Monday, July 19, 2004

I've had several arguments with a British guy I know named Simon. He's not a bad guy, but he thinks he actually knows something about the United States because he's read Naomi Klein and Michael Moore, and he is anti-American in the sense that some people are anti-Semitic: everything the United States has ever done, is in the process of doing, or may perhaps do in the future is bad. If George Bush started giving out free condoms to homeless lesbian illegal alien single mothers, Simon would find something negative to say about it.

Simon believes that the United States is a jungle where we cut one another's throats for money or promotion, that we're interested only in ourselves and care nothing about the poor, that we're cruel and heartless and mean and that we abuse the poor. He was especially struck by that idiot woman in the Michael Moore movie who was raising rabbits and skinning them to make money off the fur. "If people in America have to do that just to survive..." and you know the rest.

He thinks there are a few rich people (Bush and his fat-cat oil friends), a lot of poor people, some abused women and children and minorities, and a lot of homeless people. He won't believe you if you tell him that poverty in the States is somewhere around 12-14%, that the poverty line is something above fifteen grand for a family of four, that poor people qualify for all kinds of government aid like Medicaid, food stamps, and so on, that poor people get what's called the Earned Income Tax Credit, meaning that they get an income tax refund rather than an income tax bill if they have the worst-paying jobs, and that most Americans completely agree with the idea that it's society's responsibility to help the unfortunate, including old people, poor people, and sick people.

The following post from Mickey Kaus at Slate debunks all that heartlessness of American society crap. (It's not italicized because for some reason the italic, bold, and link buttons are not appearing on my Blogger Create New Post screen.)

"There's a bit of Reich in every Ehrenreich! Barbara Ehrenreich writes:

'... I have been endeavoring to calculate just how many blue-collar men a T.A.N.F. [welfare] recipient needs to marry to lift her family out of poverty.

The answer turns out to be approximately 2.3, which is, strangely enough, illegal.'

I can't tell if Ehrenreich is joking about the "2.3" or if she's up to her old tricks (as when she wrote in 1986, with Frances Fox Piven, that long-term recipients were only a "tiny minority" of welfare mothers, when in fact they were nearly two-thirds of those on the rolls at any one time). If she's serious, how exactly did she calculate that 2.3 figure? ....Some numbers: The 2004 government poverty line for a family of four is about $18,850. For a family of three it's about $15,500. (The exact amount depends on whether you're using the Census or HHS line.) ... Even at the current minimum wage, a full-time worker earns $10,700 a year and an Earned Income Tax Credit of $2,500 (three person family) to $4,200 (four person family). Add in $3,000-4,000 of food stamps and subsidized Medicaid or CHIP health care for the children, and you're well above the poverty line even with a single breadwinner and a stay-at-home mom. ... Is Ehrenreich saying the poverty threshold is set too low? Fine--I'd have trouble living on it even without a family--but then she should tell us what idiosyncratic definition of "poverty" she's using. Is she assuming the "blue collar" man can't find even minimum-wage work? If so, again, why not make this assumption clear? ... Or is Ehrenreich, in the fashion of some left-wing organizers, simply ignoring the programs (especially the Earned Income Tax Credit) liberals have struggled to put in place to help low-income earners? ... P.S.: I doubt it's intuitively obvious to most Americans that the families of women married to typical blue-collar workers live in poverty. (Most blue collar workers make more than the minimum wage, and most wives work too.) The burden would seem to be on Ehrenreich to explain her startling stat."

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