Another Myth Down The Toilet

I’ve always wanted to debunk the claim that "the average worker has seen their real wages go down every year since 1970" claim, but have never had the time to locate and crunch the numbers on it. (Although it has always seemed fishy on a prima facie basis given that the standard of living has steadily improved since then.)

Thankfully Arnold Kling has pulled the numbers and as expected, they show quite the opposite. Factors like home ownership are at an all-time high, standards of health care have drastically improved, and wages have increased. The whole argument is bunk, and it’s one of those statements that is used, but makes little sense.

The whole Democratic worldview on economics is fundamentally flawed. It treats low-income workers as some kind of permanent underclass when in fact the low-income bracket is highly mobile. Unless you’re a complete screwup, you’re not going to end up flipping burgers at McDonalds your entire life. Today’s low-income workers have unprecedented access to education (college attendance rates being dramatically greater than in the 1970s), a greater chance at home ownership than at any time in history, and an equally unprecedented chance at upward mobility. If Sanders and his ilk think things were so much better in the 1970s for workers, I’d like to see him find anyone who can honestly say they want to go back to the days of gas lines, stagflation, and economic malaise.

Then again, if Kerry gets elected, they may well have that chance.

25 thoughts on “Another Myth Down The Toilet

  1. These figures conflict with the ones I recently saw showing a near 20% percent decline in real income for the bottom two quintiles of Americans since 1970. I’ll have to look for the source on those figures. It also conflicts with my personal experience in a working-class town where the biggest industry pays less than it did in 1978, and that’s not even accounting for inflation. This was the industry most of my family worked in. Of course, you wouldn’t know anything about personal experience on this issue. In your mind, the only people oppressed in this country are small business owners earning more than $100,000 a year.

  2. Wow, once again Mark cites anecdotal evidence which proves nothing…but hey, I guess his little stories account for more than an analysis by a guy with a Ph.D. in Econ from MIT, along with a host of professional accomplishments like being an econ for the Fed Res Board and stuff like that…not to mention well-footnoted data from reputable sources…

    But hey, Mark, I can cite you many examples of people I know who are far better off…and these people aren’t the rich fat cats either, but just avg middle class wage-earners…

    Also, Mark, in even the most prosperous economy there will be what is called creative destruction…meaning a turnover of industries, where as the economy advances, newer and better industries are created but that this necessarily means that some older industries will suffer. This is inevitable. And you cite an industry in your hometown (you don’t mention what it is) that according to you has been in decline since 1978. Well, guess what….by now the people should have adjusted to that and through avenues such as education have moved on to better things…perhaps this even mirrors your own experience…

    So your sob story means nothing…

  3. I lived through the 70’s and well remember…there is no comparison to how well off we are today…everything is better…healthcare, the homes are bigger, the cars are far better, of course the technology is far greater…

    The amount of societal wealth created between then and now is staggering…anyone would be a fool to argue that we have it worse…even those considered poor often have cable TV, cell phones, etc…

    And in America anyone who wants to be successful can make it happen…the key is that they have the desire and the willingness to work hard and practice self-discipline…there are no barriers except people’s pride and laziness…

  4. As to what Kerry would do for the economy: I have heard some stockbrokers say that if Kerry is elected expect the stock market to decline anywhere from 15% to 20%…and that was before his selection of Edwards, which makes his ticket even more anti-business…

  5. Another Thought, the figures I was referring to were in a graph in a major newspaper a few weeks ago. I tried an Internet search to find it but wasn’t successful. If you wanna believe I’m lying to you and that the poorest 40% of Americans (the people your ministry cares so deeply for when you’re not talking about how good they have it) are better off in today’s part-time, no-benefit, non-union, McDonald’s/Wal-Mart economy than they were in yesterday’s unionized, full-time, full-benefit, manufacturing economy, then enjoy the Kool-Aid.

    You’re gonna be sorry you made the comment of my hometown’s financial malaise being the product of an extinct consumer good. The main industry in my town is not typewriters. It’s not 35 mm film. Nor is it Atari video games. My town’s main industry is meatpacking, and the last I heard, meat was not yet being replaced with Soylent Green as a staple of the American consumer’s diet. The meat industry’s transformation didn’t arise in response to Mad Cow Disease or rampant vegetarianism, it arose from immigration policy that looks the other way while meatpacking barons fill their slaughterhouses with a revolving door of immigrants and get away with paying them less than 50 cents on the dollar what meatpackers of future generations were paid. The staunchest defenders of the meatpacking industry’s business practices tend to be the Republicans who claim they want to clamp on immigration, at least when they’re at campaign rallies talking to xenophobic rednecks waving Confederate flags. When it comes to providing your base (the haves and have mores) with a steady pipeline of cheap labor, you sing an entirely different tune.

    Many people have suffered a great deal because of the economic meltdown in my hometown. Your “sob story” mockery of the grief inflicted on them and other working-class Americans in the past couple decades doesn’t speak well of the sincerity of your “charitable ministries.” It’s kind of hard to legitimately help the disadvantaged in this country when you convince yourself that no such people exist.

  6. Mark: I don’t know where to begin to debunk your tirade.

    First you assert that the “poorest 40% of Americans” all work in “today’s part-time, no-benefit, non-union, McDonald’s/Wal-Mart economy” rather than in yesterday’s “unionized, full-time, full-benefit, manufacturing economy.” What a bunch of garbage. The lowest 40% of American wage-earners hardly all work at McDonald’s or Walmart in part time jobs…and this lowest 40% hardly all worked at those great union jobs during the 1970’s…I mean, if those union jobs were so great, then why were these people in the lowest 40%? Of course you have no stats to back up your assertion, because it is so absurd on the surface…

    As to the meatpacking industry and the impact of immigrants on the labor force, let’s keep in mind that there are many Dems leading the way for looking the other way when it comes to immigration. But let’s also get real…I mean who wants to be stuck in meatpacking for their entire life anyway? If this decline has been occuring since the 1970’s as you state in your earlier post, then why haven’t people adjusted…found better ways of making a living? I rather suspect many have, but you conveniently ignore those stories…of people who have gone on to become engineers, programmers, businesspeople, rather than meatpackers. Again, perhaps that is your story…you really don’t say. And certainly what I maintain is still true…if people want to become successful in America, they certainly can, no matter what the state of the meatpacking industry…

    So yes your sob story is just a sob story…and quite frankly, given your ridiculous diatribes against conservatives and religious people, your credibility is already strained…

  7. It’s amazing how people like Mark are so dismissive of working at places like MacDonald’s or WalMart, when in fact these are very legitimate opportunities for economic advancement. There are many many people out there who have started working at these corporations and have worked their way up to very nice positions, as well as many many people who have used these corporations as stepping stones to education and other very nice jobs outside of these corporations…

    In short, anyone could start at WalMart or MacDonald’s and through hard work and ingenuity work their way to economic success…

  8. Mark also loves to dismiss ministries that attempt to help the poor.

    What Mark doesn’t understand is that these ministries attempt to solve the root problem of people’s poverty, which is often inside of the person. Most people who are poor are so because they have very poor life skills…they have made very poor life decisions…they might lack self-discipline in certain areas…etc.

    Libs love to throw money at the poor thinking that will somehow solve the problem, but that is really the easiest thing to do. The ministries that I know of undertake a much more difficult task; they not only invest money in helping people, but invest themselves into the effort and try to reform the individual. That is much more difficult but ultimately much more fruitful.

  9. I can sympathize; in fact I can empathize with your towns monetary plight. A signal corporation, at one time employed my hometown. Similarly, the company replaced its work force with foreigners. Unlike you, the foreigners don’t live in my area. None of the money stayed in the town. Our factory was closed and our work was sent to Japan and Indonesia. The Steel Factory no longer employed my hometown. Was there a tough time? You bet there was. The McDonalds and Wal-Mart’s of the time were a blessing. They put food on the table. In the short term, the plant shutting down was a terrible thing; many people moved away some even committed suicide. There was talk that our town would become a ghost town. Nonetheless, I am glad that it happened. When the plant shut down it forced the labor in the area to diversify. The large un-employed population brought in more companies. Eventually community colleges sprang up. Honestly if the mill didn’t close I would have dropped out of high school and worked there at a dead end job. Now I have a degree and I have a choice to work in an whole assortment of different companies and industries. The children of the unemployed became well educated and now hold white-collar jobs instead of blue-collar ones. 1970 was great everyone had a job but there wasn’t a future beyond the mill. There was a time when I would have agreed with you that 1970 was better. The fact is that is no longer the case. The town has grown, diversified and has higher paying jobs then ever before.

  10. Another Thought, I’m always amused by the fact that it takes you three posts to rebut one post of mine. Should I feel honored? 😉

    Your defense of the meatpacking industry’s status quo was comparable to your defense of the new FCC regulations….throwing everything you can think of at the wall and seeing if you can make anything stick. Yes, Democrats look the other way about the hiring of illegal aliens as well and I hold them accountable, but Democrats don’t control government right now. The ball’s in your party’s court to live up to your rhetoric on controlling immigration and the corporate abuses that result from it. Because of the latter, however, I can’t imagine you’ll do anything about the former. My town’s population has fallen by 10% since 1980 even with all the new immigrants, so I suppose most young people, like myself, have “moved on to alternative employment” in other regions. Making rural areas as unlivable as possible is another favorite Republican tactic, since it contributes to urban sprawl and the cowboy political culture that stems from exurbia.

    As for “not wanting to be a meatpacker”, you’re partially right. It’s shitty work…but pay me what my dad and grandpa were paid and I’ll gladly do it. The irony is that me and most of my peers who left the area to pursue “better jobs” are still making at least 25 cents on the dollar less than our parents did in the slaughterhouse, in terms of real dollars.

    I don’t have any handy figures on the low-skill or semi-skill service economy in proportion to the manufacturing industry then and now, but drive to nearest metro area and see the 40-mile sprawl zone of strip malls and fast food joints that’s showed up mainly in the last 15 years….then drive towards the core city to see all the fenced-up factories. It might be able to tell you what my absence of concrete numbers cannot.

    The “McDonald’s as a springboard to untold riches” argument is the usual dimwitted Republican justification for accepting a permanent underclass undeserving of a decent standard of living. After all, store clerks are all either teenagers or screw-ups right? If I were a Republican, I would watch myself when engaging in my daily ridicule sessions of the working poor. Alot of “pro-life” $6 an hour Wal-Mart clerks will be voting Republican this year, and might find it really interesting to hear you guys denigrate their “poor life skills and lack of self-discipline”.

    So essentially, your ministry’s idea of charity is to inform poor people about the wonders of supply-side economics? Nice.

  11. Mark: I post multiple times because your posts are so entangled with so many tangential issues.

    For instance, immigration. The bottom line: a problem has existed for decades, regardless of which party controlled govt. The problem will not go away overnight.

    But that doesn’t change the main point of the post: Economic conditions are overall far better today than 30 years ago. Sure you can find individual stories of loss, but overall there has been huge gain.

    As to my “McDonald’s as a springboard to untold riches” theory…you do not rebut or disprove it, just engage in some ridiculous insults. My thesis still holds…anyone can start at a place like McDonald’s or WalMart and make it in this society…all it takes is hard work and keeping clean…

    As to my assertion about how many poor people lack life skills and self discipline..again, no rebuttal, just some snide comments. Perhaps if you had some experience trying to really help these people you might understand what their real obstacles are.

    Also, keep in mind many at these WalMart type jobs are not going to be there permanently…indeed, many are using it as a stepping stone.

    So, as usual Mark, your idea of a rebuttal is just to hurl more insults and sarcastic comments, instead of using logic and reason and truth to prove your point.

  12. How anyone could look at our country today…and see a world of personal computers and computing devices…cell phones…amazing cars and trucks and SUVs…bigger, nicer homes…very nice shopping malls…huge superstores for every specialty imaginable…far better medical technology…all sorts of miracle medicines…higher incomes…multiple TVs per household…cable with zillions of channels…far more and nicer restaurants…

    How anyone could look at this new world and say it’s not as prosperous as 1970 is unbelievable…

  13. I just came back from WalMart and looked around at the employees to test Mark’s assumption that working for WalMart is something close to slavery (as some libs have actually said).

    The workers all seemed to have a good attitude; they were in a nice and clean work environment; they were working hard but hardly excessively; many were smiling and some exuded the confidence of knowing their job and doing it well. In general, it seemed like a pretty nice place…I thought of going to some of the convenience and discount stores during the 1970’s, and the fact that these people at WalMart seem to have it better. For one, they have a much better employee stock program, which was almost unheard of in the early 70’s. The stories of WalMart employees becoming millionaires are not that rare.

    I thought of a friend of mine, a Hispanic, who was the first in his family to graduate from college. He worked at a Sam’s Club (owned by WalMart) while in college, and WalMart paid his entire tuition. Now that he’s graduated (with honors) with a degree in Finance, he is working in the front office of Sam’s Club, and feels the future is very bright indeed. I once asked him what his secret was, and he said it wasn’t hard to understand: he simply worked hard, kept his nose clean and stayed out of trouble, and took advantage of the opportunities. He said if he made it farther than some of his peers it is only because he partied less, didn’t blow his money like they did, and in general took life a little more seriously. He maintains that anyone could do what he did; he wasn’t necessarily the most advantaged person in the world, just determined and persistent.

    The point is this: WalMart certainly is not for everyone, but it can be a great opportunity. One reason why many immigrants go further in this country than native born citizens is that native born citizens see the help wanted signs and ads for places like WalMart and McDonald’s and scorn those, whereas immigrants come here and see the same thing and think what a great opportunity…how much of a paradise America really is.

  14. I remember another friend of mine, who has become very successful but when he was young started out with some problems.

    He said that he used to complain that “things cost too much.”
    And then a friend of his told him bluntly, “it’s not that things cost too much, but that you don’t make enough.”
    So then he complained that “they don’t pay enough.”
    His friend corrected him and said “it’s not that they don’t pay enough…there are plenty of people who get paid a whole lot…it’s that you are not valuable enough in the marketplace of workers….you need to work harder and work smarter, and develop some skills that will make you more valuable…”
    From that realization on, his entire life changed and he became very successful when he decided to stop blaming everyone else for his failures and took responsibility for himself. He realized America is like a ladder and one can climb as high as one wants.

    America is the greatest country on the face of this earth, and offers by far and away the greatest opportunities. One just has to seize them.

  15. Yikes, this time it took Another Thought four rebuttals to effectively cover my last three paragraph post. Damn! Am I THAT good? 😀

    I don’t want to force you to give up your whole evening writing ten responses to this post, so I’ll be brief. Why bother anyway? Your worldview was borne out of a privileged upbringing and you are incapable of comprehending that human nature and the nature of our market economy dictates that success is not achievable for all. It’s kind of funny how conservatives chastised Communists for decades based on the correct assumption that equality of outcome cannot be effectively achieved. Meanwhile, the centuries-old conservative ethic simultaneously pretends that equality of outcome can be achieved through market forces, when basic laws of economics and human nature ensure this will never be the case.

    As for me understanding “those people” (how affectionate) that your ministry preaches supply-side economic values to, I was one of those people for several years. Perhaps if you were on the other end of a holier-than-thou “charity” looking down its nose at you, you may have a better understanding of the challenges poor people (and the new class of poor, the permanent underemployed) face. Then again, I doubt it. It’s hard to deprogram someone subjected to a lifetime of puritanical propaganda.

    I don’t equate big-screen TVs in suburban homes as a very telling indicator that things are better for workers in this country than they were in the 1970s. Again, you couldn’t possibly see things through the eyes of people who can’t afford a big-screen TV.

    By all means, I invite you to leave your current career, whatever that may be, and join the happy Wal-Mart family where you can live the good life. Given that you’ll be permanent part-time, you’ll have more than enough free hours in the day to continue posting five responses to every post I write.

  16. Mark: Your posts make me laugh…

    First, I hardly had a “privileged” upbringing…middle class, but hardly wealthy…but then you seem to make a lot of assumptions about me and about conservatives in general…which all turn out to be incorrect…

    Second, if I had to do so I know I could go to work at WalMart and no matter where I started work my way up and do very well…and last I saw, WalMart hired in plenty of full time workers as well as part time…

    Perhaps if you had more of the correct attitude and belief in the possibilities out there you would not be pining away to match the earnings power of your dad and grandad in the meatpacking industry.

    As for equality of outcome, we conservatives and capitalists do not strive for a society with equality of outcome. You write “Meanwhile, the centuries-old conservative ethic simultaneously pretends that equality of outcome can be achieved through market forces”…my response is that the conservative ethic does no such thing.

    We conservatives merely want a society with equality of opportunity…that is the difference between conservatives and liberals. Even you admit that “basic laws of economics and human nature ensure this [equality of outcome] will never be the case”…and I agree. It is liberal economic programs that want to chase the unreachable goal of equality of outcome.

    Equality of outcome is a stupid goal; it ignores the dynamic nature of life, as well as differences in individuals. Nor would equality of outcome be desirable; it would produce a boring world where people had no motivation to better themselves.

    Let me repeat this: conservatives believe in a society offering equality of opportunity; it is liberals who are fixated with equality of outcome. As the Communist experiment showed us, the only way to guarantee equality of outcome is to place everyone at the lowest level.

    I would still argue with you and contend that success can be achieved by all, although that will probably never be the case among a flawed human race. That does not mean that success is guaranteed for any, or that equal levels of success would be achieved by all. Of course, there is also the fact that individuals define success differently. But I do maintain that anyone in our country can achieve a high level of economic well-being and self-sufficiency.

  17. Mark: Here’s a novel thought: maybe if you aren’t doing as well economically as you would like, as well as you perceive your father and grandfather did in the meatpacking industry, it isn’t because of govt failings it is because of you!

    There are plenty of great paying jobs out there…you just need the right skills.

    As I’ve already noted, I know a guy from a very modest background who had the simple idea of getting a job at Sam’s Club and taking advantage of their tuition assistance program to get a very marketable college degree. Now he is on his way to a great career, and will probably be making six figures once he hits his 40’s, not to mention having a very well endowed 401k.

    I also know a guy who came over here from Cuba years ago, didn’t even speak English, but who worked his way to becoming a business owner and multimillionaire.

    Stories like that abound in this country…but they belong to people who don’t look to govt or unions to solve all their problems or take care of them all their life.

    One of the most destructive effects of the liberal mindset is the fact that it often teaches one to be passive about one’s circumstances in life, always blaming this or that foor one’s lot in life, never accepting responsibility, and never realizing the golden opportunities that await if one will just take advantage of them.

  18. Another Thought, I was perfectly willing to let you get your precious last word (or in your case, precious last 30,000 words), but after your latest rant, decided the inherently dysfunctional nature of your cowboy worldview needs another round of refuting.

    Whether I become successful or not is irrelevant to the equation, but of coursepersonalizing your lecture to brand me as a failure is a cheap ploy to convince yourself you have the upper hand in the debate. No matter, you essentially negate your whole thesis of “success can be achieved by all willing to work for it” by saying there are great jobs out there for those with the right skills. Very true.

    Unfortunately, if every poor American was able t o overcome all that’s holding them back and suddenly became hyper-motivated enough to achieve these skills, there would be an overabundance of skilled employees in virtually every economic sector and unemployment would go UP….dramatically. Meanwhile, the cash registers at Wal-Mart are going unmanned. The floors and toilets at all our high rises are going uncleaned. Food is withering away in our fields and meat is rotting in our processing plants. It’s called division of labor….a concept that is completely lost on conservatives who apply the “success is achievable for all who try” urban legend to the real world. If every American got the skills necessary to better themselves, despite the fact that it’s strategically impossible, there would still be poverty because the industries currently manned by people who “make poor life choices” would still need warm bodies to man them.

    Clearly, you’ve read every Milton Friedman book cover to cover. Otherwise you wouldn’t be plagiarizing his infantile equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome tripe. Equality of opportunity is as unattainably utopian as equality of outcome in a system where there is such a staggering difference between the existences of the haves and have nots. And your argument and his, whether you admit it or not, indicates that equality of outcome is in fact possible given that equality of opportunity exists. You both lecture everybody about the pot of gold awaiting anyone willing to walk to the end of the rainbow, so the product of everyone exercising their “equality of opportunity” would thus have to be prosperity for all. If either Friedman or his disciples could grasp that the division of labor necessary to run an economy dictates that there will always be demanded services that don’t deliver prosperity to those who do them, perhaps we could have a conversation grounded in reality on this subject.

    The bottom line is that the “you can do anything you want to if you put your mind to it” ethic is a good soundbite for parents to give their high school children or addicts like Dubya trying to get the monkey off their backs at AA meetings. However, it’s a lousy soundbite for how to run an economy. Whether you like it or not, a successful economy requires a variety of services, some that pay well and others that do not. The services that do not pay well will always require labor no matter what skill level the collective job market has. For this reason, labor unions and government controls are necessary counteragents against the market forces that would otherwise leave those who provide these services in hideous poverty and disempowerment.

    You can throw all the impressive examples of upward mobility at me that you want but it won’t change the fact that millions were left behind as one individual ascended. And it’s logistically impossible for all of those millions to collectively ascend the way the individual did. There’s nothing more dangerous than people who point to their own life story (or any individual’s life story) as a blueprint for success in America….because the corresponding argument is that anyone who doesn’t follow that blueprint can do what Dick Cheney told Patrick Leahy to do with himself.

  19. Mark: First of all, consider this: the people at the lower end of the employment chain do not necessarily remain there…that is a huge consideration. For instance, my friend at one point worked as an hourly worker at a Sam’s Club; now he has a college degree and is working as a professional. See how that works…it’s not difficult to understand. You think all workers in lower paying jobs are frozen there…typical of liberal thought that doesn’t recognize the opportunities out there.

    Second, you argue that “a successful economy requires a variety of services, some that pay well and others that do not.” On what do you base your assumption? History shows that we can have rising economic prosperity that lifts all. The key is not absolute wages, but productivity. As long as productivity increases (which it has been considerably), workers can earn more and more and the society get more prosperous.

    Third, you then contradict yourself…after asserting that a “successful economy” must have relatively low paying jobs, you then assert the need for govt controls and labor unions to protect against such low pay for such jobs. That does not make sense.

    Fourth, you assert that it is “logistically impossible for all of those millions to collectively ascend the way the individual did.” Who says? Again, on what basis do you make this claim? In fact, millions do ascend in this country all the time…that is the story of America.

    Fifth, you write “if every poor American was able to overcome all that’s holding them back and suddenly became hyper-motivated enough to achieve these skills, there would be an overabundance of skilled employees in virtually every economic sector and unemployment would go UP….dramatically. Meanwhile, the cash registers at Wal-Mart are going unmanned. The floors and toilets at all our high rises are going uncleaned.”
    This is laughable. If everyone became that motivated, the quality of society would shoot up dramatically. New industries would be created, and many of these people would go into these new industries with new skills. As for the lower-skilled work, I think such a motivated society would find a way. First, young workers (as in my friend’s example) could temporarily fill the roles as they work their way up. Second, if there would be a shortage of such workers, guess what that would do? Raise the wages…and the society would be so much more productive and wealthy that they could afford to pay the higher wages. Third, such a society would probably find technological substitutes. So I wouldn’t worry about society becoming too skilled or educated, as you do.

    In short, Mark, you’ve done nothing but prove the point that defeatist liberal philosophy leads to nowhere, except rationalizations for failure and mediocrity.

  20. Another THought, you contention basically boils down to “Those silly Communists believed for years that equality of outcome was achievable. They were so wrong……but anyone who applies themselves will be successful in America.” It’s no wonder I gave up last night. It’s impossible to reason with someone whose bladder is that full of purple Kool-Aid.

    Take a look around any grocery store or department store and you’ll notice the vast majority of employees are not teenagers and college students. Given the increasing prevalence of these service jobs in our strip mall economy, there isn’t nearly enough people in “transition mode” from adolescence to overwhelming success to fill the necessary positions. It’s ridiculous that we’re even arguing that the only people who won’t be successful in America are teenagers. You’re essentially suggesting that Marxist utopianism is attainable through cowboy capitalism. I guess that makes it easier for you to sleep at night and not think about all the people left in the dirt because of the same unbridled market forces.

    Yes, millions have ascended in this country, but millions have not. You suggest that merely getting more “skills” is the ticket for those millions to ascend, ignoring the basic nature of an economy that requires low-skill and semi-skill services be performed to keep the wheels turning.

    I didn’t contradict myself at all about unionization and low-skill employment. An effective diversified economy does require the services of low-skill employment that would pay unacceptably low wage levels if unfettered market forces dictated them. Government controls and unionization are necessary to empower these employees into an acceptable standing in the marketplace.

    Most frightening of all is that your apathy and disrespect for working-class America is so intense that you’ve made it clear nothing short of their economic genocide is acceptable for you and your ilk. You won’t rest until every American who works with his or her hands is subjected to limb-by-limb financial decapitation and is groveling at the door of your ministry in desperation as you look down your nose and chastise them for their “poor life choices.” Damn. If only the millions of trailer park Republicans in every corner of this country could listen to what you guys think of them, Bush would lose bigger than any Republican candidate since Goldwater this November.

  21. Mark: Your comments are laughable..I won’t even go into your sweeping generalizations and overwrought cliches about me and Republicans, etc. No wonder why you have less purchasing power than your parents…

    Mark, it is you who wish to trap people. I repeat: anyone in this country of any age can make it. There is nothing holding them back. You are correct that many people in service professions are not teenagers in transition. But they can still become successful…for that matter, by their definition of success they might already be successful…

    Mark, it is you who disrespect working class America…I argue that they can accomplish anything they wish and you argue that they are these poor souls to be pitied who will never achieve any level of upward mobility. Far from disrespecting them, I have tremendous respect for their potential, and you apparently do not.

    As for the economy needing low and semi-skilled services: this in no way keeps anyone from bettering themselves and becoming more skilled. If the entire population somehow acquired advanced skills, these low and semi-skilled services would still be taken care of. The market would provide. Wages would go up and workers in those services would have it better than ever. And the society would be so productive as to afford it. Better yet, such an advanced society would probably find technological substitutes. This is the way it has always worked; your argument could have been made in any time to freeze us into any number of less advanced economic situations.

    This is the difference in our philosophies: I say these people can achieve as much as they want in our economy, and go higher if they choose (allowing for the fact that many may define success in different ways and choose not to). You call that “economic genocide” as if I want these people to be permanently poor and needy (talk about warping someone’s argument). Quite the contrary: I want these people to be more successful than ever and very self-sufficient.

    It is you who just want to view these people as permanently frozen into their current situation. It is you who offers them a dismal future.

  22. It’s funny that Mark accuses me of “disrespecting” the working class and then tosses out phrases like “millions of trailer park Republicans”…

    And Mark, I still maintain that anyone who applies themselves will be successful in America…you never prove me wrong, you just throw out ridiculous phrases.

    For those in poverty, have you ever talked to any of them? Have you ever tried to help any of them? If you did you would see that people are in poverty for a reason: these may include poor life decisions, past or present substance abuse, dropping out of school, etc. If one solves these internal problems, then one helps these people in a real and tangible way.

    I know…the ministries you so easily denigrate have helped many permanently transform their lives.

    Here’s one story: a young guy I know was once heavily into drugs, hated his Dad and was going nowhere with his life. He found a faith he could be comfortable with and quit doing drugs and started to put his life on a stable basis. At first, because he lacked a college education, he had to go into retail and sell cell phones. But he also took advantage of a great tuition assistance program to go back to school and become a nurse. Now he makes big bucks, along with his wife, who is also a nurse. It’s funny how when one is stable and successful in life that attracts other people who are stable and successful. His story is one of many; I wish people would hear more of such stories; it would lift society up.

    Life is what one makes it. If one sees a world of opportunity and believes in one’s potential, then one can and will make it. If one sees a dead-end world and feels that one is a victim, then that too becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  23. Another Thought, this is getting to be a pointless banter where we’re both repeating ourselves and having no success in persuading the other an inch from our original position. Your worldview of untold riches being at the fingertips of every American is born out of equal parts arrogance, ignorance and a Pollyanna idealism that transcends the unattainable utopian goals of Marxism. “You have tremendous respect for people” who work with their hands for a living….so long as they quit working with their hands.

    There are many reasons why an economy does and must continue to accommodate a population with diverse levels of skill, intelligence and motivation. I wouldn’t expect you to understand any of them. When one’s personal experience shapes their worldview in as rigid terms as both yours and mine, it’s impossible to comprehend a sharply contrasting alternative. Perhaps the solution lies somewhere between our extremes. Unlike conservatives who think they have the answers to every issue facing the globe, I’m not prepared to declare my viewpoints as infallible, but I sure as hell would never admit legitimacy to your views which I consider every bit as dangerous to America’s future as radical Islam, perhaps more so.

    This will be my last post on this thread, but if you must have the final word, feel free to go for it. My only parting observation is the fact that those who shout the loudest and most frequently about personal responsibility and work ethic for others always seem to have 17 hours a day to write on chatrooms and blogs. Why do you suppose that is?

  24. And Mark, I still maintain that anyone who applies themselves will be successful in America…

    But this is simply prima facie wrong, AT. It’s axiomatic that almost nobody works harder than the poor, simply to stay afloat.

    The existence of the working poor contradicts your argument. Not everyone can make it big simply by “applying themselves.” The poor are out there applying themselves 60 hours a week, but they’re not getting ahead. It’s not possible to – between the escalating costs of rent and health insurance, and working 60 hours a week at exhausting service jobs just to make ends meet, there isn’t time or money for college tutitions – which are themselves on the rise.

    As for your “tuition assistance programs”, companies are scrapping such benefits because they simply don’t need to offer them to attract a labor force.

    But they can still become successful…for that matter, by their definition of success they might already be successful…

    This is what the Moral Majority used to refer to as “defining deviancy down.” Can’t figure out why the working poor aren’t rich? We’ll just define “poor” as the new rich!

  25. I have management experience and have hired and fired in both an IT environment and earlier in retail sales. The story has been the same.

    Those who took the job seriously, were honest and avoided crime and did not steal, who did not abuse substances, who worked hard and showed up on time, invariably moved up the economic ladder, either internally or externally and/or through greater education. Those who had problems on the job had these types of problems: substance abuse; stealing; shady business dealings; inability to show up for work on time; missed too many days of work; unwilling to work hard or stay focused on work while at work.

    I have never met the person who worked hard, lived a clean lifestyle, was honest and ethical, who could not and did not move up in life due to unfair societal barriers. On the contrary, companies long for these type of workers. I’ve often said that if one will show up for work when scheduled, be honest on the job, avoid the personal traps like drugs, then one will stand out among most workers out there.

    If someone fails in their worklife or in their financial life, there is a reason. These failings are a symptom, not the disease itself. Usually, if a person cannot make it in America economically it is because they have internal issues that need to be dealt with.

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