Teach a Man to Fish; Don't Make Fish an Entitlement

Let me share a few more “Jackisms” for the holiday season. It is as blessed to receive as to give. Giving w/o some expectation sets a man down the road to perdition & too much self-esteem destroys self-respect. If we are going to do welfare and charity, we ought to learn to do it right.

Americans are the most generous people in the world both in absolute terms and per capita. Some see this merely as a failure of government. Charities, they say, must step in where the safety net is frayed. This misses the point. The act of charity is beneficial for both the giver and the receiver. When the government steps in with its coercive power, it often destroys much of the good because it neglects most of the aspects I mentioned in the introduction.

I never give anything without the expectation of getting something from the recipient and I think anybody who does is craven. My motivation is sometimes altruistic; sometimes not. If I give something to an individual, I expect that he will become a more productive citizen and maybe do something for someone else later on. If I give to a charity, I expect some useful and desirable result.

You can show no greater contempt for a person than to believe that he cannot in some way repay a gift you have bestowed on him, no matter how poor. You are doing him no favors if you just fill his stomach, better to let him hunger physically than to break his sprit and self-respect. When government programs have really worked to alleviate poverty it is usually because they came with stings attached. Take the GI Bill, which successfully brought lots of poor people into the middle class and was probably the single most successful government social program in history. The government provided help in return for good behavior, first by serving the country and second by going to school and studying. It was not an entitlement that you got because of who you were. It was a benefit you earned by what you did.

Charity (in both the original and modern sense of the word) is transactional and always has been. When Jesus saved the adulteress from the mob he told her to, “Go AND sin no more.” In the parable of the candlesticks, the Bishop tells Jean Valjean to become an honest man. There would have been no redemption if they had talked about victim status and made no demands for behaviorial change.

One of the most successful development schemes has been the Grameen Bank, whose founder Muhammad Yunus recently won the Nobel Prize. The bank LENDS money. The loan recovery rate is 98.85%. It does not give it away, although the recipients are certainly poor and downtrodden enough to "deserve" it. If it gave money it would be another worthless giveaway that destroyed the sprit of the people it was meant to help.

Our government once understood this concept too. Most of the New Deal programs, including Social Security, required some contribution from the individuals involved. They were based on behavior, not membership in a group. We lost sight of that during the 1960s, when we found victims everywhere. We were supposed to feel guilty for their plight. Guilt is a foolish emotion which makes people do foolish things and too many people assuage their guilt at the cost of someone else's self-respect.

I say self-respect and not the more PC self-esteem. A lot of losers have high self-esteem. They think they are worthy and entitled. Most abusers enjoy very high self-esteem. They will not accept any insults or slights. What they lack is self-respect. They know they are rotten and hollow inside. That is why they demand outside respect.

Government is learning the lesson. Welfare reform explicitly took behavior into account. It went against 40 years of PC orthodoxy and it worked. We are also experimenting with self help/government support mechanisms such as the earned income credit, thrift savings plans & IRAs, as well as health savings accounts. The Lord helps those who help themselves and government should take the hint.

When the history of charity in our times is written, they may say that we lost our way for a while and let the government behave like an indulgent parent, ensuring physical comfort but neglecting character. For nearly a half century, we let guilt and foolishness dominate our relationships with our less fortunate fellow citizens. But I hope historians will also record that we came to our senses and remembered to care for the sprit as well as the body.

PS - Speaking of being poor, take a look at the growing list of necessities. We can never overcome poverty, since it is a moving target.

PSS - Read David’s article nearby. That is what inspired this one and they may complement each other.

PSSS - Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and all he will want to do is sit out on the lake and drink beer.

Posted by Jack at December 26, 2006 3:38 PM
Comment #200431
When Jesus saved the adulteress from the mob he told her to, “Go AND sin no more.” In the parable of the candlesticks, the Bishop tells Jean Valjean to become an honest man. There would have been no redemption if they had talked about victim status and made no demands for behaviorial change.
(a) The mob was told not to throw stones unless what? Isn’t the lesson we must all accept the weaknesses in others since we all have weaknesses? (b) Valjean was desperate when he stole the bread and was given the oportunity to redeem himself. The basis is we are all good and need forgiveness for our sins and vindictiveness is evil in itself. Right? It seems you argue for the “they’re poor so they must deserve it” approach to social studies.

BTW THe Grameen bank gives microloans, a hand up. Like $10 to buy a table so they can sell their grapes. Not exactly a solution to world hunger but a brilliant element of the entire solution.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 26, 2006 4:07 PM
Comment #200435

Jack, it is your condensed philosophy that is wrong. You see, most folks receiving Medicare or Soc. Sec. have worked, have helped themselves as best they could, and still came up short when it was time to afford health care or living accomodations after their bodies or minds had rendered them unemployable.

Your entire article posits that those who receive are without merit for receiving. That philosophy of society and government is straight out of Dicken’s era England and Scrooge’s admonition that the world would be better served if the poor would just die and decrease the earth’s surface population.

Teach people to fish. Yes. AND pay them sufficiently to afford health care, a family, a home, and retirement savings. Then come and ask me if we can do away with entitlements, and I will respond, Yes, by all means.

But until our educational system across the board is capable of graduating students from high school with the knowledge of compound interest, balancing checkbooks, comparative debt instruments, how to lobby their congress persons, how to raise children capable of exceeding their parent’s accomplishments, and how to define what they need vs. what advertisers and marketers brainwash them into thinking they need, not until then will I say we have no need for safety net spending.

This nation is far more than 300 million individuals but it will certainly fail if we treat them as such. We are a society, and as a society we have a collective responsibility for each other.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 26, 2006 4:16 PM
Comment #200436


I do not think we disagree so much. I am advocating charity and forgiveness, but it comes with the acceptance of responsibility.

In both the cases I mention, there is a “rest of the story”. If we stop with the victim, we are not getting it.

I guess my school of social science is that even the poor have the right to the respect we accord a human being and that means we hold them to similar standards we would hold ourselves.

Posted by: Jack at December 26, 2006 4:17 PM
Comment #200438


I did not make it clear, evidently. I am not necessarily asking that “the poor” make a money contribution, but they should feel some obligation, maybe just to someone else.

Re SS and Medicare, I support these concepts. I specifically mentioned SS as the kind of “good” benefit, but we will talk about details.

Take a look at the Pew Research on necessities. We will clearly NEVER reach a point where we can give everyone the necessities of life. We probably have reached that point if we were talking about the necessities of 1955, but now we have to include a car, central air & a washer dryer.

Posted by: Jack at December 26, 2006 4:37 PM
Comment #200444


1) “Necessity” in that article appears to be an item required to sustain a “lifestyle”. A microwave is “necessary” for me since we can get dinner made faster so there’s more time to sit down with our kids and review their homework, take themn to after school activities, etc… I don’t need it now, I didn’t need it for the 20+ years before I bought one. I do need the food I put in it however.

2) We agree on personal responsibility, I think I’ll stop there tonight :-)

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 26, 2006 5:41 PM
Comment #200453

I guess I’m craven. Good lord, Jack; I’m glad I see by my lights and not yours.

Posted by: Trent at December 26, 2006 8:13 PM
Comment #200454


You forgot the motto of our public schools today

“If you have little or no expectations you will never be disappointed.”

Posted by: Keith at December 26, 2006 8:48 PM
Comment #200456

I don’t believe in the concept of charity. At best, it is a cynical mask for inaction on the part of the haves towards the have-nots. It would seem that If we lived in a just society there would be little need for charity.
What was going on when the Japanese were compensated a few thousand dollars each (if they were still alive) for the loss of their freedom and possessions some forty years previous to the payment? Shouldn’t their compensation have been many, many times higher? Were the Japanese being charitable for letting the federal government off the hook for a few pennies on the dollar in compensation?
What about blacks and their history in this country? Do you really think that they are just a lazy lot for being in the bottom quartile of earnings and net worth? … or has it been the systematic prejudice and racism towards them by the haves?
you say “you can show no greater contempt for a person then to believe that he can’t in some way repay a gift that has been BESTOWED upon him” (!) I can’t think of a more insulting way to think of disadvantaged people, sitting below you waiting for you to pass a nickel on down to them.
You need to get out more

Posted by: Charles Ross at December 26, 2006 9:27 PM
Comment #200457

You mentioned the benefits of the GI bill. You are right. The ease of getting housing loans changed the country and provided much of the stability that led to better education etc.for the children of those vets. Thats us,huh?
Even though,as you said,this benefit was provided for what you had done ,not who you were,there was one large group of vets that were denied simply and officially because of who they were. HUD redlined. That is to say they would not lend money for homes in Black nieghborhoods. At that time there were no fair housing laws. If you were a black vet you were basically excluded from the loan program.This is one of the reasons for black poverty that is still with us.Should we feel guilty? You pick,but we are guilty. Our government was guilty. Should we do something about what happened. I think so. Not of guilt but because it makes good sense. We could help take a bite out of seemingly intractable black poverty and do the right thing by our veterans by extending low cost home loan garanrtees to the decendants of those black vets that were denied. This is more recent than schemes like slave reparations etc. Some of these vets are still alive and many of us are still enjoying the benefits they were denied in many ways. For example,your parents may be living largely on the equity they built up in their GI home thus relieving you of the cost of their care etc. How many GI bill homes were put up as collateral to start businesses for offspring?Also remember this is not a handout. It is a loan garantee. If the loan is not paid the home defaults. This could also help kick start the sagging home market as well. Thoughts?

Posted by: BillS at December 26, 2006 9:50 PM
Comment #200458

C Ross-
“If we lived in a just society there would be little need for charity.”

Nice thought.

Now name one “just” society that has existed during all of human history. If there was one it didn’t survive long enough to be remembered.

Conclusion: Charity is needed.

The next question becomes: “What kind of charity?” That’s the question to which Jack is seeking the answer.

The attempts to be charitable that caused more problems than they solved should be avoided. One of those attempts (done with a good intent, I believe) was to give the poor money and food and housing with few strings attached. Another attempt being floated by the Dems in Congress is raising the minimum wage (it rewards the unskilled and uneducated for being unskilled and uneducated instead of helping them acquire skills and education so they can get jobs that pay far more than minimum).

The best attempts at charity have the consequence of not only helping with a hand-out, but also providing the recipient with a way out.

Posted by: Don at December 26, 2006 10:11 PM
Comment #200461


There is a reason many of those so called losers you refer to are in thier situation. It is called opression. Our current system favors the wealthy. It is designed to keep a percentage at welfare levels. Lets face it, in order for every person in this country to collect a good wage would mean that the wealthy would have to make do with less profits. Somebody has to pay for the rise in stature of all those losers. I do not believe the wealthy are about to let that happen. A subserviant class is important to them. After all someone has to do all those dirty little valueless jobs for a pittance. Yes there is very clear and evident class discrimination in this country.

I do understand that there are some taking advantage of the system who could do well without assistance. Just as I realize there are some wealthy taking advantage of and abusing the system to sustain thier lust for more. Because of beauracracy and corruption there will always be those who slip thru the cracks under any system.

I understand your concept of self respect. I prefer to refer to it as pride. There are many who will not accept assistance when needed because of the latter. It is demeaning for a person to take handouts. Unfortunately many have no options for various reasons. I worked the midnight shift for the highway dept for six years. I covered eighty miles of four lane road nightly asssisting people in distress. Often times they were stranded in the middle of nowhere with no money to pay thier tow or even make a phone call. I did not judge them. I merely viewed them as someone in need of assistance. I would often give those in need a few bucks to make a phone call. Most were very grateful and many were obviously ashamed that they were in such a predicament. I never asked for or expected repayment per say. I have always had the notion that one good favor deserves another. Perhaps I or someone else will be in a similar predicament someday and that person I helped will remember what I did and do the same. I would not feel bad about accepting help knowing that I have done and will do what I can to help others when neccesary. The idea that one good turn may perpetuate into many good turns is payment enough for me. And for the record I did on more than one occasion recieve thank you letters and even reimbursement for my assistance. There were also those who ungraciously accepted assistance as though I somehow owed it to them. But they were very few and far between. As a result I have learned to not judge all by the actions of a few. To do so would be shallow on my part.

For us as a country to avoid the needs of many because of the abuses of a few would also be shallow.

“If a man is hungry share your fish.” Chances are the good deed will be repaid many times down the line.

Posted by: ILdem at December 26, 2006 10:50 PM
Comment #200462

Jack, yes, it appears we do agree on the fundamentals. Defining what “needs” means, of course depends greatly on where one lives and what kind of infrastructure is in place. In N.Y.C. for example, owning a car is a liability, not an asset for most people because of the excellent mass transit infrastructure. Living in L.A. requires two cars, one to drive while the other is being serviced.

But, I don’t think it is difficult to define some basic “need” categories that would fit nearly all categories of urban and rural environments.

And yes, it changes overtime. But, I will use the same argument for population growth (which taxes citizens and nation alike) that I used for the Iraq war. Shortly after the invasion of Iraq, I wrote an article asking if 500 American dead was enough, or must we make it 5000 American dead in order to prove that the invasion was a mistake. I said 500 was more than enough.

300 million population in America is enough. Do we need to make America look and act like China with a 1/2 billion or billion people to prove that 300 million population was enough? Population growth is not the answer to any of America’s problems, it IS the source of all social and national problems. Until idiot Ph.D.’s and politicians recognize this fundamental fact, our policy making will continue to create more problems than it solves.

A village of 200 hundred doesn’t need layers of government, infrastructure, and political parties, and ever growing taxes and lists of unsolved problems. Only increasing population density requires all these and more. Let’s begin to become aware of this fact so that we can adopt fundamental policies that assure our national future instead of threaten it.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 26, 2006 11:03 PM
Comment #200466


Individuals have rights and responsibilities. Groups do not.

I had a very interesting evening just a couple of days ago. I have been studying up on Mali, which is a surprising success story. I went to a party with people working on that subject. Almost everyone there was African American and I believe I had the lowest income of anybody in the group. Many had indeed benefited from affirmative action. The government has special rules for minority owned firms. They do not need to go through the usual bidding process. While I oppose affirmative action generally, and am suspicious of no bid contracts, I have to admire the result in this case. They no longer needed the special help, but it had given these smart and talented guys a jump start to prosperity. In this case, it had the desired effect of teaching them to fish.

They had developed special expertise in Africa. This is a little off topic, but interesting. ALL of Africa uses less fertilizer than even a sort of backward country like Bangladesh. One problem was the price. Until a couple years ago, fertilizer cost about 3x as much in W. Africa than the U.S. This was because it was mixed in the U.S. and shipped to Africa. Most of the mass in a bag of fertilizer is “inert”, i.e. sand. We were essentially selling American sand to people who lived in the Sahara desert and shipping it across the ocean. These guys figured that out and started to ship the precursors and now places like Mali are using local sand and getting cheaper fertilizer. If we would relax our trade restrictions, we could have a real jump start for Africa. A place like Mali can grow high quality cotton at low cost with the help of modern methods. This is my idea of charity helping everybody on a big basis.

Of course, I was seeing the successful guys. I suppose there are some still living off the special treatment. In any case, this just goes to show that theoretical constructs do not decide real cases.


I am not really interested in equality among groups, as many of you are. Let’s put that aside for a minute. How can you help a poor individual that you meet?

Let’s take the teach a man to fish paradigm. If you give him the fish, you feed him for the day, but he will be back tomorrow. You create dependence, but it is even worse than that. You also take away his self-respect and create hostility in both direction. You resent him for taking your charity for too long and he resents you for his needing it.

The best thing you can do for the person is to “help” him by letting him help you. Give him some useful work. You will both be better off and you will have created a partner from a dependent.

Those of you who have kids can think of how you treat them. I make my kids work. I find that they can be very useful and they develop a sense of ownership and pride. Why would you want to do less for others, especially when among adults it is mutually beneficial.

Posted by: Jack at December 26, 2006 11:48 PM
Comment #200471

Jack, your praise of the new deal here in the red column is courageous and I respect you for saying as much. I also agree that, as is the case for most things in America, it was taken to far in the 60’s. However a return to the core new deal values is sorely needed after 20 years of trickle on Regancomonics and all out war on the new deal policies by the right wingers. It is not charity, it is the government doing what is right long term for this nation and its people not the corporations.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 27, 2006 12:19 AM
Comment #200472

“Individuals have rights and responsibilities,groups don’t.”
How you come to these conclusions I’ll never know.Groups have long been held liable for their actions and also have been recognized frequently as a “class” ie. in a lawsuit.
Beyond that ,do you see anything wrong with offering low cost housing loans to the decendants of Black WW2 vets that were kept from using the same benefit that many of our parents got because they were black?OK, on an individual basis.

Posted by: BillS at December 27, 2006 1:01 AM
Comment #200473

I agree entitlements and welfare have made corporations expectant spoiled brats.

Give a corporation a rider and you help him make a lot of money. Teach a corporation to write riders and you have the Medicare drug Bill.

End corporate welfare FIRST then there will be much less need for public welfare.

Posted by: muirgeo at December 27, 2006 1:12 AM
Comment #200476

When a man helps you catch the fish that you sell for a profit pay the man fairly.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 27, 2006 1:21 AM
Comment #200484

Jack said: “Individuals have rights and responsibilities. Groups do not.”

Ahem! Corporations are not groups? PACs are not groups? Charities are not groups?

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 27, 2006 2:59 AM
Comment #200485

So, Jack, where is this sense of responsibility and self-respect to be learned and when, if parents fail the job, as millions do, in America (see our prison system). Does it really take a village, or society, to raise children? Is that where you are going, Jack? If so, I commend you heartily for intimating such in a Republican column.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 27, 2006 3:04 AM
Comment #200492


Nothing in politics proceeds in straight lines and most of our ideas have multiple sources and results.

Things went wrong in the 1960s for many reasons (which I define as not actually the decade itself, but rather more or less 1965-75). One is that the New Deal thinking accomplished many of its goals. It pulled up many of those who could be pulled up. But more importantly, the 1960 changed focus from behavior based aid to entitlements. We also went down the sterile path of group over individual rights.

Ronald Reagan was a New Deal Democrat. He only became a Republican in the 1960s. He said that he did not move away from the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party moved away from him. On the other hand, Bill Clinton, with welfare reform, a strong trade policy etc helped consolidate the Reagan restoration.

It has taken us years to overcome the 1960s. Maybe we will not be cured until that generation passes. Think of the 1960s in terms of fashion. If you get magazines and look at the popular men’s clothes from 1900 to now, you could probably find something to wear to work from any decade of the 20th with a few minor adjustments. The exception is the period from 1965-75. Those weird clothes just wouldn’t feed the bulldog. Much of the ideology was just as stupid as the fashions.

Re selling that fish - a fair price is what somebody will pay for it. There is no other way to determine a fair price. It might take somebody all day to catch a carp, but maybe nobody wants it or at least will not pay much for it. The price is what tells the guy to go after a different type of fish or maybe find a different clientele.


The class action thing has gotten out of hand. Re affirmative action, please see what I wrote above. These guys were more than compensated. It is difficult to make adjustments for history because it has many twists. I have been denied jobs and promotions specifically because of my race and gender. It was sometimes very blatant, but in one case it pushed me down different career path that ended up being much better than the one I originally contemplated. In my personal case, if you “compensat” me by giving my original career choice, I would be worse off.

That is one reason I think it is better to give incentive to behavior rather than class or group. Choices individuals make are important, not who they are but what they do.


I have no trouble cutting subsides to firms. The government is too big. It should not have the power to grant such things to individuals and firms.


It does take a village, but getting the Federal government involved often destroys the local and individual incentive and ability to take the proper action. A country’s compassion is not determined by the size of its government outlays.

Posted by: Jack at December 27, 2006 10:19 AM
Comment #200506

Jack said: “It does take a village, but getting the Federal government involved often destroys the local and individual incentive and ability to take the proper action.”

No, Jack. Not often. It did so with the welfare system implemented in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. And it is destroying incentive with no bid contracts to the likes of Lockheed-Martin (see this week’s Coast Guard renovation debacle story). But, these are isolated cases and circumstances, not global fundamental truths.

Then you said: “A country’s compassion is not determined by the size of its government outlays.”

It is in a great many other countries, Jack. Canada, Great Britain, and China to name three, if public opinion in those countries means anything. And public opinion is the yardstick, Jack.

America is renowned for its compassion as in the Indonesian tusnami, and the rebuilding of Japan and Germany under the Marshall plans. Many of us believe our government should be at least as compassionate for the misfortunes of its own people as it is with the people’s of other nations.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 27, 2006 12:39 PM
Comment #200511


Why do you keep on bringing up China, one of the worst human rights offenders, as an example? I understand that they have done a good job of harnessing industry and respect that.

I have lived in Europe. I do not think the milk of human kindness is any thicker there. In fact, I am always surprised when I come back here how nice Americans are and how helpful. We give a lot more to charity than anybody else and it works better than the government in many cases.

Re the welfare failures, our welfare system helped destroy families and create an underclass until it was reformed a decade ago. Many of these programs were not only a waste of time, they also actually caused harm.

Posted by: Jack at December 27, 2006 12:49 PM
Comment #200519

So you believe that black veterans of ww2 that were redlined out of buying homes for their families on the GI bill were “more than compensated”? How? When?

Posted by: BillS at December 27, 2006 1:10 PM
Comment #200525

Sir i truly believe charity is a good thing i also believe personal responceabilty is being taught out of our country why because we have a class that believes life is zero sum game in other if i get rich i must have someone else poor . well thats not true and its foolish to think that if people would simply rember that it takes hard work and determation to provide for ones self and a willness to sacrafrice to be succesful most of the time we might do a little better .

Posted by: Steven Boucher at December 27, 2006 2:28 PM
Comment #200526

Ildem is right. If we create a system that gives everyone the skills and the education to succeed and get a job that pays far above the minimum wage, we have taught them to fish very well indeed. They all cast their lines into the water and low and behold, there are more fishermen than there are fish. Our system does not work that way and never will.

Welfare is not the culprit, poverty is. Welfare recipient’s aren’t a bunch of lazy people who won’t work. For every one of those, there are a hundred mostly young mothers and fathers struggling to support their families on a low income job. Without assistance, their children would be as bad if not worse off than Tiny Tim.

A growing group of welfare recipients are middle class workers in their fourties and fifties who because of injury, illnes, or outsourcing have become unemployed or unemployable. Even if they learn new skills, they are competing against younger healthier people. In today’s economy, younger and healthier is winning out over knowledge.

This nation and our way of life is totally dependent of cheap labor. I have a young friend who is trying to support a wife and three young children on $6 per hour. He is a hard working high school dropout and has few aspirations of improving his lot in life. His hope is that his children will do better. He makes wooden pallets, a product that is in great demand by our shipping industry. He makes less than half of the poverty level income. Without welfare assistance, his family would be desperate.

Contrary to some peoples beliefs, no man is an island unto himself. From the richest to the poorest, we are dependent on each other. How we treat each other determines how good or bad our society is.

The tax payer sponsored government welfare system is not perfect by any means. We can continue to improve it. I doubt that we can replace it.

Posted by: jlw at December 27, 2006 2:31 PM
Comment #200528

I am not saying those particular people were more than compensated. I am saying that trying to right old wrongs will often create new wrongs. We can work for individual justice in particular cases. We can not make wholesale justice because general principles do not decide particular cases.

You also have to figure out what people put into opporutnities. Let me take my African American cases, so that we will not be race baiting.

As I mentioned above, they got an advantage a white contractor would have been denied and to some extent their fortunes are based on that. But to a larger extent, their fortunes are based on their talent and hard work. Many had the opportunity; few prospered.

In the case of home ownership, the home owner puts in a lot of money and work too. It is an opportunity, not a gift. It also depends on where you live and when you sell your home. If a person sold in 1995 (in between real estate booms) he may have made little money adjusted for inflation. And if you count in his payments and work, it may have actually been a loss.

You are working with a lot of conditional probabilities. Let me list a few.

1. You assume the person would have bought a home (not everybody does)
2. You assume he would have been able and willing to keep up the payments.
3. You assume he would have been willing and able to do the work necessary too maintain the homes value.
4. You assume he would have had no bad luck (fire etc) or that he would have paid enough in insurance to compensate for his entire loss.
5. You assume that he lived in a place where property values rose faster than inflation.
6. You assume he sold when the market was up.

String enough conditionals together and the chances of it actually being the case drop almost to zero.

My father bought a house in 1945 in Milwaukee for around $6000.00. At his death we sold it for $50,000. Okay, we made a pile of money - NOT. Adjusted for inflation over those years, $50,000 than $6000 in 1945. Subtract the payments he made, upkeep etc and add the rent saved and you probably just about break even. Not all housing markets go up. We are coming off a market that has been rising since 1997. That colors our thinking. Most of the time real estate more or less paces inflation.

If you really sat down and figured it out, he would have been better off renting and putting his money into a mutal fund (of course he didn’t know what that was)

About 5 years later the neighborhood took off. The guy who bought the house has more than doubled his money since then.

Do you compensate your hypothetical veterans for what my father (the veteran) got or what the young professionals who bought the house made off it?

Returning to your original question, if you find the individuals involved and satisfy all the questions (including WHO should compensate them) by all means, pay it. I think it will be less than you think. Of course next in line might be the victims of affirmative action.

Posted by: Jack at December 27, 2006 2:44 PM
Comment #200539

Jack re the poor:
“You are doing him no favors if you just fill his stomach, better to let him hunger physically than to break his sprit and self-respect.”

What an absolute crock.
Quite unlike the sort of Republican callousness and hard heartedness so ably expressed by the above comment, Democrats have long believed that making sure our citizens at the very least get something to eat is vitally important. From the Bread Lines of the Great Depression, to Food Stamps, to WIC, to Head Start, etc. we’ve rejected the idea of starving Americans in the richest country in the world. Besides, we know that people aren’t healthy and don’t work as productively, or as able to find jobs when they’re starving, and hungry children can’t pay attention and learn well in school when their bellies are empty — and this has got nothing to do with spirit or self respect, but only with simple biology.

“Take the GI Bill, which successfully brought lots of poor people into the middle class and was probably the single most successful government social program in history.”

Yes, like Social Security, we can thank the Democrats for the GI Bill. And let us be completely honest here shall we? It is Democrats who have worked to teach our disadvantaged people “to fish”, not the Republicans.
Indeed, had the Republicans been in power for the entire 20th Century, most of America would still be overwhelmingly populated by poor, overworked, uneducated wage slaves who weren’t allowed to organize and join unions, and therefore, wouldn’t have been able to fight for 8 hour working days, the 40 hour work week, and safe and sanitary working conditions, let alone find the time to go back to school in order to improve their lots in life.

Here are a few other pieces of Democratic “teaching men to fish” legislation:
Area Redevelopment Act of 1961 (provided training and assistance in regions of serious unemployment)
Manpower Development and Training Act
The Vocational Education Act of 1963
The Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963
Higher Education Act of 1965
Early Childhood Education Act
Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Women’s Educational Equity Act.
Neighborhood Youth Corps (helped 1.5 million poor, unemployed youths work and earn income while completing high school)
Bilingual Education Act
Special Impact Program (for people in very poor neighborhoods)
New Careers Program (training in health, education and public safety)
The Work Incentive Program (to move able-bodied persons off welfare and into jobs)
Education of All Handicapped Children Act
Private Sector Initiatives Program (to help private firms provide job training for the needy)
The Youth Employment and Demonstration Projects Act of 1977 (programs to assist young people)
The Targeted Jobs Tax Credit (gave employers tax credits for hiring disadvantaged people)
The Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978 (to encourage the federal government to both reduce unemployment and eliminate inflation)
The School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 (to ease the transition from secondary education to employment for those who do not graduate from college)
Goals 2000 (established a national system of skill standards to certify that workers had the skills and training that employers needed. States were given funds to establish one-stop career centers, linking unemployment insurance, job counseling, and access to job training)
Retirement Protection Act (assuring that millions of workers in underfunded pension plans would receive adequate retirement benefits, protection of workers by waging campaigns against sweatshops, unsafe worksites, and fraudulent purveyors of health insurance)
Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child or sick family member, without losing their jobs)

I’m sure there are many more pieces of Democratic legislation or helpful programs I’ve left out of this list, but I’m sure most folks will be able to grasp the point I’m trying to make.

“We lost sight of that during the 1960s, when we found victims everywhere. We were supposed to feel guilty for their plight. Guilt is a foolish emotion which makes people do foolish things and too many people assuage their guilt at the cost of someone else’s self-respect.”

I consider this to be a very revealing statement. And perhaps it really points up the differences between people on the right and those on the left. Jack angrily uses the words “guilt” and “foolish” regarding our fellow citizens who are disadvantaged. For me, guilt doesn’t even enter the picture. Instead I only think about what constitutes basic human decency — of sympathy and empathy. (No doubt my use of these terms in constast to his will mark me as a unnecessarily “guilty” and “foolish” woman.)
While I am more than willing to admit that many of the Great Society Programs proved to be unsuccessful, or fell short of the mark they were aiming for, I cannot and will not ever believe that the goals weren’t well intended and important ones for America to address. Maybe the left was wrong to attempt to take on so much, and to spend too many tax dollars in the process, but the Republican idea of totally ignoring social problems, gross inequalities, and devastating poverty, while somehow expecting miracles of pride and self-sufficiency to grow from them seems far, far more ridiculous and “foolish”.

“A lot of losers have high self-esteem. They think they are worthy and entitled. Most abusers enjoy very high self-esteem. They will not accept any insults or slights. What they lack is self-respect. They know they are rotten and hollow inside. That is why they demand outside respect.”

This description reminds me of Neocons like Bush, Cheney and Tom Delay.

PS. In case Kevin23 is reading this thread, I’d like to apologize for never replying to a post he directed towards me in a blue column thread (now disappeared to the archives) several days ago. With the holiday, I simply had too much going on.
PSS. Hope everybody had a Happy Holiday.

Posted by: Adrienne at December 27, 2006 4:59 PM
Comment #200549


What irks me about so-called charity groups, especially those that are not church or faith-based, is that I believe they get many of their recipients from the same organizations and places.
As a store manager, I see many of the same people at Christams time coming into the store with the “shop with a cop” program, the NAACP program, and other needy children’s programs over and over again. Many of the kids in these programs are buying games for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, which means they’ve already forked out $400 to $600 for the systems they have at home. People call these kids needy, but they apparently have as much or more than my kids have. I read a story in the paper about a charitable organization that supplied toys for needy children this Christmas. A single mom visited this organization and went home with three bags full of Christmas toys and one bag full of birthday toys for her (one) child-a three year old daughter who celebrates a birthday near Christmas. It seems to me that four bags of toys for one child is a little over-doing it. If she shops around with any of the other organizations, her (one) three year old child would have probably celebrated Christmas with six or more bags full of toys under the tree. Can any of the middle income folks out there say their children got the same. Why work when your kid can have a Christmas like that, and you can be rewarded for not working or living life by the rules? At least when these charities are run by Christian organizations, the recipients are usually members of the church who are hurting. They are known by the others who give and the people know where their money goes. Others who receive these gifts given by the faith-based community are usually put on their lists by people within their congregations whom they know as friends. Their need is verified by those within the church or by visits from the Pastor. I say charity belongs to the church because they are much more capable of verification when it comes to the needy. I also believe that other organizations heap gifts on the so-called needy because as a manager, I know that I can’t expect to try to increase my budget next year if I do not use it all in the previous year. These other organizations tend to just try to prove the need in order to beg for more donations, (increase revenue), the following year. That’s the way I see it!


Posted by: JD at December 27, 2006 6:26 PM
Comment #200562

Those Veterans are not hypothetical. They were wronged by the country they risked their lives to protect. What I am proposing is not compensation but opportunity for their decendants to get into a home,to build equity,to provide stability for their families, the same stability you and me enjoyed because of the GI bill.Not too much to ask. As for cost there would be some but remember we are talking about loans here, not grants. HUD already makes plenty of loans. I am talking adding another category.

Posted by: BillS+ at December 27, 2006 8:14 PM
Comment #200568


I am not ignoring the problem and I have praised social programs aimed at behavior rather than group membership. Farther up in this thread, I addressed some of this I will repeat a little. For example, Ronald Reagan was a New Deal Democrat. He only switched parties in the 1960s. When asked about it, he explained the he had not moved away from the party. The party moved away from him.

Sometimes programs are successful and create conditions that make them no longer effective. I think that is what happened with New Deal programs.

It is also very hard for reformers to give up after they have accomplished their tasks or at least taken them as far as they can go. I think that happened in the 1960s. I am confident that, like Ronald Reagan, I would have been a Democrat in the 1930s. They would have lost me in the 1960s & 1970s. This is what happened to many Americans. It was no coincidence that the most popular president since FDR is/was Ronald Reagan. The sprit of experimentation and reform was very similar.

SS is an excellent example of a successful program designed for a different reality and a demographic structure that no longer exists. If you ask me if SS is successful I say yes. If you ask me if it can continue to be successful long into the future, I say no. We cannot preserve these kinds of things forever.

The Great Society was generally a failure. Maybe intentions were good, but we actually went backwards.

The Hippocratic oath states that the duty of a healer is to do no harm. The Great Society programs caused harm. The poor became more hopeless; they were concentrated in horrible socialized colonies. Crime exploded and so did most pathologies of society. I do not blame the people of those times for their idealism, but I am a little suspicious of those who have not learned the lesson after 40 years.


I am not sure what your objection is. If you look at the link re charity, you find that religious people give more both through their churches, temples and mosques AND also in all the others ways we can measures. They even give more blood per capita. There is nothing wrong with this. It is natural for people to reach out to affiliated people first because they understand them and are more certain that the money will be well spent.

I think the well spent part is very important to many people. You do not want to be “p*ssing in the sand” Some people are beyond help at this time. For example, you can give all the money you want to a drug addict and all you will succeed in doing is harming him more by enabling his habit. It requires a different sort of intervention.

Posted by: Jackj at December 27, 2006 8:41 PM
Comment #200570

Jack, read up on the journalists covering Chinese attitudes toward their government. The vast majority of Chinese believe their government is working for them and on their behalf. Sure, their are human rights violations there, but, their government is only 60 years or so old. Our nation still sanctioned slavery when we were 60 years old.

The point was, the majority of Chinese people are NOT revolting against their government and assent to its leadership and their own personal progress and growth in China as a result of government’s direct involvement. It can work, Americans just haven’t perfected how to make it work here, but, we are learning.

Takes a long time to get over erroneous and misguided ideology - America’s revulsion at the word ‘socialist’ retards her growth despite the fact that America has been socialist and capitalist since WWII. Other nations in the world are not retarded in their progress by such ideological impediments and therefore, are leaping far ahead of the U.S. in mastering and perfecting universal health care and centralized education for the benefit of their people and their nation’s future.

America has taken individualism to an extreme, nullifying the reality in some ways that it does take a village to raise a good person and citizen. We are so reactive to issues like crime, failure in schools, child abuse, and we fail to install policies which bind families together rather than making it more profitable for them to separate and disband.

We had the greatest individual liberties in the world, but, we are now paying the price for its excesses in underground economies, crime, and lack of hope by so many of our young people that they will ever improve their lot over that of their parents. Our village is failing to provide respect, hope, and motivation to far too many of our young. This is where we are losing ground to nations like China, Japan, Taiwan, Ireland, and certain classes of people in India, and Malaysia.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 27, 2006 8:51 PM
Comment #200572


The Chinese nation is more than 4000 years old. The political structure is less. By your reasoning a country like Estonia or Lithuania should just be coming out of caves and developing fire.

Most Americans are not revolting against their government either. We do not know how they would vote if they could vote freely, since the Chinese government doesn’t let them.

Voicing dissent as you or even I do would probalby mean we would have trouble in our work of family lives.

In maybe 50 years China may catch up to the U.S. in total terms. It will take a bit longer to equal our quality of life, if ever.

You may remember Kruschev’s boast that he would bury us. He meant that the centrally planned, logic Soviet system would outplan and outrun the clumsy free market. In the short run, command works, but not in the long run.

Actually my great fear is that the Chinese have discovered a way to web authoritarian systems to economic growth. I hope they have not and that economic freedom will lead to political freedom. I would not count on China being quite so dynamic in 2020 as it is today.

Actually, my money is on India.

Posted by: Jack at December 27, 2006 9:14 PM
Comment #200573


“America has taken individualism to an extreme, nullifying the reality in some ways that it does take a village to raise a good person and citizen. We are so reactive to issues like crime, failure in schools, child abuse, and we fail to install policies which bind families together rather than making it more profitable for them to separate and disband.”

So you are finally coming around to the fact that government programs are doing more harm than good.

Posted by: Keith at December 27, 2006 9:39 PM
Comment #200575

Jack, China is a country emerging from its history. It is nominally communist, but it is clearly capitalist, going back as far as Deng Xiao Ping. You cannot permanently have economic growth alongside growing wealth. Something has to give. I believe that China will become more free as her population becomes more wealthy and educated. It is a logical progression. I believe that the greatest threat to China at the moment is the amount of US paper that it holds.

You talk of China maybe catching up with the US in maybe 50 years. That assumes that the US retains its position over the next 50 years. Looking at your economic position, with trade and budget deficits, increasing polarisation between Americans, increasing concentration of wealth in fewer hands, I wonder where the US will really be in 50 years. I think there is a growing culture in Western societies generally to assume the easy life, borrowing from tomorrow for todays diversions, or else hopelessly running away from the world, as in the case of some European countries. Our media and popular culture generally are leading us I believe to a place where too many make too many easy assumptions about the future, and about what is truly important in life. We live in societies obsessed about the trappings of wealth, producing more output for the sake of it, as if chasing more goods will make us happier when the ones we have already have proven to be false Gods. I think there is a moral malaise in many western societies, even in nominally christian ones like yours and mine. Of course there are good and committed Christians and indeed non theists, but there appears to be many who profess themselves Christians, yet seem to have only a superficial understanding of Christian love. As G K Chesterton said,
“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.” And it seems to me that the God we are making, is the God of consumerism. If what you have doesn’t make you happy, try having more. Isn’t that like the definition of insanity, doing the same thing and expecting a different result? All societies have within them the seeds of their own destruction, as history eloquently shows those who care to look. The pinnacle of success and what it changed society into is what led other civilisations to their end. Why should ours be any different? I suggest what made the US great was the great masses of the people striving for dignity and modest comfort, as indeed is the case of most other successful countries. Now we want things for the sake of having them, thinking they will bring us happiness. But happiness is not a destination, it is a process. And that process had more to do with contributing that taking. And that is about community. Or to put it another way, being our brothers keepers, not selfish islands only concerned with our own material advancement.

I have to say that I agree with you about teaching a man to fish. We can never take poverty out of someone else’s experience, because it is a state of mind. We can however, attempt to educate people out of poverty, by helping them to overcome the fear and ignorance that leads to a poverty conaciousness. That to my mind is what teaching a man to fish really means.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at December 27, 2006 9:55 PM
Comment #200578


I am not clear in my own mind whether the free market can exist long w/o the underpinning of some kind of faith. The free market as we know it grew up with Christianity, especially protestant Christianity. Certainly, it has transplanted well in some places such as Japan, Singapore & Hong Kong, but how long can it last w/o its moral underpinnings.

I feel as I think you do about the ostentatious shows of wealth, but I fear the tyrannous hand of government when trying to regulate this.

One of the good thing about jewelry, fancy cars & fine hotels is that it soaks up some of the money of the stupid rich w/o really using much in the way of useful resources.

Posted by: Jack at December 27, 2006 10:29 PM
Comment #200594

Jack: I think Paul was talking more about the stupid middle class than the stupid rich. The stupid rich can buy anything they want. The middle class has to play the keep ahead of the Jones game on the easy payment plan. The best place for a poor man to find a good tv set or a good washer in beside the dumpster in the well to do subburbs. Dumpster diving has become a lucretive industry for some. They cruise the alley behind my house at all hours of the day and night. Most of the stuff thrown out in my neighborhood truly is junk though.

Posted by: jlw at December 28, 2006 12:04 AM
Comment #200600


Anybody who buys things he doesn’t want is stupid. There is also a education aspect to consumption. You have to learn not to buy everything you see.

Posted by: Jack at December 28, 2006 12:43 AM
Comment #200606


My point was that there are now so many charitable groups out there including government organizations feeding off of one another in terms of who their recipients are that there is little difference between the income of the poor and the income of the middle class. It is just that most of the income of the poor is not considered income since it comes through charitable help organizations. It is my belief that the liberal Democrats want this to be so. Then they can continue to say that the middle class is vanishing and the rich keep getting richer. When Ronald Reagan was President, the outcry of the liberal Democrat was that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. However, that has now changed. Now the cry is that Republicans are attempting to destroy the middle class. I believe those within the middle class are finding it harder to distinguish themselves from the poor because of the advantages that the poor get for which they do not have to work. Thus, there is this feeling now amongst the middle class that they are getting the shaft. Unfortunately, the Dems are playing this frustration against the upper class, accusing them of keeping all the spoils of middle class labor. In reality, it is the middle class seeing others, the so-called poor, doing as well as they are without working that is the source of this frustration. There is a different kind of class warfare going on out there. The middle class in my opinion is getting the shaft, but primarily because of the social programs piled high upon one another that make it unnecessary for people to even attempt to work.


Posted by: JD at December 28, 2006 1:07 AM
Comment #200615

Jack said: “The Chinese nation is more than 4000 years old.”

Jack, now you are grasping at debate straws. The American Indians inhabited this land for thousands of years too before the United States was formed. It’s the government we were talking about, and now you want to change the subject to Gia and hominid migrations, and cultural development. Not what we are talking about, Jack.

You said: “In maybe 50 years China may catch up to the U.S. in total terms. It will take a bit longer to equal our quality of life, if ever.”

This is cultural-centric thinking, Jack. China will never catch up to us in total terms - they are creating a very different system and way of doing things, in some ways they will never be like us, in other ways they will surpass us. Quality of life? 100’s of millions of Chinese in the cities have never had it so good and that number continues to grow a rapid rate each year. Like I said, you should read up on what is happening in China and listen to the interviews - some with poor protesters defying and protesting the government’s eminent domain policies, and others who are so completely happy with the quality of life they have come to enjoy in just 10 years.

There are many models for society, Jack. Your comments appear to biased in the extreme to just one, ours, fundamentally built on individual freedom. China’s model is built more on the ant colony model, and rightly so with the largest population density on earth. Efficiency and social order of that model far exceeds that of ours. Our model for government was designed purposely to be inefficient. It is built into our Constitution.

The Chinese model is low on individual freedom but high on minimizing crime. Low on freedom of speech but high on family and and demographic cohesiveness. Low on individual choice, but, high on equal opportunity and reward. Low on public consensus of policy making but very high on government agility and adaptiveness (which is why they are progressing so fast as an international market competitor).

China has a huge problems and obstacles facing its future growth, no question about it. But what nation in the world today doesn’t, Jack?

There are pluses and minuses to both models Jack, and Bush’s view that ours is the only one entitled to survive is what makes him and his view so bloody damn dangerous to America and her people.

Thinking parochial and egocentrically is exactly why America is losing its role as world leader. I and more than half of all Americans look anxiously forward to the day that Bush leaves office and we can install an American president who is capable of respecting other nation’s progress and differences and competitiveness and seek cooperation for mutual benefit with them.

It is such a huge mistake for Bush and yourself to continue to think of China’s government in terms of the USSR’s communism. They are entirely different entities, and someone needs to come up with a new term for the Chinese system because it is unique, with a real people’s congress which is listened to and respected by the politburo inner command and decision circle. This is not communism nor democracy, but, a unique blend of both very much like our economy which is neither unfettered free enterprise capitalism nor socialist but, a unique blend of both founded and checked by rule of law and regulation.

Trying to understand the world today in yesterday’s words, terms, and concepts is the biggest challenge facing leaders in the 21st century. Our language and ideological concepts are no longer adequate. It is like trying to draw a CPU schematic with a stick in the sand. Our conceptual tools must be upgraded to accommodate the complexity and blending and mixing of early 20th century purist ideological terms and new concepts only invented in the last 50 years like oligopoly, psychotronic tyranny, and intricacies of global interdependence on an earth being depleted of important raw economic resources.

If democracy is to be preserved in this world, Jack, it is incumbent upon the people desiring to preserve it to educate themselves on this vastly more complex reality in which we find ourselves embedded. On that front, America is failing its future. Of that, I am entirely convinced by the likes of G.W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Alan Greenspan, Thomas Friedman, and a host of other American leaders who have failed to acknowledge, grasp, and educate themselves on the new realities transforming the globe and the human race right before their eyes.

Bush hasn’t a clue what to do in Iraq. He is stuck on their oil and the power its revenues can generate and can’t see past that. Hence, he has no options but to “stay the failed course”. Rather frightening don’t you think to see the leader of the world’s most powerful nation in that predicament of his own making, while China secures contracts and trade agreements in places like Africa which Bush sees no future investment opportunities in?

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 28, 2006 5:58 AM
Comment #200617

Jack said: “There is also a education aspect to consumption. You have to learn not to buy everything you see.”

Amen to that, brother! You just said volumes full!!! American consumers have lost the ability to discriminate between what they need, and what PR and marketing firms say they need. That is one of the fundamental root causes of the absence of American savings rate and the unsustainable growth of personal debt in this country.

America homeowners believe they need central air conditioning for cooling and heating. Hogwash. I built my house to be heated for an entire winter on less than 1/8 cord of oak in one standalone wood burning stove and a few strategically placed near ceiling fans to distribute the heated the air. Window air conditioners run in the rooms used during the day while those in the night rooms are off with doors closed and they are automated and controlled by my PC, and vice versa for nighttime. Our energy consumption is extremely low for a 1450 s.f. 3 bedroom home.

I have a 1981 ford pick up truck, 300 cc, straight in line 6 cylinder that costs me a pittance to maintain as a second vehicle for emergencies and camping trips. I paid $3500 cash for it 18 years ago. Think of the incredible amount of money saved in profits, interest, upkeep and maintenance over a new vehicle purchased every 5 years over that 18 year period.

Marketed need and real need are two extremely different concepts, and a majority of Americans don’t even know there is a difference or choice.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 28, 2006 6:12 AM
Comment #200631


You probably know that the “the poor” spend more than 25% more than they earn. You are right that the statistics are messed up. In fact, many of the programs in place to mitigate poverty are not counted, so it looks like it is a lot worse.


I do not think you can count a culture as beginning when the current political system took hold. It also makes little sense in general to treat a country or culture like a person in terms of maturity etc. Some cultures mature much faster and they all can borrow from others. That is why the leading culture of one age is the backward one of the next. They are stuck with all the old thinking and old stuff. If you go to E. Europe, you will not find a really old computer. They were able to skip a couple of generations and buy the newer stuff. The same goes for China. But it is an illusion to attribute rapid “catching up with actual progress.

I am just surprised how much you seem to like China, which has few of the things you seem to value in the U.S. Nixon got along well with the Chinese because his very tame American brand of authoritarianism was at least understandable among Chinese.

I have much less confidence in China long term than you do. I admire their achievement, but I see lots of speed bumps in the next couple of years. Let me list the top five.

1. Exhaustion of the borrowing capacity. As China approaches cutting edge technologies, it can no longer copy. This will slow growth. They may make the transition, as Japan did, but consider what happened to the Japanese juggernaut that in 1990 was supposed to take over the world.

2. Demographics. You rightly point to the Chinese family as the cornerstone of the culture. It was an extended family that managed to weather all the vicissitudes of bad management and tyrannical governments. Until now. The one child policy means that the next generation will not have extended families. There will be no uncles and no number two or three sons. This is totally uncharted territory for China, but I think it is clear that China will NOT have a strong family structure by 2050.

3. Environmental catastrophe. No place in the U.S. is a polluted as an average industrial area in China. Rapid industrialization was possible only by destroying the environment to a greater extent than any previous large scale country. The environment is resilient and will come back, but the Chinese days of easy building are coming to a close.

4. Freedom. The command and control economy works for awhile. As people get more economic freedom, they demand more political freedom. This is good. But it does slow economic growth as people value things other than material prosperity. China today is not so much an efficient producer of products as a low cost producer. Much of that is based on abysmally low wages. People are happy to get that much now because it is so good compared to before. When they get used to having they will stop being satisfied.

5. World competition. China keeps its currency unnaturally low to allow it to compete better in world markets. As long as China was a part of the low end market, others tolerated that. This situation will soon change.

I will make one lifetime analogy with China. China is economically like a child. He is growing very rapidly. If his growth rate continued, he would eventually be 100 feet tall. But we know that children do not grow at that rate indefinitely. Neither will China.

Re the U.S. someday we will stop adapting, but not today. We still are the most productive large economy. I have heard our doom pronounced too many times. In the 1980s we went through a complete revolution in management, the kind of thing that would destroy most countries stability, and we hardly even noticed. An American worker is still significantly more productive than a European one and we are much more productive than Chinese or Indian workers.

The thing about Americans is that we are NOT complacent. We are always looking to change, borrow and adapt. And our political sphere is not where the innovation is.

Re consumption

I think a family can live well in most parts of the U.S. on less than $40,000 a year. The rest is just luxury. The fact that most people disagree with me shows how luxury has become necessity.

Posted by: Jack at December 28, 2006 10:13 AM
Comment #200632

If you teach a man to fish, he no longer needs you.
If you “give” a man fish, he is indebted to you and will vote for you so that he can continue to get something for nothing.

Kind of weird seeing the liberals throwing their support behind the idea of pushing ones beliefs onto others.

Posted by: kctim at December 28, 2006 11:03 AM
Comment #200660

“I think a family can live well in most parts of the U.S. on less than $40,000 a year.”

Jack: How much would it take for a family to live well where you live?

How much do the workers that you supervise make per year?

Do you have any idea how many millions of families in this country have an income of less than $40,000 per year?

Do you have any idea how many millions of families in this country have an income of less than $20,000 per year?

Posted by: jlw at December 28, 2006 2:27 PM
Comment #200667

I would like to direct peoples attention to an article in today’s Yahoo News titled—John Kenneth Galbraith understood capitalism as lived—not as theorized —written by Joseph E. Stiglitz—a Nobel prize winning economist.

Posted by: jlw at December 28, 2006 4:01 PM
Comment #200673


In 2005 around 40% of American households had an income of less than $40,000. The bottom quintile went up to $19,178, so roughly 20% of Americans have an income less than $20,000.

It costs more to live where I do. All the people who work for me make significantly more than $40,000. They all have advanced degrees and/or special skills.

BTW - I am not saying that I want to live on $40,000. I used to live on a lot less (in real dollars) I worked out of it, I figured out my own real median income for my career. If I continue to work another seven years and continue to make more than the median income, my lifetime median income equal the U.S. median income. I have been in all the quintiles during my working life, so I know something about each. If the purpose of your questions was to make me feel guilty, forget about it. I have been poor and I have been not poor. I prefer the latter, but the former didn’t kill me.

Re Galbraith. I read his New Industrial State, where in the 1970s he said that big firms like GM could so effectively control the market that they could crush any rivals. All those Toyotas and Hondas you see driving around must be part of that theory of capitalism. Good I had Galbraith to explain that to me. I will see if my Honda Civic will run on theoretical gasoline.

Posted by: Jack at December 28, 2006 4:34 PM
Comment #200730


The figure that 20% of American households make less than $20,000 per year is misleading. As you say most government giveaways are not included as income.
Also, I would bet most households that make less than that are single households, or divorced households. I think your above statements that people’s choices make them poor is right on. Though one can never be assured of marital bliss for a lifetime, it sure beats the alternative if you are willing to commit to it. It is highly unlikely that two person households are making less than that. Two people working $6 per hour jobs full time would make almost $25,000 per year.
Although the Democrats say all there is out there are minimum wage jobs because of the Bush Administration, the scenario above with two working members of a household, people ought to at least be able to afford basic essentials.
My bet is that the 20% are single college kids going to school, and single moms trying to get by without a man in the house. That doesn’t include the single moms with a man in the house that do not claim their incomes together. Therefore, that is pretty misleading.


Posted by: JD at December 29, 2006 8:24 AM
Comment #200732


I agree with you. I am being generous to the opponents re poverty.

We have very little poverty left in the U.S. It is just a myth that people are getting poorer. Liberals point to the few that have been “left behind” but even that formulation betrays their real feelings. It does not mean that they have become poorer, but rather have not become richer as everyone else has.

The real liberal goal is equality of outcomes. That is why they always try to point out how MUCH some people are making rather than how poor others are.

Liberals have the wrong idea about wealth. They think there is x amount of wealth available and the distribution is what counts. Others know that wealth is created by human effort. Potential wealth is available, but somebody has to make that into real wealth.

I read an interesting column the other day. I can paraphrase, asking why some people have wealth is like asking why bees have honey and other animals do not. It is clearly because they make it. Sometimes a bear comes by and steals it. I suppose if bears could talk, they would say that it was just not to let the bees keep all that wealth and that they sould give some “back” to the less fortunat (i.e. bears).

Posted by: Jack at December 29, 2006 8:39 AM
Comment #380172

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