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The Weakling Giant: How the helplessness of power to end poverty dooms the poor

AthenaAwakened

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Blaming poverty on the mysterious influence of “culture” is a convenient excuse for doing nothing to address the problem.

That’s the real issue with what Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said about distressed inner-city communities. Critics who accuse him of racism are missing the point. What he’s really guilty of is providing a reason for government to throw up its hands in mock helplessness.

The fundamental problem that poor people have, whether they live in decaying urban neighborhoods or depressed Appalachian valleys or small towns of the Deep South, is not enough money.

Alleviating stubborn poverty is difficult and expensive. Direct government aid—money, food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance and the like—is not enough. Poor people need employment that offers a brighter future for themselves and their children. Which means they need job skills. Which means they need education. Which means they need good schools and safe streets.

The list of needs is dauntingly long, and it’s hard to know where to start—or where the money for all the needed interventions will come from. It’s much easier to say that culture is ultimately to blame. But since there’s no step-by-step procedure for changing a culture, we end up not doing anything.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/paul_ryans_excuse_to_do_nothing_about_poverty_20140324

The problem is too hard so let's blame it on culture and then we dont even have to define the problem, never mind solve it.
 

Perspicuo

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Actually culture is the very reason why to do something about it. It's not particularly hard like changing the amount of fingers people are born with or something. It's more like the surprisingly successful effort to help society stop smoking*. Culture is malleable although resistant.
 

braces_for_impact

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The problem as I see it is that it's largely an invented culture. The right has made poverty synonymous with moral failings. If you're poor it must be because your a bad person making bad choices. Otherwise, you'd be rich like all the upstanding fine millionaires in congress. Millionaires who all worked their way to the top, started with nothing, and had no help along the way. Why, this is 'Merica, land of opportunity! If your poor it's obviously because you just don't understand the reward one can feel by rolling up their sleeves and busting their ass. (Or if you're a congressman, putting on a blue shirt and hard hat and pretending to do actual work once in awhile while cameras are rolling.)
 

Underseer

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The problem as I see it is that it's largely an invented culture. The right has made poverty synonymous with moral failings. If you're poor it must be because your a bad person making bad choices. Otherwise, you'd be rich like all the upstanding fine millionaires in congress. Millionaires who all worked their way to the top, started with nothing, and had no help along the way. Why, this is 'Merica, land of opportunity! If your poor it's obviously because you just don't understand the reward one can feel by rolling up their sleeves and busting their ass. (Or if you're a congressman, putting on a blue shirt and hard hat and pretending to do actual work once in awhile while cameras are rolling.)

Are you suggesting that poverty comes from something other than people choosing to be poor?

Do you crazy liberals actually believe the stuff that you say, or do you just brainlessly repeat what the Liberal Media Conspiracy tells you to without actually thinking about what is coming out of your mouth? Poverty exists solely because people choose to be poor. Once we finally defeat communism and make America free, no one will choose to be poor anymore because the government will no longer be enticing them to become poor with all those free handouts. By eliminating the handouts, we also eliminate poverty, which is precisely why you communo-fascist Islamo-atheists are so desperate to stop us from making America more free! You need poverty. You need people to choose poverty. You need it so that you can use the government to enslave the populace, but we patriotic Real Americans are on to you and your agendas! [/conservolibertarian]
 

Petrel

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The Helplessness of Power... I like that. No responsibility attached to having power, and no suggestion of spreading any of it to the poor people. I'm pretty sure it will catch on with the powerful.

Every war makes the powerful richer and the rich more powerful - which is only fair, since they do all the mongering and profiteering, but none of the bleeding.
Be interesting to know just how many grew richer and more powerful in the War on Poverty.
 

Loren Pechtel

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Saying it's culture isn't attempting to avoid dealing with the issue. Rather, your chances of fixing a problem are remote if you haven't identified the cause of the problem. Even if we accept your premise that the current problems are the legacy of discrimination you're still in the position of trying to treat a broken arm with a seatbelt. When that doesn't help you keep prescribing more and more tighter and tighter seat belts.

The real issue here is that accepting that it's culture means you don't get to blame discrimination. The problem has to be fixed with education rather than stealing from whitey.
 

Petrel

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The real issue here is that accepting that it's culture means you don't get to blame discrimination. The problem has to be fixed with education rather than stealing from whitey.
Between the undefined and loaded terms, that comes out as... vague and laden, and not very helpful.

What does "it's culture" mean in the context of racial and ethnic inequalities? Does it mean that, since the American culture, as well as the US economy are founded on slavery and genocidal conquest, nothing can be done to change the traditional relationships?
Why can we not "blame" discrimination? Some of us have never really approved of it, even when it was legal - as recently as 1960. Do you honestly think it's all gone away and no longer affects access to political power, economic improvement, employment and educational opportunities?
"Fixed with education" sounds good, but does it mean re-educating the people at various levels of government who make bad laws, or giving poor people better schools, or teaching everyone to accept the cultural norm?
"Stealing from whitey" could stand a little clarification, too.
 

braces_for_impact

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You know, I'm sure that are some that take advantage of the system, there always is. During my stint as homeless, because I've had depression as a factor in my past I went to one of my many meetings with the various social programs I was working with. At one point it was all about set up to have me put on disability. You got a place cheap, and your monthly stipend and allowances for certain things (over the counter meds and sanitary items for instance).

I never really gave it any thought. Why would I want a life like that? I want more out of the time I have here. Maybe to some that's all they need. To some I'm sure it may be luxury living that way. I'm capable of more and would be taking the spot of someone who may actually need it, so I didn't feel comfortable with that.

I think given the opportunity, most people would want more, and I think they would be more than happy to work for it, and work hard.
 

Petrel

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Sure, but the hardest, dirtiest, most dangerous work is least rewarded, and generally given to those who are excluded from occupations with advancement potential.
From salt-miner, your greatest possible rise over a lifetime is to shift foreman - and that's available to only one in a hundred.
From chicken-gutter, there is no available rise, because they only hire illegals and fire them when (not if) they loose a finger.
 

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The real issue here is that accepting that it's culture means you don't get to blame discrimination. The problem has to be fixed with education rather than stealing from whitey.
How would this education be funded?
 

Loren Pechtel

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"Fixed with education" sounds good, but does it mean re-educating the people at various levels of government who make bad laws, or giving poor people better schools, or teaching everyone to accept the cultural norm?
"Stealing from whitey" could stand a little clarification, too.

I don't know what would be required to fix it with education--education isn't remotely my field. I certainly don't see any other fix, though.

As for "Stealing from whitey"--that's what affirmative action has become.

- - - Updated - - -

How would this education be funded?

It pretty much would have to be government spending.

Just because the status quo mostly keeps the spending off the government books doesn't make it better.
 

AthenaAwakened

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Actually culture is the very reason why to do something about it. It's not particularly hard like changing the amount of fingers people are born with or something. It's more like the surprisingly successful effort to help society stop smoking*. Culture is malleable although resistant.
This is a true use of culture, in that poverty exists not because a subculture causes it but because the greater culture lets it exist or even promotes it. The War on Poverty did drop the poverty numbers and did create greater education opportunity. This is more than can be said than the current War on Poor People, stemming from the narrative of the rugged individual.

Luckily we have other narratives available, like the one of the barn raising, of the quilting bee, of the community coming together to aid its members.

We have the narrative of the rebellion against power by withdrawing the acceptance of nonextistent morality attributed to immoral law, like refusal to support the taxation without representation, the underground railroad that provided an avenue out of immoral slavery into moral freedom, labor unionizing, women's sufferage, sit-ins, and on and on.

What always astonishes me is why anyone would embrace the narrative of the robber baron when they could just as easily embrace the one of the reformer.
 

Petrel

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Because they are deluded (with a deliberate, carefully constructed web of popular fictions) into hoping that they themselves will become happy robber barons, rather than despised, tortured, ultimately failed martyrs.
The war against poor people is a dawdle, compared to the pogrom against reformers.
 

fromderinside

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What always astonishes me is why anyone would embrace the narrative of the robber baron when they could just as easily embrace the one of the reformer.

...and the proposition that being a reformer is fit is supported how? OTOH, there are entire sections in libraries across the world devoted to how the (ab)use of power provides selective advantage to those who manage to do it.
 

Musing Man

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It's culture all-right. But of the more general, species-wide, kind: the culture of domination. There, it's actually pretty simple.

Poverty is a tool. And - go figure! - it's a cultural one.

The end of poverty would equal the death of capitalism. And nobody wants that, right?
 

fromderinside

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My major prof some 45 years ago got his degree from Wisconsin where his prof Dr. Thurlow was often heard to say "Culture? Culture. We got culture coming out the ass."

The above leads to my current view that culture, whoever points at it, explains it, defines it, generally references it to hissef/herref. LIke Louis Black said; "Moses brought the 15, er, ten, commandments because his people were 12 hairs short of being monkeys.

A culture is a soup of breeding stuff living in an environment where there is not enough. Some get short changed, others die, some get all more than then can use. The cause, as my real estate agent put it is: "location. location. location."

Example from the current thread. One pointed to war as a process where the rich get richer. War is also the process where competition squeezes the most innovation out of people per unit time. So when the game, killing, privation, ends there are more tools and fewer to enjoy the product of those tools.

The proportion of the poor in a society, like ours, of abundance is a measure of the excess of greed, the advantage holding things over the privileges of people, or, whatever else one wants to point at as the why for obvious imbalance. As long as it doesn't lead to widespread rebellion, and such always has, the advantaged, holders of things, will continue to acrete as the expense of those who aren't and haven't.

If you like too much me, too much religious politics, just wait. There're a guillotine in your future. There was a knowing that our economy is structurally flawed and we went about setting up a welfare state where those who were being left out could get along without resorting to too much violence.

We lost sight of that intention when we shifted to calling those who didn't have lazy and taking back from that system funds and services to the point where first there were eruptions of drug use, then there were increases in violence, now festering hatred. Can revolution be far away?

IMHO its too late for us to tinker with a system when polarization is so strong as to akev en consideration of such unthinkable.
 

Jokodo

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I don't know what would be required to fix it with education--education isn't remotely my field. I certainly don't see any other fix, though.

As for "Stealing from whitey"--that's what affirmative action has become.<snip>

How is giving someone opportunities that have been taken from him "stealing"? Is giving someone property that has been taken from him also "stealing"? Or returning property to someone that has been taken from his parents? Why or why not? And if not, what's the difference?
 

Loren Pechtel

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How is giving someone opportunities that have been taken from him "stealing"? Is giving someone property that has been taken from him also "stealing"? Or returning property to someone that has been taken from his parents? Why or why not? And if not, what's the difference?

Because in practice affirmative action has become giving things to non-white, non-Asian people despite them scoring lower on whatever ranking system you are using. (Just look at how admissions have changed when the law or the courts mandates that they be race-blind, at least until the discriminators reacted by switching to a system that admits the top x% of the graduating class, thus circumventing the antidiscrimination rules.)
 

Jokodo

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Because in practice affirmative action has become giving things to non-white, non-Asian people despite them scoring lower on whatever ranking system you are using. (Just look at how admissions have changed when the law or the courts mandates that they be race-blind, at least until the discriminators reacted by switching to a system that admits the top x% of the graduating class, thus circumventing the antidiscrimination rules.)

Please answer my other questions before I will deal with this attempt at an answer to the first one.

For your convenience, here they are: "Is giving someone property that has been taken from him also "stealing"? Or returning property to someone that has been taken from his parents? Why or why not? And if not, what's the difference?"
 

Loren Pechtel

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Please answer my other questions before I will deal with this attempt at an answer to the first one.

For your convenience, here they are: "Is giving someone property that has been taken from him also "stealing"? Or returning property to someone that has been taken from his parents? Why or why not? And if not, what's the difference?"

Nothing has been taken from him to return. It was taken a couple of generations ago but the takers aren't around, you don't get to take public property to make up for the stolen and unrecovered property.
 

Musing Man

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As an outsider (from Northern-American space and prejudices) I can only say this: dump the ”takers” idea-it's one of the lamest I have ever seen.

And admit it: it's either „all for one, and one for all”, or not. That's the crux of it, laid bare.
 

fromderinside

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And admit it: it's either „all for one, and one for all”, or not. That's the crux of it, laid bare.

All for one and one for all implies there's something out there motivating the 'one for all'. If we're not all humans then I'd agree there's something out there. To get me to agree there's something out there when we are all humans suggests there is some humans are importantly different from us to the point where they threaten us. Why? They probably are wanting to take something in our view. Can't drop takers demanding us to go one for all. Further, even if there are others why must implore one for all among us? Why? We aren't all together and not being so is threatening. Why? there are takers out there.
 
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