The Rich and The Poor

I made a snarky comment to Glenn at his assertion that The rich keep getting richer and everyone else can go get fucked
. I said it would be more correct to say that the rich keep doing the things that made them rich in the first place, and the poor keep fucking themselves. Glenn rebutted with a link to S-Train’s Hating the Rich or Comfortably Well-Off.

The funny thing to me is that I think he made my point for me. S-Train doesn’t have a successful business because he is lucky. He is successful because he busted his ass and made smart decisions. His father didn’t invest in the business as a charity — it was in investment, and a lot of that investment was intangible.

I’ve never advocated paying people crappy wages. That is a poor business practice, and a straw-man that usually comes from people who have never tried to make payroll. I have advocated taking the power to set wages out of the hands of the government and putting it in the hand of people like S-Train. The place that I work doesn’t pay crap. They pay better than the other firms around for the same work, and that means that they get the best people, and end up getting more business because we do good work. This crap about redefining overtime, and mandatory health care, and all this other BS? Means nothing to me. I have all that and more because I negotiated it, and my employer agrees because it benefits us both.

Do I feel like I am better than the people coming in and giving him applications? Maybe, maybe not. The biomedical engineer slinging sandwiches may or may not have brought his situation on himself. I will make you one guarantee, though — if he brought it on himself, he stands a good chance of making soup for a while, and that means that S-Train has a good worker. There is a good chance, though, that he won’t be there long. He’s making subs because he has a work ethic. People with skills and a work ethic get pressed into a higher purpose.

I never applied for the job that I have. Really. They came to me when word got out that I wasn’t working at the last place that I was at. I went from legal multimedia work to setting up overhead projectors and microphones in hotels. I was underutilized, and I didn’t stay like that long.

S-Train says:

Bill Gates net worth could balance the books of every state and he would still be a billionaire. Simply amazing! And Microsoft is headquartered in a U.S. state!

You’re looking at it the wrong way. It would be stupid for Bill Gates to do that. The states are in the red because they spend too much. Even if Bill Gates remedied that this year, what about next year? What about the next 10 years? On top of that, Bill Gates is worth what he is worth because he doesn’t piss away money on people who didn’t manage what they had right. As for the idea that the rich need to take care of their employees, I don’t think there is any question that the people at Microsoft are well taken care of. If he didn’t have programmers as good as they do, Windows would be even more screwed up.

People can end up in bad situations by bad luck. But the people who “keep getting poorer” are the ones who keep putting themselves there.

And one last thing: You may think of yourself as Upper-Middle Class, S-Train, but to the people who talk about “the rich” and “the poor”, you get lumped into the rich pile. When people start talking about The Man, they are talking about you.

17 Comments

  1. S-Train says:

    And one last thing: You may think of yourself as Upper-Middle Class, S-Train, but to the people who talk about “the rich” and “the poor”, you get lumped into the rich pile. When people start talking about The Man, they are talking about you.

    I know that. I based the “upper middle class” statement on income alone but your point is correct. It’s one of the reasons why I am sensitive in how I treat people. I have been EXTREMELY poor in my life and know how it feels to be looked at as worthless even though that ain’t the situation. If someone calls me The Man, that’s fine since I know what I’m really am. I don’t act like The Man. I don’t disrespect people like The Man. And I sure don’t think I’m better than you because of $$$ like The Man.

  2. smijer says:

    As long as it “takes money to make money”, and as long as baby-food is expensive, a work ethic, a desire to save instead of spend, and a willingness to learn skills will never be enough to graduate the majority of thusly-endowed poor into the financially-secure class.

    That doesn’t take into account depreciation on the value of a person based on age, or underappreciation based on race and gender.

  3. Phelps says:

    As long as it “takes money to make money”,

    The money is there. There are piles and piles of money sitting in banks right now for the people who can show that they aren’t going to waste it.

    and as long as baby-food is expensive

    Babies are expensive. Having one when you can’t afford it is a stupid life decision. Making stupid life decisions is the way poor people stay poor.

    a work ethic, a desire to save instead of spend, and a willingness to learn skills will never be enough to graduate the majority of thusly-endowed poor into the financially-secure class.

    True. A strong work ethic, wisely investing funds (which includes reinvesting in yourself as much as stuffing money into your mattress) and learning skills that are salable are always enough to graduate someone from the poor to the financially secure. You said lots of things there about how someone feels and what they want — I am only concerned about what a person does.

    That doesn’t take into account depreciation on the value of a person based on age, or underappreciation based on race and gender.

    I don’t buy the bitch about age. We are the sum of our choices. Bad choices made early in life will haunt you later. Don’t make bad choices. Under appreciation based on race or gender is no harder to overcome than based on class, and they aren’t cumulative.

    S-Train and I started with nothing. I can look at others around me who started the same way, and the results are clear. The ones who made good choices are comfortable now. The ones who made bad choices — the ones who decided to drop out of school, the ones who decided that the job in fast food wasn’t “good enough”, the ones who decided to have sex and then got pregnant or got someone pregnant — are the ones who aren’t comfortable. The ones who keep making bad choices upon bad are the ones who are getting poorer. The ones who stop making bad choices are the ones are pulling ahead of the others.

  4. smijer says:

    Phelps, you said:
    “You said lots of things there about how someone feels and what they want — I am only concerned about what a person does.”

    What I wanted to point out is that what a person does is often constrained by life circumstances.

    If certain people had an opportunity without betraying their responsibilities to others (including babies, ailing parents, what have ye), and had no other constraining circumstances (hiring – or lending – prejudice, poorly-timed illness, advancing age, the wrong gender), then a strong work ethic, etc.. would be enough to virtually guarantee them a ticket from the underclass to the middle.

    Life does happen. Sex is less a “choice” and more a “biological necessity”. Nature did not anticipate that we would create economies for ourselves in which peak mating and birthing years would be economically “before they are ready” to have sex and have babies. This is a fact of life, and the difference between telling a person that it is a “stupid choice” to have babies and that it is a “stupid choice” to visit the out-house is quantitative, not qualitative. Shorter reply: a “good” economy should not penalize human sexuality. Add to it that any given sexual encounter is not necessarily a choice in any sense of the word for some women, and the argument that babies are a “stupid choice” for the poor, kind of just falls apart.

    I also started from nothing, but I’m still a lot closer to it than you are, I’m sure. I appreciate the entrepreneur who – with a combination of good ideas, willingness to take risks, hard work, and some basic good fortune – have managed to do well for themselves and for their communities. I admire that a lot. But those same risks leave some people in bankrupcy… that same work ethic leaves some people crippled… and some people have a run of bad luck instead of good.

    We won’t likely ever be rid of the ecomonic underclass, but there are plenty of ways to keep chipping away at the obstacles that restrict mobility between classes.

    We can also make sure that none of our people are treated as second class citizens because of poverty, mental illness or retardation, religion, race gender, sexual orientation, etc.

    I don’t know your personal history. I take your word for it that you started from nothing, but many people start from less than nothing. Many among the poor class in America today came from families or even communities where ethics of any kind (interpersonal, work, etc) were left untaught – maybe because dad was gone and mom was an addict, or maybe because dad was gone and mom was working two jobs to make ends meet.

    I could go on and on, but I have to stop. I just wanted to make the point that this is not some utopian society where all people are created equal, with equal opportunity for all. Such a place is a long way from here.

  5. Phelps says:

    Sex is less a “choice” and more a “biological necessity”.

    This has to be the most self-serving, insulting and amoral statement I have ever seen in these comments.

    Why don’t we just pile stealing and murder on top of these “biological necessities”?

  6. smijer says:

    ‘Why don’t we just pile stealing and murder on top of these “biological necessities”?’

    Hmmm.. gosh. I can’t think of any reasons… unless you mean like:

    1. Consensual sex helps the human species proliferate, but does not harm others or interfere with their self-determination.

    2. Mating behavior in sexually reproductive organisms has been strongly selected for in each surviving generation since long before our first land-dwelling ancestors walked the earth, and thus is rooted nearly as deeply in behavioral psychology as eating is. (What? You say eating is a natural necessity? Why not just go ahead and say torturing old ladies is a natural necessity to, and have done with it?) 😉

    3. Social mores, taboos, and laws designed to restrict eligibility for sex have had more success creating dirty little scandals with their hypocritical proponents than they have had with advancing sexual hygiene and responsibility, or limiting unplanned pregnancy. On the other hand, social mores, taboos, and laws designed to restrict murder and theft have had a fair amount of success protecting peace-loving folk from being murdered or robbed.

    To sum up, it is unhealthy and un-life-affirming to maintain celibacy for years at a time as an economic consideration. It is somewhat less unhealthy and un-life-affirming to attempt to remain childless during peak reproductive years through birth control as an economic consideration – and even so, it is not always possible when engaging in normal and healthy sexual behavior.

    Considerations based around the welfare of children so conceived carry a certain moral weight, and are valid under some uncontrollable circumstances, but that must still be left as an indidividual choice and not made into an economic (and especially not a legal) necessity as far as it is possible to avoid it.

  7. triticale says:

    That doesn’t take into account depreciation on the value of a person based on age, or underappreciation based on race and gender.

    To the extent that underappreciation based on race and gender was ever a factor, some people always managed to overcome it. For someone starting out today, it is slight enough as to be little more than an excuse.

    As for age, I credit my net worth largely to the passage of time. Spend less than you bring in when you are young and you will, like a large portion of the population, be better off when you are older. I’m 53 years old, and my top priority for tomorrow is investigating the merits of an unsolicited job offer as compared to my current position.

  8. smijer says:

    I don’t have statistics on inequality in pay based on race, but women still make 75% less than men on average for the same work. If you think that is “slight enough as to be little more than an excuse”, then I would guess that you are a man.

    Racial discrimination is still a very noticeable problem. Here’s a link, if Phelps has the anchor tag enabled: discrimination link

    Great for those people who can, as you say, “overcome it”… but not everyone can.

    “Spend less than you bring in when you are young and you will, like a large portion of the population, be better off when you are older.”

    That’s great for people who spent most of their life making more than their grocery, power, gas, and medical bills amounted to. That’s beside the point though, because not everyone is so fortunate, and you will find that the 53 year-old person who goes to interview for a job will have a lower chance of being hired and a lower average wage offerred than a young buck.

    I notice a marked tendency here to say “look how well I’m doing for myself by the sheer force of good planning”. I want to acknowledge that this is a good thing, but remind you that anecdotal evidence is not strong. One person’s story isn’t the same as the next. I’m glad you weren’t set back by poorly-timed illness or pregnancy (at least not so far back that you couldn’t get ahead again), and that you were able to save and earn interest on your money. I just want to remind you that, anecdotal evidence aside, the world where anybody can do the same thing, as easy as having a strong work ethic, a willingness to learn salable skills, and a dedication to fiscal discipline — that world remains a fantasy.

  9. smijer says:

    sorry to wear these comments out, but the link above was the wrong one. Anyway, you can skip the blog entry, go straight to the study it talks about – it was the Part II blog entry further up the page that had the link:

    http://www.econ.yale.edu/seminars/apmicro/am02/bertrand-021204.pdf

  10. Phelps says:

    1. Consensual sex helps the human species proliferate, but does not harm others or interfere with their self-determination.

    Except for the child who is brought into a life of hardship.

    2. Mating behavior in sexually reproductive organisms has been strongly selected for in each surviving generation since long before our first land-dwelling ancestors walked the earth, and thus is rooted nearly as deeply in behavioral psychology as eating is. (What? You say eating is a natural necessity? Why not just go ahead and say torturing old ladies is a natural necessity to, and have done with it?) 😉

    So is murder. Our instinct (for males) is to eliminate competition for reproduction by murdering our rivals. Stealing is also something that we have an instinctual drive for, in order to provide for our offspring.

    Eating is indeed natural, as is sex. Gluttony is something that is bad for you. Eating to excess and eating bad things causes bad things to happen to you. The same thing applies to sex. Having sex at bad times causes bad things to happen to you. In fact, the link between the two is so much stronger in sex, that I have much less sympathy for young people with kids they can’t afford than fat people.

    3. Social mores, taboos, and laws designed to restrict eligibility for sex have had more success creating dirty little scandals with their hypocritical proponents than they have had with advancing sexual hygiene and responsibility, or limiting unplanned pregnancy. On the other hand, social mores, taboos, and laws designed to restrict murder and theft have had a fair amount of success protecting peace-loving folk from being murdered or robbed.

    I guess that means that I’m more enlightened since I would rather just have the promiscous people poor than hanged.

    To sum up, it is unhealthy and un-life-affirming to maintain celibacy for years at a time as an economic consideration. It is somewhat less unhealthy and un-life-affirming to attempt to remain childless during peak reproductive years through birth control as an economic consideration – and even so, it is not always possible when engaging in normal and healthy sexual behavior.

    I think you need to define “unhealthy.” I don’t seem to have had any problem doing it. No one accidentally has sex. No one dies because they don’t. In fact, if you want to see how ridiculous your arguments are, remove “consentual” from them, and nothing changes. I think that you did as good a job as anyone can for decriminalizing rape. After all, don’t all those celibate girls know that they aren’t acting in a healthy way?

  11. smijer says:

    “So is murder. Our instinct (for males) is to eliminate competition for reproduction by murdering our rivals.”

    That isn’t my instinct. I certainly doubt that it is the instinct of most men. If it were, I doubt civilization would have ever developed. Humans and other social animals have other adaptations than brute force for coping with reproductive competition.

    “Eating is indeed natural, as is sex. Gluttony is something that is bad for you. Eating to excess and eating bad things causes bad things to happen to you. The same thing applies to sex. Having sex at bad times causes bad things to happen to you.”

    The core of our differences. You seem to think a “bad time” for eating is when you can’t afford food, not when you are hungry and have missed a meal or two. Similarly, you seem to think a “bad time” to have sex is when you cannot afford a baby, not during the years that the body’s sexual drives and reproductive capacity are peaking. My thinking is just the reverse.

    “I think you need to define ‘unhealthy.'”

    I was thinking “psychologically unhealthy”. Not good for the old noggin’. If you disagree, I won’t argue it. That’s a matter for medical science and the lawyers for the Catholic church, not for political pundits.

    “I don’t seem to have had any problem doing it. No one accidentally has sex.”

    People do have sex without meaning to, and become pregnant that way. It’s called rape.

    “No one dies because they don’t.”

    Probably not. There are kinds of unhealthy – and there are definitely kinds of un-life-affirming, that are not actually life-threatening, if you’ll believe that. There’s a reason three quarters of human literature and almost all our poetry are written about human mating behavior. It is a central theme in our life. Child-bearing and raising is among the few things that can be said to give meaning to life in a way that almost no-one can deny.

    “In fact, if you want to see how ridiculous your arguments are, remove “consentual” from them, and nothing changes.”

    Let’s try it. Here’s the first thing I said:

    ‘Consensual sex helps the human species proliferate, but does not harm others or interfere with their self-determination.’

    Ok, removing Consensual creates a statement that does not always evaluate true. If you remove consensual then that statement includes instance of rape. Rape does harm others and does interfere with their self-determination. So yeah – that changes a lot.

    “I think that you did as good a job as anyone can for decriminalizing rape. After all, don’t all those celibate girls know that they aren’t acting in a healthy way?”

    Hmm, it appears you have constructed a false analogy to my argument. Nowhere did I state that all healthy activities should be forced upon a person in violation of their free will. I said only that it cannot be expected that a person will fore-go engagement in those activities over prolonged periods, especially when they are the result of a primal biological drive… for purely economic reasons. If celibacy is an economic necessity for good people, then there is a problem with our economy.

    I sort of resent the implication that my argument legitimizes rape, but I’ll forgive it because the logic was so poor, you can’t have known any better.

    — correction to a post above in response to triticale:

    I wrote that women make 75% less than men, I should have written that women, on average, make 75% of what men make for the same work.

  12. Phelps says:

    Nowhere did I state that all healthy activities should be forced upon a person in violation of their free will. I said only that it cannot be expected that a person will fore-go engagement in those activities over prolonged periods, especially when they are the result of a primal biological drive… for purely economic reasons. If celibacy is an economic necessity for good people, then there is a problem with our economy.

    I think that if our economy selects those who are best able to control thier animalistic instincts, then there is something elegantly right with our economy.

  13. smijer says:

    I think we’ve both managed to express our positions pretty clearly. I suppose what we have here is a fundamental difference in values. Logic and reason are excellent tools for finding the best way to honor the values we already hold, but they aren’t very good to use for deciding our values in the first place. I never argue past the point of fundamental values. I enjoyed the talk.

  14. Say Uncle says:

    Quote of the day

    Phelps writes: And one last thing: You may think of yourself as Upper-Middle Class, S-Train, but to the people who talk about “the rich” and…

  15. Xrlq says:

    I wrote that women make 75% less than men, I should have written that women, on average, make 75% of what men make for the same work.

    Actually, you shouldn’t have written that, because it’s not true. If it were, many employers would jump at the chance to fire all the men, hire women in their place, and cut payroll expenses by 25%.

  16. triticale says:

    While you are at it, how about dragging out the statistic that blacks with PhDs earn 67% as much as whites with PhDs, so as to give us the opportunity to explain that this is because blacks with PhDs disproportionately chose not to get them in chemical engineering.