Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Chris Hedges wrote an article on titled:

Let’s Get This Class War Started

Here’s a great interview with him on

The Pathology of the Rich – Chris Hedges


poverty-no-accidentWhy I Make Terrible Decisions, or, poverty thoughts.

This is an excellent piece by KillerMartinis she should teach economics and this will be required reading in all my classes from now on!

It was just forwarded to me by Corey Carroll.

An Indian boy defecates in the open in one of New Delhi’s slums. Photograph: AP Photo/Kevin Frayer

Full article: Amartya Sen: India’s dirty fighter | World news | The Guardian.

Amartya Sen: India’s dirty fighter

(The Guardian, Tuesday 16 July 2013)

“Half of all Indians have no toilet. In Delhi when you build a new condominium there are lots of planning requirements but none relating to the servants having toilets. It’s a combination of class, caste and gender discrimination. It’s absolutely shocking. Poor people have to use their ingenuity and for women that can mean only being able to relieve themselves after dark with all the safety issues that entails,” says Sen, adding that Bangladesh is much poorer than India and yet only 8% don’t have access to a toilet. “This is India’s defective development.”

It’s one of many gigantic failures that have prompted Nobel prize-winning academic Amartya Sen to write a devastating critique of India’s economic boom.

Last week he explained why only Western White people are capable of democratic rule in the context of the struggles in Egypt. This week he comes back with more mid 19th century hard-core elitism to entertain us with:

David Brooks Wonders Why Men Can’t Find Jobs: Comedy Ensues

GOB-SHITE of the month New York Times Columnist David Brooks–Congratulations Dave!

From a David Brooks column in The New York Times this morning:

In 1954, 96 percent of American men between 25 and 54 years old worked. Today, 80 percent do. One-fifth of men in their prime working ages are out of the labor force.

Brooks’ point piece turns out to be a popular column topic among conservative writers: Why arent people working? The twist in this one is that it’s a gender-based thesis. Brooks got hold of some stats showing that men are having more trouble recovering the jobs lost in the recent recession than women. He cites a Floyd Norris column from this weekend, “Gender Gaps Appear as Employment Recovers From Recession,” which provides all the relevant numbers.

Norris’s piece actually offered a simple explanation for the gender gap. The jobs that are coming back, he says, are in the health care sector, where women hold four out of every five jobs. In fact, if you read Norris’s piece carefully, you learn that women are actually losing ground in non-health-care related industries like manufacturing and financial services, that men are getting jobs back in those fields at a better rate than women. But, again, there’s been more recovery in the health care sector for whatever reason, hence the stats.

Brooks takes all this data and decides that the real issue here is that men are not adaptable and can’t bring themselves to make the changes needed to find work. He weaves an elaborate analogy involving the John Wayne movie The Seachers, which I guess is about the end of the cowboy era and how the rugged, violent men who tamed the West had trouble fitting in to the cushy, civilized world they helped create. (What David Brooks knows about any of this is anyone’s guess). Brooks writes about Wayne’s Ethan Edwards character as the hero who has made himself obsolete. “Once the western towns have been pacified,” he notes, “there’s no need for his capacity for violence, nor his righteous fury.”

There’s a famous scene in the film where Edwards brings an abducted girl home after a seven-year quest but, being the obsolete brute that he is, is unable to cross the threshold into her civilized home upon his return. To Brooks, this somehow is a metaphor for the men of modern times, who are unable to “cross the threshold into the new economy.”

Anyone who’s ever been unemployed knows that statistics like the ones Norris cites have everything to do with what kinds of jobs are available, and very little to do with the willingness of the population to work. Pretty much everyone who doesn’t have a job will do just about anything short of organ donation to get a job. If you’ve got kids and you can’t make rent, nobody needs to help you cross any freaking threshold into any new age. If it doesn’t involve sucking on someone else’s body parts, you’ll do it.

Not according to Brooks, who thinks there’s another explanation:

But, surely, there has been some ineffable shift in the definition of dignity. Many men were raised with a certain image of male dignity, which emphasized autonomy, reticence, ruggedness, invulnerability and the competitive virtues. Now, thanks to a communications economy, they find themselves in a world that values expressiveness, interpersonal ease, vulnerability and the cooperative virtues.

Surely, part of the situation is that many men simply do not want to put themselves in positions they find humiliating. A high school student doesn’t want to persist in a school where he feels looked down on. A guy in his 50s doesn’t want to find work in a place where he’ll be told what to do by savvy young things.

Hmm. Men don’t want to be put in positions they find humiliating? How many men out there today are working as telemarketers? As collections agents? How many grown men are working in fast-food restaurants, getting yelled at by people like Brooks when they put the wrong McNugget sauce in the take-out bag?

And as for those 50-year-olds not wanting to work in a place where he’ll be told what to do by savvy young things – it’s the other way around. Usually, the savvy young things are turning down the older guy. If Brooks thinks there are 50-year-old men out there with families, people maybe facing foreclosure, who turn down jobs because they don’t want to take orders from “savvy young things,” he’s crazy. All jobs involve taking humiliating orders from bosses and everyone who’s ever had a job knows that. If you need a job badly enough, you’ll take a job offered by Hermann Goering, Hannibal Lecter, Naomi Campbell, anyone.

It’s not just Brooks. These days you can’t throw a rock without hitting some muddle-headed affluent white dude who spends his nights stroking his multiple chins and pondering the question of the lazy poor, convinced as he is that there are plenty of jobs and the problem is that prideful or uncommitted or historically anachronistic (that’s Brooks’ take) folks just won’t suck it up and take them.

Earlier this year, for instance, when Yale and Penn started suing their graduates for failing to pay back their student loans, Bloomberg asked a Cato Institute fellow named Neal McCluskey for comment. He replied:

You could take a job at Subway or wherever to pay the bills and that’s something you need to do if you have agreed in taking a loan to pay it back . . . It seems like basic responsibility to me.

First of all, if you need to take a job at Subway after getting a degree from Yale, that’s pathetic and 100 percent on Yale, not on the kid who mortgaged his future to pay for a Yale education. Secondly, it’s pretty obvious Neal McCluskey has never tried to live on a Subway salary. He should probably give that a shot and see how much money is left over at the end of every month to pay off his Perkins loan. He’d be hooking in Union Station within a month.

It’s amazing how many educated people really believe that the unemployed just don’t like to work. I remember seeing Jon Voight, of all people, reading one of his infamous letters on Mike Huckabee’s show, talking about the “very poor and needy, who live to be taken care of,” who have been fed “poison” by our president, giving them the idea that they’re “entitled to take from the wealthy, who have lived and worked in a democracy.”

Here’s a guy lucky enough to have a job in a fantasy-land business where people hurl money at him round the clock for a few hours of work a day, who somehow finds the time to work himself into creepily genuine anger towards a group of people who have to fight to get jobs cleaning toilets or working fry-o-lators. Talk about a guy who needs a new hobby, or a puppy, something!

Remember that scene in American Psycho where Christian Bale stabs Reg E. Cathey’s homeless “Al” character? The part where he’s like, “Get a job, Al – you’ve got a negative attitude, that’s what’s holding you back!” Fellas, Mssrs. Brooks and Voight, that was satire. About the last thing the millions of broke Americans out there need is someone like you telling them their problem is that they need a more positive attitude. Actually their problem is much more simple: not enough jobs. Really, that’s pretty much it. It’s not a mystery.

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[previously appeared in East Orlando Post (]

>:/ Punkonomics responds >:/


Game of Threads: 2 of the over 1100 dead workers in the recent collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh

Game of Thrones Viewers get their Panties in a Bunch

I’m shocked! Just shocked… at how shocked people are about The Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones (season 3 episode 9). What’s your problem? You don’t seem to mind the slow-motion ballet-like torrents of blood in Quentin Tarantino’s film, or the mechanical butchery in a typical horror movie, or the gruesome pictures of victims in your run-of-the-mill TV crime drama? Where did this sensitive outrage come from?

Allow me to speculate that it’s all about the narrative: the story the authors tell us about the images we see and our own interpretation of it. Unlike in most media today, in this excellent gritty fantasy-drama, the heroic noble “good guys” get slaughtered randomly along with copious collateral damage (innocent bystanders). There is no cathartic moment in which justice is served and not even an overarching meaning to all the senseless suffering. Sort of like in the real world eh? The problem is that we are deeply conditioned to believe that if we do the right thing and behave well then we shall be rewarded. Really? Can I see some statistics please? Maybe there are just rewards in the afterlife, but there certainly aren’t any in this world.

If this rant is beginning to sound somewhat anti-religious then let me say that religious institutions do often behave deplorably, dupe people into submission, and justify horrible violence. However, every serious theology has a strong element of doubt built into it–read the book of Job in the Old Testament if you don’t believe me. Religion is what we make of it and what I’ll call the “media religion” is 3rd rate. It’s a rare pleasure to enjoy a highly entertaining, action packed, TV drama that bulks this trend. Whether the ubiquitous nudity is there for rating or is a valid element of the gritty realism I’m not quite sure but I ain’t complaining.

Now we need to deal with the two stinking bloated rotting elephant cadavers in the room: The Games of WAR and POVERTY. These games are not in an imagined medieval fantasy world. They are happening in the real world every day from the African Americans gunned down on our streets (one every 36 hours on average), through the torture centers and death squads in Iraq, and the mass sexual mutilation in the Congo, to the regular drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen (often on weddings BTW), to name just a few recent theatres of operations. Are these distasteful things we have to do to protect ourselves? Well the character Lord Walder Frey who orchestrated The Red Wedding massacre also had good reasons: revenge, sending a message, geo-political advancement, etc.

A little less obvious to our sensitive modern minds is the violence of poverty. Despite popular belief, people don’t just happen to be poor–a sad but inevitable human condition. The vast majority of human suffering is avoidable and is perpetrated by the powerful against the weak using violence. I’m thinking about the almost third of Americans who are hungry and half who are poor, the over billion people worldwide who are starving, the over 40,000 Americans who die each year from illness due to denied medical coverage, the generation(s) poisoned by our agricultural industry, and the many thousands of workers dying while crafting our cherished consumer goods in poor countries. These “savings” that cost so many lives do not go to the consumer as much as to the executive pay of our beloved leaders (North Korean pun intended). I am convinced that most Americans would be willing to pay a few percent more for our cheap apparel and electronics, but that option is not on the table because that’s not where the blood money goes. Instead we are offered crocodile tears, fake apologies, and public-relations campaigns that will have no positive effect on the suffering multitudes. Just like in the Game of Thrones: no happy ending, no justice, no balance .

So now you’re probably thinking I’m a socialist right? Well maybe I am but that’s not the point. Adam Smith is the greatest advocate of the free-market system (aka capitalism), and his concept of the Invisible Hand is constantly invoked to argue that unregulated individual self-interest leads to the best social outcomes. Sadly the people who use this to justify murder seldom read the great man himself, and if they do, seem to ignorantly or willfully misunderstand him. Smith argued that a free-market system could potentially yield such benefits if and only if it maintains an ethical balance by enforcing strict moral behavior. Wealthy and successful people must hold themselves ethically responsible and society as a whole must enforce a social ethic upon them. For example: insurance executives bragging that they denied coverage to so many thousands of people would not be celebrated by their peers nor rewarded with a monstrous Christmas bonus. Under Smith they would be socially ostracized by an elite that values entrepreneurial excellence and hard work and not economic warlordism, corporatism, and kleptocracy. Furthermore, their companies would be shut down for being destructive and criminal by a government representing the long term interests of all the people. Yeah, I know, this sadly sounds way more fantastical than anything Game of Thrones has to offer but my point is that a successful free-market economic system depends on a game of balance.

As the red witch Melisandre keeps telling everybody in Game of Thrones: “the night is dark and full of horrors.”