Tag: Poverty

Want Help? Ask Conservatives

Everyone know that only Democrats care about minorities. Everyone knows that only Democrats care about the poor. Everyone know that only Democrats care about women. Republicans just like to cruise around in their limos laughing at the plight of those less fortunate than them. Meanwhile, Democrats can’t sleep at night because they are so worried about the oppressed masses. Right? Right?

Let me introduce you to Shaneen Allen:

Last October, Shaneen Allen, 27, was pulled over in Atlantic County, N.J. The officer who pulled her over says she made an unsafe lane change. During the stop, Allen informed the officer that she was a resident of Pennsylvania and had a conceal carry permit in her home state. She also had a handgun in her car. Had she been in Pennsylvania, having the gun in the car would have been perfectly legal. But Allen was pulled over in New Jersey, home to some of the strictest gun control laws in the United States.

Allen is a black single mother. She has two kids. She has no prior criminal record. Before her arrest, she worked as a phlebobotomist. After she was robbed two times in the span of about a year, she purchased the gun to protect herself and her family. There is zero evidence that Allen intended to use the gun for any other purpose. Yet Allen was arrested. She spent 40 days in jail before she was released on bail. She’s now facing a felony charge that, if convicted, would bring a three-year mandatory minimum prison term.

There is a wide prosecutorial discretion here (more on that in a moment) but it looks like the prosecutor is going to throw the book at her. Allen is the kind of person the Left is supposed to be in a tizzy over — a single working mom doing her best who is about to be crushed by the system. But the liberal Ecosphere has said little, if anything, about her. You know who is taking up her cause? If you said conservatives and libertarians, move to the front of the class. Here is National Review, for example, trying to make her case a national issue. True, this is because conservatives believe in gun rights and the second amendment. But they also believe in justice. And there is a growing awareness of the massive disparities in how gun laws are enforced.

As it turns out, Allen’s case isn’t unusual at all. Although white people occasionally do become the victims of overly broad gun laws (for example, see the outrageous prosecution of Brian Aitken, also in New Jersey), the typical person arrested for gun crimes is more likely to have the complexion of Shaneen Allen than, say, Sarah Palin. Last year, 47.3 percent of those convicted for federal gun crimes were black — a racial disparity larger than any other class of federal crimes, including drug crimes. In a 2011 report on mandatory minimum sentencing for gun crimes, the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that blacks were far more likely to be charged and convicted of federal gun crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences. They were also more likely to be hit with “enhancement” penalties that added to their sentences. In fact, the racial discrepancy for mandatory minimums was even higher than the aforementioned disparity for federal gun crimes in general.

This isn’t just a matter of black people committing more crimes. In cases where the prosecution is discretionary — such as the enhancement penalties — this is far more likely to happen to black criminals than white ones. And conservatives like Rand Paul have been making this point more and more forcefully of late.

Oh, speaking of Rand Paul … Just last week, Jon Stewart discovered civil asset forfeiture, the process by which the government can seize your property or money by alleging it has committed a crime (that’s not a typo; they literally charge the property with a crime). It will surprise no one that while asset forfeiture casts a wide net, it also has a tendency to fall heaviest on minorities and on poor people who can’t fight back. Anyone want to guess the party affiliation of the man who has proposed to overhaul asset forfeiture law and give people greater civil service protections?

The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury’s General Fund.

It’s not perfect. But it’s a huge improvement over the existing regime, where local law enforcement can bypass state regs by turning the seized money over to federal agents, who take a cut and give it directly back the law enforcement agencies.

But there’s still more. Let’s move away from crime and toward poverty itself. Last week, Paul Ryan suggested a new set of policies to try to reduce poverty. He would consolidate numerous programs into block grants to the states, expand the EITC, reduce regulations and push criminal sentencing reform. Even some liberals are admitting these are good ideas. They will reward work and expand opportunity — the two things the poor need a hell of a lot more than slightly larger piles of government cash.

There’s been some controversy over Ryan’s proposal to have chronically poor people meet with councilors who will help them improve their lives. But as Megan McArdle points out, while the chronically poor are a small part of the poor, they consume a huge chunk of the benefits. And it is chronic generational poverty that is the true suffering. Ryan’s plan sounds a bit too paternalistic to me. But it’s got to be better than the absent father method our current system upholds where we just throw money at poor people and hope it will magically make them unpoor.

So in just the last week, we’ve seen conservatives oppose arbitrary ruinous enforcement of gun laws, oppose asset forfeiture and propose a new version of welfare reform (after the last one lifted millions out of poverty). You add this to the ongoing push for school choice and you have a platform that would greatly enhance freedom and opportunity for millions of people, most of who are poorer and darker-skinned than your typical Republican.

And the Democratic Party? Well, their big issue right now is trying to save the corporate welfare that is the Ex-Im bank.

Look, I’m not going to pretend the Republican Party is perfect on these issues or any other issue. And there are plenty of Democrats who support the above policies. What I am going to suggest, however, is that the caricature of the GOP specifically and conservatives in general as uncaring racist sociopaths is absurd.

Update: This isn’t strictly related, but you know how Democrats have been whining about the cost of higher ed and the burden it is imposing on the middle class? Well evil conservative Republican Mitch Daniels is not whining, he’s doing something about it.

The State of Inequality

Rumors are that the President’s taxpayer-funded political speech State of the Union Address will focus on rising income and wealth inequality in the United States. As with almost everything this Administration does, I think this is misguided.

First, at least part of the problem of inequality is social. Poor people are much more likely to get divorced, much more likely to have children out of wedlock, much more likely to drop out of high school, much more likely to engage in criminal activity and more likely to have substance abuse problems. Wealthy people are far less likely to have those problems. The divorce problem is especially important because inequality is usually measured per household and having split households means split wealth. Inequality in America is as much a reflection of a social divide as it is an economic one.

Of course, it’s difficult to untangle social and economic problems: growing up in poverty can make it harder to persevere in school, for example. But I still think poverty is, to some extent, a symptom of larger social diseases. Treating those social diseases — through school choice, through ending the drug war, establishing free enterprise zones — would be a much more productive approach than throwing money at it.

But second, I think the idea of “inequality” is a fundamentally flawed way of looking at things. The problem with America is not that Bill Gates is making too much money. The problem is that millions of people are unemployed or marginally employed and that trillions of dollar of their wealth was eradicated by a government-supported real estate bubble (and trillions more will soon vanish in a government-supported education bubble). When people talk about “inequality”, that tends to devolve to the misguided idea of eating the rich. We should instead be focusing more on poverty, on unemployment and on education. Tearing down Bill Gates will help no one. We need to lift everyone else up so that they can aspire to be Bill Gates.

But how do we do that? Well, we can start by not following Democratic prescriptions. As I noted in an earlier post, Democrat-controlled California has the most massive income inequality in the nation, one so bad that pundits are calling it a “liberal apartheid”. Today, there was a report that the District of Columbia, an exclusively Democratic fiefdom, also suffers from catastrophic inequality, mostly because of the extraordinary gains in wealth for the areas in and around DC where government employees and contractors live and work.

And that’s the rub. Liberals think inequality is a result of not having a high enough minimum wage (and Obama, as Rich noted, just raised federal contract minimum wages by fiat). But we’ve had lower inequality with a lower minimum wage. California has a high minimum wage and massive inequality. They also think it’s a result of taxes being too low on the rich. But the rich are paying almost all the income taxes already. The lower classes pay payroll taxes, but almost no income tax. They think it’s because we’re not doing enough. But we’ve poured trillions into the War on Poverty (and, it should be noted, that many measures of inequality and poverty exclude this kind of federal aid. So liberals are ignoring the existing impact of anti-poverty programs in their call for more of the same).

Frankly, if you want to know why inequality is rising, look no further than the solutions Obama will propose tonight. Doubtless, we will get another “jobs bill”. This bill will shovel more money to rich connected friends of politicians while doing almost nothing to create sustainable job growth. He will doubtless push for a hike in the federal minimum wage, which will likely increase unemployment among the people who are the poorest. He will gloss over the federally-fueled housing bubble and bailout that poured billions into Wall Street while bankrupting the rest of us. He will doubtless ignore the regulatory capture that cripples small businesses while pouring wealth into those with armies of lobbyists. I am dubious that we will hear anything about the critical need to reform the tax and regulatory systems that are paralyzing our businesses.

In short, I think that Washington and the policies it has pursued for the last 15 years is the major contributor to inequality. And I think it is likely that we will hear tonight is a clarion call for more of the same. We will continue to push people down while claiming we’re helping them. We’ll continue to give money to special interests while pretending we’re fighting them. We will continue to do everything but the one thing government needs to do if it ever really wants to combat income and wealth inequality:

Stop creating it.

Pot, kettle, and more social engineering fail.

In what to me can only be seen as a hilarious “actions have consequences, you dumb ass collectivist twit” moment of truth, you have the always-ready-to-surrender French government with their panties all in a wad because after they jacked tax rates on the rich to ridiculously punitive levels, the rich sheeple they where hoping to fleece, are packing up and moving elsewhere.

Jean-Marc Ayrault’s outburst came after France’s best-known actor, Gerard Dépardieu, took up legal residence in a small village just over the border in Belgium, alongside hundreds of other wealthy French nationals seeking lower taxes.

“Those who are seeking exile abroad are not those who are scared of becoming poor,” the prime minister declared after unveiling sweeping anti-poverty measures to help those hit by the economic crisis.

These individuals are leaving “because they want to get even richer,” he said. “We cannot fight poverty if those with the most, and sometimes with a lot, do not show solidarity and a bit of generosity,” he added.

“Thankfully, few are seeking exile to exempt themselves from being in solidarity with fellow Frenchmen.”

Announcing plans to spend up to 2.5 billion euros by 2017 to help the poor, Mr Ayrault said that poverty affected 12.9 percent of the population in 2002 and rose to 14.1 percent in 2010.

Let’s slog through this morass of bullshit. The punitive wealth confiscating collectivist twits are pissed that after they pass a law to fleece people – to the tune of 75% of their income – a large number of these people made choices to avoid being fleeced. Many are simply choosing to move out of France to avoid the ass rape from government for the simple crime of making more than wealth redistribution class warriors feel is appropriate for anyone but themselves to make. Government’s responds, angrily and with denigration, and attacks these people for not passively going along with the fleecing. The fact that they choose not to be raped is presented as the evil rich just wanting to get richer. Of course, it is implied by the class warrior credo that they plan to do so by stealing from those less fortunate than them. After all, how evil do you have to be to pack up and move simply to avoid helping those noble class warriors in government fight poverty? GREEDY BASTAGES!

All kidding aside, we are now living in sad and scary times. Faceless, inept, power-hungry, and petty bureaucrats are supposedly the good guys – they are fighting poverty! – and anyone that doesn’t subject itself to their will, is painted as evil. Sure, these collectivists have done away with the camps for those that disagree with them, but why do I get the impression that they see that as loss? Letting a bunch of government goons fleece you to buy votes from the non-productive is after all, showing solidarity with your fellow Frenchmen. Sounds a lot like the “paying high taxes in the US is patriotic” crap we get subjected to from our collectivist twits.

There is another lesson here. I am sure the French, just like our class warriors, have been fighting their war on poverty for decades too. Just like here in the US, where we have spent oodles of cash on all manner of social engineering projects in the last 6 decades – over $15 trillion just on the usual welfare programs, and countless trillions more on other crap giveaway schemes – you have just as much, if not more, poverty, the French government’s fight against poverty has met the same results. It’s a noble cause! Of course, pointing out the fact that poverty pimps fighting the very thing that gives them both power and enormous wealth to line their own pockets with, with other people’s money, of course, has only served to actually produce more poverty, is both unpatriotic and a sign of being an evil and greedy, self centered, nonconformist.

Following any economic policy that shifts the burden of fighting poverty from the those noble and social justice seeking poverty pimps in government – the ones with a track record of spending insane sums of money to just give us more poverty – to one where you actually encourage economy growing behaviors, things that produce more jobs, and rewards the more ingenious and hard working, is just crazy talk, anyway. High unemployment, especially amongst the young, stagnation, and wealth fleeing because of abuse, all are just a small price to pay for the ability to social engineer. Pointing out the politicians pushing this crap also end up stinking rich and with insane amounts of power over the sheep, however, is a sign of evil. Up is down. Good is bad. As long as you can give your scheme the veneer of meaning well, you can get away with murder. Maybe those camps I was just pointing out before are going to make a comeback sooner than later. In the name of fighting poverty and social justice, you know.

The moral of this story is a simple one though, but I am sure the class warriors have no interest in getting it.

I’m A Hotspot

So one piece of news that has generated much discussion came out of the South by Southwest festival in Austin. BBH hired several homeless men to act as walking hot-spots. Naturally, this has provoked some reactions:

Although this is ostensibly about giving the homeless money—BBH says they keep all the proceeds from those who pay for 4G access—it’s categorically awful, and all for the convenience of SXSW’s widely well-off patrons.

But it gives the homeless jobs! Yes, as would using them as human coffee tables, or hunting them as game, or having them dance for pennies in Superman outfits at your next dinner party. Working as hotspot is worse than not working at all.

Similar reactions have sprung up all over the internet. I’ve thought about it or a couple of days and I’ve come up with the following thought:

Get over yourselves.

I’m reminded very strongly of the idiots who run around slagging jobs at Walmart as being beneath the dignity of the unemployed and poor (see Penn and Teller take on this line of bullshit here). They don’t seem to able to process this simple precept: work is work. Not all of us can get cushy jobs as pundits and writers and politicians. To be frank, I have more respect for someone who slogs it out at Walmart or as a maid than or someone who’s never had a lick of the slate in their entire life. They’re providing a wireless service. That’s a bigger contribution to society than half the twerps on Capital Hill.

If a homeless person is willing to be paid to be a hotspot, good for him. He’s providing a service and making money. There’s no indignity in that. I find it incredibly arrogant and condescending for someone with a good job to tell someone without one that they shouldn’t take that job. Who the fuck are you to tell this person what he can and can not do?

True, the job won’t last. True, probably most of them will be back where they started a week from now. But at least they’ll have a little more money in their pockets. Is that so bad?

Frankly, I don’t know what it is with the snobbery of the Left. They seem to think that outlawing cheap insurance will give everyone great insurance. Banning bad housing will put everyone in good homes. And forbidding “degrading jobs” — whether its being a human hotspot, working at Walmart or hooking — will somehow give everyone a job at Apple.

It’s bullshit. Insurance is insurance. A home is a home. And work is work. As long as these guys are doing it of their own free will, I have no problem with it. And as for BBH — the evil company doing this — I’ll just note that they’re doing more to help the homeless than 90% of the people criticizing them.

They Hate Poor People, Don’t They?

A gem from my favorite writer that has a special resonance in this economy:

The elites who denounce poverty despise the poor. Their every high-minded, right-thinking “poverty program” proves this detestation — from the bulldozing of vibrant tenement communities to the drug law policing policies that send poor kids to prison and rich kids to rehab to the humiliation of food stamps and free school lunches to the loathsome inner-city public schools where those free lunches are slopped onto cafeteria trays.

The federal government has some 50 different “poverty programs.” Nearly half a trillion dollars is spent on them each year. That’s about $11,000 per man, woman, and child under the poverty line, enough to lift each and every one of them out of poverty. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2011 poverty guideline for a family of three: $18,530.) We call them “poverty programs” for a reason. If ordinary people with down-to-earth common sense were spending that half trillion, we’d call them “modest prosperity programs.”

“Urban renewal” was indeed the unacknowledged crime of the 20th century against poor Americans, destroying functional neighborhoods in favor of slums. The War on Drugs, as supposed racist Ron Paul notes, hits the poor hard and poor minorities hardest. And our broken education system has created generational poverty, hamstringing the one means people might have to escape is clutches.

I don’t think liberals literally hate the poor. But if you had sat down in, say, 1965, and tried to hash out a program that would make sure poor people — and especially poor black people — didn’t lift themselves up, you would be hard-pressed to come up with a better plan than the one that was actually implemented.

Dependence has never and will never create independence. And given the lust for power and worship that is so entrenched in our political class, I suspect the are fine with that.