both in the number of hours in a day and the line of credit approved – if this was a firm, would you want to invest?

I also wish to note that my analysis didn’t include real estate taxes and numerous other expenses that most folks have to pay. So even if you are extremely frugal and careful with your money, it is impossible to “get by” in the US without using credit cards, home equity lines of credit or burning through savings. The cost of living is simply TOO high relative to incomes.

This is why there simply cannot be a sustainable recovery in the US economy. Because we outsourced our jobs, incomes fell. Because incomes fell and savers were punished (thanks to abysmal returns on savings rates) we pulled future demand forward by splurging on credit. Because we splurged on credit, prices in every asset under the sun rose in value. Because prices rose while incomes fell, we had to use more credit to cover our costs, which in turn meant taking on more debt (a net drag on incomes).

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/1/6/85124/90803/713/680687Productivity Wages

Basically, the basic bargain was roughly this–if you worked hard and became more productive, you would see that sweat of the brow in your wages. And from the post-war era until the 1970s, that deal basically held–as you can see from the lines that are basically close together until the 1970s.

Then, the lines diverge–dramatically. You can see it yourself. If the lines had continued to track closely together as they did prior to the 1970s, the MINIMUM WAGE would be more than $19 an hour. THE MINIMUM WAGE!!!

So, in short: people had no money coming in in their paychecks so they were forced to pay for their lives through credit–either plastic or drawing down equity from their homes. There are lots of reasons that this happened–greed, the attack against unions, de-regulation, dumb trade deals.

But, the point is: we will never fix the economic crisis, whether through short-term economic stimulus and certainly not through tax cuts, until paychecks are re-inflated. Dramatically.

I outlined a whole set of solutions to bailout American workers but the main one is simple: raise wages. Dramatically. And end–and I know some people cringe at the term–the class warfare that has been underway for the past three decades.

The United States of Inequality

This is a long video, but it’s a very important topic. The video brings together a lot of data and analysis. I highly recommend watching it.

The fundamental issue isn’t solutions per se but rather what helped to create a situation that is so in need of solutions. It wasn’t accidental. This is the result of specific policies and market factors which have been a part of a class war that has been going on for a long time.

I gained some insight about this when I saw psychological research showing that social inequality tends to bother liberals and tends not to bother conservatives. To the conservative mindset (in its most extreme form), there is no problem and so no solution is needed. There is no point in talking about solutions if we can’t agree that there is even a problem.

I wrote about some of the psychological research in recent posts:

Right Vs Left: Personality Differences

Violence vs Empathy, Indifference vs Unhappiness

Also, I think insight is to be found in the analysis of George Lakoff which I’ve mentioned before:

National Debt, Starve the Beast, & Wealth Disparity

George Lakoff, Moral Politics, pp 194-6:

The conservative political agenda, for example, is not merely to cut the cost of government. The conservative agenda, as we shall see, is a moral agenda, just as the liberal agenda is.

Consider, for example, the issue of the deficit. How did it get so large?

Liberals like to think of Ronald Reagan as stupid. Whether he was or not, those around him certainly were not. While constantly attacking liberals as big spenders, the Reagan and Bush administrations added three trillion dollars to the national debt by drastically increasing military spending while cutting taxes for the rich. They could count; they saw the deficit increasing. They blamed the increases on liberal spending, but Reagan did not veto every spending bill. Moreover, Reagan’s own actions acounted for much of the deficit increase. Had financial responsibility and the lessening of spending been Reagan’s top priorities, he would not have allowed such an increase in the defiicit, simply by not cutting taxes and not pushing for a military buildup far beyond the Pentagon’s requests.

While the deficit was increasing, there was a vast shift of wealth away from the lower and middle classes toward the rich. Liberals, cyncally, saw this shift as Reagan and Bush making their friends and their political suporters rich. Certainly that was the effect. It is hardly new for the friends of supporters of politicians in power to get rich. This is usually seen as immorality and corruption, and with good reason. Many liberals saw Reagan that way.

But Ronald Reagan did not consider himself as immoral. Certainly he and his staff could tell that their policies were producing vast increases in the deficit, when they had come into office promising a balanced budget. Reagan was not forced to pursue deficit-increasing policies. Why did he do so?

I would like to suggest that he pursued deficit-increasing policies in the service of what he saw as overriding Moral goals: (1) Building up the military to protect America from the evil empire of Soviet communism. (2) Lowering Taxes for the rich, so that enterprise was rewarded not punished. Interestingly, for President Reagan as for any good conservative, these policies, however different on the surface, were instances of the same underlying principle: the Morality of Reward and Punishment.

What was evil in Soviet communism, for Reagan as for other conservatives, was not just totalitarianism. Certainly Soviet totalitarianism was evil, but the U.S. had supported capitalist totalitarian dictatorships willingly while overthrowing a democratically elected communist government in Chile. The main evil of communism for Reagan, as for most conservatives, was that it stifled free enterprise. Since communism did not allow for free markets (open to Western companies) or for financially rewarding entrepreneurship, it violated the basis of the Strict Father moral system: the Morality of Punishment and Reward.

Adding three trillion dollars to the deficit actually served a moral purpose for Ronald Reagan. It meant that, sooner or later, the deficit would force an elimination of social programs. He knew perfectly well that the military budget would never be seriously cut, and that a major increase in tax revenues to eliminate the deficit would never be agreed upon. In the long run, the staggering deficit would actually serve Strict Father morality - conservative morality – by forcing Congress to cut social programs. From the perspective of Strict Father morality, Ronald Reagan looks moral and smart, not immoral and dumb as many liberals believe.



Professor Writes Apology Letter To Students For Bad Choices Made By Their Parents

http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2010/08/24/a-letter-to-my-students/

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 209 other followers