Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Oh, goodie. Megan McArdle is going to tell us that the poor aren't really poor, with the implication that income inequality is irrelevant, as she has stated repeatedly in the past.
Last week, in her State of the Union response, Jodi Ernst mentioned going to school with bread bags on her feet to protect her shoes. These sorts of remembrances of poor but honest childhoods used to be a staple among politicians -- that's why you've heard so much about Abe Lincoln's beginnings in a log cabin. But the bread bags triggered a lot of hilarity on Twitter, which in turn triggered this powerful meditation from Peggy Noonan on how rich we have become. So rich that we have forgotten things that are well within living memory:  
[snipped Noonan quote rhapsodizing about our boot-strapping, plastic-bag wrapping American past] 
I am a few years younger than Noonan, but I grew up in a very different world -- one where a number of my grammar school classmates were living in public housing or on food stamps, but everyone had more than one pair of shoes. In rural areas, like the one where Jodi Ernst grew up, this lingered longer. But all along, Americans got richer and things got cheaper -- especially when global markets opened up. Payless will sell you a pair of child's shoes for $15, which is two hours of work even at minimum wage.  
Perhaps that sounds like a lot to you -- two whole hours! But I've been researching historical American living standards for a project I'm working on, and if you're familiar with what Americans used to spend on things, this sounds like a very good deal.
Yes, America is much richer now except for small pockets in time and space that encompass the childhood of Republican politicians. Why, Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't have so much as a tin cup while we lucky Koch-Americans have processed food and flat-screen tvs. And the people who sniggered at Joni Ernst's bread bag story are actually laughing at the poor, plucky little prairie child  and the American Way of Life.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

But all along, Americans got richer and things got cheaper -- especially when global markets opened up.

Needless to say, this is horse manure.

Average Americans got richer thanks to unions. And this continued until PATCO Reagan came along. Not to mention, corporatist Dems like NAFTA Clinton and (maybe) TPP Obama.

Susan of Texas said...

Evidently her math was off as well--shocker!

Anonymous said...

Plus, the laughing at Ernst about the bread bags was because she said she wore the bags on the outside of her shoes. People responded by saying, yeah, I had to use bread bags, too, but you're supposed to put them on the inside of your shoes. Otherwise they wear out after about 20 feet.


fledermaus said...

Ya know where I grew up in Minnesota we had these new fangled things called boots and wore them in winter.

Jeez, now I'm beginning to think those jokes about an Iowa garbage disposal being a pig under the sink were actually true.

Anonymous said...

Plus there was also a bunch of commentary about how Ernst's family may have been poor at one time, but they seem to have been doing pretty well with various "feds pay the farmer" programs.


Susan of Texas said...

And all so she can say that Republicans have the policies that will create jobs, like getting rid of Obamacare and removing trade barriers. She's a walking Republican cliché dispenser. Which I hear is better than her usual crazy talk.

Kathy said...

Her boasts of castrating pigs (why this would impress people I don't know) are actually boast of castrating piglets, you know: BABY pigs. Not quite so macho sounding!

I DO remember wearing bread bags over my shoes to protect them from rain while waiting at the bus stop. We lived in the country and so no sidewalks. The side of the road was way muddy and about 1" - 2" deep in rainwater. But I didn't try to walk anywhere- the bags would have split. And I removed them once on the bus. Why yes! We poor rural folk had school buses!

Batocchio said...

Shorter Ernst/Noonan/McArdle: "We won't give you a living wage, but we promise -- during election season -- to pretend to treat you with dignity! (Now quit your complaining, you moochers!)"

cynic said...

ArgleBargle / 'Irresponsible not to speculate' Noonan: Look how rich America has become.

Not quite all of America


aimai said...

The good Roger Ailes had a great takedown of this Megan piece--he points out that she is 1) 22 years younger than noonan and just 4 or 6 years older than Ernst. Also that she didn't go to school with any poor kids since she went to a private grade school.

Also: can she not stop posing as an interpreter to her readers of things that are arcane to them? Does she imagine that she is an anthropologist of poverty and of economics with her "payless sells kids shoes for 15 dollars and that is two hours of worker's time at minimum wage?" And then, presumably, because i'm damned if I'll read Megan in the original crayon and grease, she explains the economics of hand making shoes and how much better we have it since mass production. Of course we don't have it better since mass mproduction left the lowell mills and moved to China since the shoes are cheap but the labor has been offshored.

Susan of Texas said...

Noonan grew up on Massapequa in the 50s and 60s. She undoubtedly moved into a suburban house like everyone else including people I know, whose parents usually had blue collar jobs but could afford a house and shoes for the kids, and even college. This was a time and place of prosperity.

McArdle as you know grew up on the Upper West Side. She went to public school until jr. high I believe, which is where her little anecdote comes from. My kids went to a school with mixed income as well and it was extremely clear that some parents had a lot of money and some did not.

McArdle went from being one of the better-off kids to being one of the less-rich kids when she went to prep school. We know how she thinks--"If I had to do something, you have to do it." I can see her telling herself that it's fine if some people are poor because poor is really rich and she was poorer than everyone else and she turned out just fine.