Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The War Against The Poor

The class war continues and the propaganda is flowing thick and fast. The elite have always been successful in pitting the middle class against the lower class but as the middle class shrinks and the lower class grows, propaganda aimed at undermining any sense of class solidarity is needed more than ever.

Something named David French, an avid repeater of all things wing-nutty, does his part at The Corner. Mr. French is the butler of a wealthy man suddenly tasked with raising three orphaned children. Oh, wait. That Mr. French actually did something of value. Our Mr. French is a lobbyist for The American Center For Law and Justice, Pat Robertson's Christian Sharia legal warriors. This man of God has a little message for those who might side with the poor.

The Sources of Poverty

August 24, 2011 12:27 P.M. By David French
Kathryn, thanks for linking to Rubio’s excellent speech. I completely agree with both of the Rubio quotes you highlighted. The free-enterprise system has lifted more people out of poverty than any government program, and yes, our “social problems create our poverty.” But there’s a tension inherent in these two points. It’s not precisely true that the free-enterprise system itself has lifted people out of poverty; it’s more true that the free-enterprise system has created opportunities that allow hard-working (or even moderately hard-working) individuals to succeed. But if you destroy the people’s industry and virtue, then all the economic liberty in the world won’t save them.

It is simply a fact that our social problems are increasingly connected to the depravity of the poor.

I thought the poor were closer to Christ? "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." I guess not.

If an American works hard, completes their education, gets married, and stays married, then they will rarely — very rarely — be poor.

As long as nothing goes wrong before, during, or after your birth, you'll never be poor in the good ole USA. And there will always be a job available...somewhere.

At the same time, poverty is the handmaiden of illegitimacy, divorce, ignorance, and addiction. As we have poured money into welfare, we’ve done nothing to address the behaviors that lead to poverty while doing all we can to make that poverty more comfortable and sustainable.

Poverty is caused by moral failure. Therefore people who are not poor are moral, rich girls don't get knocked up, and professionals don't divorce and have addictions. Blame children for their parents' inability to take care of them. After all, the poor live in comfort, don't they?

Earlier this week, Walter Russell Mead highlighted disturbing research showing that the poor — far more than the rich — are disconnected from church and religion. While church attendance is dropping among all social classes, it’s falling off a cliff for the poorest and least-educated Americans. In other words, the deeper a person slides into poverty, the more they’re disconnected from the very values that can save them and their families.

For a second there I thought he was going to talk about churches that assist their poor parishioners. I should have known better; French will not praise Christian charity when he can call them immoral instead.

The bottom line is that we need more free enterprise, and we need more virtue. Sadly, the Great Society and the sexual revolution have deprived us of both.

Ten points off Slytherin for not mentioning Obama or socialism.

If you want the same message tailored for the high rent district, skip on over to Megan McArdle's little libertarian paradise on the Potomac. She devotes two posts to praising the dismantling of the welfare system as a somewhat qualified success. True, we still have an alarmingly increasing number of poor people, McArdle allows, but many fewer of them are receiving assistance, so one must take the good with the bad.

But I think that progressives ignore the possibility (indeed, what I take to be the near-certainty) that this is an inevitable tradeoff. If we provide benefits sufficiently generous to support people who are too screwed up to provide themselves with a very minimal living standard, we will also encourage people who aren't that screwed up to stay home rather than going to their tedious, low wage job. (Especially young people, who are not known for their patience or foresight). Despite a broader trend of more people having babies without first getting married, the rate of childbirth among unmarried mothers between the ages of 15-19--those whose children who are most at risk of poor life outcomes--declines noticeably post 1995. Though of course correlation is not causation, this at least suggests that welfare reform may have helped both mothers and children by encouraging young women to make better long-term choices about when to have babies.

Obviously, we'd really like to see those birth rates in the 15-17 group fall to zero, and steeper declines in the 18-19 age group. But even a modest decrease is good news. And it shows up in the child poverty figures, which was even more dramatic than the poverty rate in the 18-64 age group.

Since welfare dependency was a cycle, this will have lasting effects: all the women who delayed childbearing until they had some work experience and financial stability are more likely to have healthy kids who themselves are better able to cope, and to pass on those skills to their children.

McArdle doesn't come out and call the poor depraved sluts as Mr. French does, but that's why she makes the big bucks. She says it with moderation and charts, but she still says it all the same.

33 comments:

KWillow said...

Welfare, Social Security and other "safety net" programs were created mostly to stop Americans from adopting Communist notions... Just what do they expect those sick, starving "immoral" people to do when the safety net is gone? Wander off into the woods and die quietly?

Susan of Texas said...

I wonder about that too. I guess they figure nothing can ever happen to them.

Ken Houghton said...

"Children for their parents' inability to take care of them."

Missing the verb ("don't suffer" or "don't die" or...)

Susan of Texas said...

Thanks, Ken.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

McArdle doesn't come out and call the poor depraved sluts as Mr. French does...

She has common taters to take care of that.
~

Mr.Wonderful said...

This clown French could have stepped full-blown from the pages of Dickens. From the concern-troll tone to the self-satisfied manner, the apologists for power are the same in every age.

Kathleen said...

one might suspect that poor people aren't going to church anymore since they are too busy trying to work and survive, but I guess that doesn't fit in with French's preconceived idea of how poor people spend their time.

Batocchio said...

Oooh, you've found a fine specimen of hating on the poor. I might have to return to it later.

Conservatism has a few tenets. One is Your misfortune is your own fault. This is delivered with an accusatory tone, and doesn't apply to members of the in-group, of course. It certainly doesn't apply to the conservative making this eminently righteous judgment, which surely pleases St. Ronnie Rand Jesus. conservatives lack imagination and its emotional equivalent, compassion, so it takes personal calamity for to support liberal policies (although often they will stay in denial about doing so).

Another tenet, related to the first, is Screw you, I got mine. (Sometimes it's followed by, And I'm going to take more... from you.)

You might think that the second tenet springs from the first, but actually, it's the other way around. (They do reinforce each other, though. Then there's that third tenet, directed with rage, smugness or petulance toward their perceived opponents: You're not supposed to win.) As John Kenneth Galbraith observed, "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

Clever Pseudonym said...

A few weeks back, I was having dinner with my father and step-mother and their fellow conservative friends. The subject fell on the evils of Social Security and the lazy, useless bums that rely on it. When I gently brought up the fact that my father and step-mother eagerly accepted and cashed the SS checks for both my brother and me after the death of my mother, it was justified because well, our mommy died and because "we were broke!" Yes, after the furs and the diamonds and the trendy sports cars were bought, after the mortgage was taken out for the biggest house on the block and the tickets purchased for the fancy cruise with friends, indeed, there was no money left to feed the children. That, in an anecdotal nutshell, is the conservative mind.

bulbul said...

Batocchio,

I respectfully disagree. Conservativism only has one tenet:
"I deserve everything I have and more - MORE!!! - because I am superior in every way" (where I means either "the person speaking" or "me and my tribe").
The rest are just corollaries.

Anonymous said...

Eighth circle of hell is where hypocrites go:

Bolgia Six: Hypocrites are punished in this circle. They are forced to wear heavy lead robes as they walk around the circumference of their circle. The robes are golden and resemble a monk’s cowl but are lined with heavy lead, symbolically representing hypocrisy. Also, Caiphas, the Pharisee who insisted on the execution of Jesus, is crucified in this circle, staked to the ground so that the ranks of the lead-weighted hypocrites march across him.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malebolge

Nate said...

I've often wished I was religious, just so I could have the satisfaction of knowing people like French and McArdle would burn in hell when they died.

Anonymous said...

At last, the tenets of conservative philosophy have reached their destination, the Gilded Age::

a. this is the best of all possible worlds;
b. as in Horatio Alger's stories, opportunity is equal for everyone;
c. so, all credit or blame for life's outcome falls on the individual;
d. probity is the primary determinant of that individual's success or failure;
e. poverty is, thus, a sign, and product, of immorality;
f. moral education, not financial assistance, is the solution to poverty.

I guess if its already been done, there's no point reinventing the wheel.

Funny thing, though: according to the author, falling teen pregnancy correlates with a drop in church attendance among the lower classes. How could that be?

Susan of Texas said...

Socialism.

Myles said...

Well, without going into the merits of welfare reform in specific, pregnancies at age 15-17 are just really horrible in terms of everything; it more or less guarantees massive social problems down the line.

Welfare can be structured to both be more generous and still discourage teen pregnancies, and I support its being more generous, but let's not lose sight of the fact that lower pregnancy rate among teens is an unblemished good thing, especially for the teens themselves.

Susan of Texas said...

If people really believed that they would hand out contraceptives to teens like candy on Halloween. They want to deny contraceptives, abortion and any social programs designed to use taxpayer money to help poor teens. Rich teens who become pregnant are a different matter, of course. Their dads give them an allowance to raise the baby and a housekeeper to babysit the child while they go to school. It's very strange that nobody tells them that they should be destitute so other girls learn to keep their knees together.

Through my experience as teacher, I think a lot of girls have a baby because they want something in their lives, someone to love them, money to set up their own place away from their family. Maybe we could do something about that.

Anonymous said...

Myles is completely wrong. Teenage pregnancies for upper class and middle class girls don't result in that girl (or, god forbid, the boy!) falling down into poverty at all. Middle class and rich families routinely pay for abortions, have the child adopted out, or have the child raised by the parents or grandparents. The teenager doesn't have to suffer economic fall and rarely does.

Poor people who have children at a young age *remain poor*--that should surprise no one. Poverty, lack of education, no job prospects are enduring parts of any economy as long as no external money or jobs come into the economy to boost job prospects for everyone.

Myles, as usual, has it exactly backwards. Poor parents have poor children at *every age* because poverty keeps people poor. Rich people can have all the kids they want, whenever they want them, without falling in class status.

Conversley, when middle and upper class women have families they can afford, but through divorce or illness lose their main source of income, all their virtue and education and those intangible benefits moralists like to assign to upper class people don't avail them of anything. Studies have shown over and over again that women and children fall in class rank and in economic standing with divorce, while men's status and life chances rise. That's because children are expensive--but try telling a nice upper class girl that when the stars are in her eyes and she thinks poverty is something that happens to poor people because they lack morality.

aimai

Anonymous said...

ah, megan.

correlation, not causation

Anonymous said...

Hey folks, interesting as it is, I didn't mean to hijack the thread into a discussion of teen pregnancy. The question was meant to be rhetorical, to problematize the author's use of the correlation between the enforced virtue of having to work and a decline in teen pregnancy. If having to work produces so much virtue, you wouldn't expect to see it correlated with a decline in church attendance. Unless, that is, if going to church is antithetical to being virtuous.

Now that's a thought. After all, a higher rate of church attendance does correlate with a higher rate of teen pregnancy.

Actually, an interesting subject, one which, I recall, bears out in states with abstinence-only sex education.

KWillow said...

Church attendance = magical thinking & beliefs.

"I won't get pregnant if I pray after sex, go to church regularly, hate "immoral" people ... unless The Lord Wills It, in which case it is all in His Hands. Amen.

"Couldn't you buy Trojans AND pray?"

"Gasp! My Pastor says The Bible says NO! Only sluts use condoms! Or the pill. Or get abortions."

cynic said...

"For example, we’ve long known that a vast gulf exists between single-parent poverty and marital poverty (36.5 percent of female-led single-parent families are poor compared with 6.4 percent of married two-parent families, according to this Heritage study)"

That would have nothing to with the fact that a two-parent family (married or not) is prolly bringing in two friggin' incomes now, would it?

No, of course not.

Myles said...

Through my experience as teacher, I think a lot of girls have a baby because they want something in their lives, someone to love them, money to set up their own place away from their family. Maybe we could do something about that.

Setting up one's own place and finding someone to love them hardly starts from out-of-wedlock pregnancy while still living with your parents, no? We are confusing means and ends here.

Poor parents have poor children at *every age* because poverty keeps people poor. Rich people can have all the kids they want, whenever they want them, without falling in class status.

Poor people have significantly more children than rich people. I mean, seriously: we can do all the stuff about Marxist class analysis, but in the end it's pretty obvious that if you are poor having children at age 15 is not going to help.

I'm pretty queasy about the whole topic, but at the end of the day it should be a pretty uncontroversial public policy objective, for liberals and conservatives alike, to discourage teens mothers. I couldn't care less if a couple produces children in a partnership or in a formal marriage, and other conservative concerns of this nature, but this is something else.

Susan of Texas said...

Setting up one's own place and finding someone to love them hardly starts from out-of-wedlock pregnancy while still living with your parents, no? We are confusing means and ends here.

No. Many children are unloved and neglected and they want those babies. They deliberately take risks or get pregnant. Or they get pregnant because it means adulthood to them, or they have no other future that they can see. They just don't take as much care as a girl with plans and enough money and help to achieve them.

You don't say what girls (not boys) should be discouraged from doing. Not using birth control? Not having sex? Not wanting to be loved? Not experiencing physical pleasure like teen boys? Not that I want teens having sex too early or getting pregnant, but oddly enough they all don't listen to me.

Do you think boys should be celibate until marriage? Why don't we try harder to discourage them from knocking up girls? Why are they having unprotected sex? What is wrong in their lives?

Susan of Texas said...

We also have to assume that teens will have sex no matter what. What then? And, more important, why is so hard for anyone who is a mother, no matter what the age? Our society substitutes morality for action because morality is cheap and easy and god forbid someone "undeserving" get help. We could make our society easier to survive but we'd rather worship millionaires and kick the poor for the rich's gutting of society.

Downpuppy said...

In the end, I still wonder : How is babby formed?

Susan of Texas said...

A girl falls from Grace and commits a sin because we are born sinners. Nine months later, a baby is born.

Myles said...

You don't say what girls (not boys) should be discouraged from doing. Not using birth control? Not having sex? Not wanting to be loved? Not experiencing physical pleasure like teen boys? Not that I want teens having sex too early or getting pregnant, but oddly enough they all don't listen to me.

The condom, the pill, etc. I mean seriously, this isn't asking for much.

Or they get pregnant because it means adulthood to them, or they have no other future that they can see.

If you get pregnant because it means adulthood to you, you have no capacity for logical reasoning and you are stupid. "I want" is not a justification for stupidity.

Susan of Texas said...

Those are available; why are they not taking/using them?

Come on, Myles--marriage, motherhood, earning a paycheck--those have always been markers of adulthood.

Myles said...

Come on, Myles--marriage, motherhood, earning a paycheck--those have always been markers of adulthood.

Well no, ontologically adulthood is independence. You can't, ontologically speaking, reach adult without having independence, no matter the other factors.

A girl having a baby at age 15, to be raised by her own parents, is not someone with independence.

Anonymous said...

aspergers

Lurking Canadian said...

"A fanatic is one who will not change his mind and cannot change the subject."

I don't know why that sentence keeps popping into my head while browsing these comments, but I'm sure there's some kind of trend.

Susan of Texas said...

I think it's these.

Dr.BDH said...

"...the handmaiden of illegitimacy, divorce, ignorance, and addiction." I thought that was Barbara Bush.