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What Financial Equality Really Means

XtinaS passed along this Livejournal post by alchemi responding to Mickey Kaus’s argument that social equality is more important than money equality. And the response begins with “Bullshit,” and continues thus:

Yesterday, at work, I was standing in a urinal relieving myself when one of the founding partners of the law firm next door came in and had a piss next to me. I immediately thought: so this is what Kaus is after. Sure, the guy may spend as much money as I made in ten years on a down payment for a villa for his third mistress, but because we are not socially segregated and can pee next to each other, I should be freakin’ thrilled! Thank you Mickey Kaus.


Alchemi then goes on to define what he means by money equality, and why it’s so important:

I don’t (nor, I suspect, do any of the leftists I know) mind if rich people make money. What bothers us is that there is a tremendous inequality in financial security, financial risks, and financial consequences of disaster. The point is not to have equality in luxury, but equality in necessity; it’s not the financial heights to which one can achieve, but the depths to which one can fall.

Some would claim there is an inherent conflict attempting to manage risk in a complex capitalistic system. My impression is the opposite is true. Disproportionate risks distort the market. They minimize market access, create perverse incentives and prevent efficient solutions.

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Berkeley’s Solution to Increased Homelessness? Arrest ’em all.

Sorry for the extended absence, kids. Between the beginning of work and my partner’s return from his year in Germany, it’s been a busy few days…

…but the bizarre news just keeps on comin’. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday (via TalkLeft) that Berkeley, that bastion of progressiveness, is struggling under the weight of its homeless problem. The city’s proposed solution? Ban smoking on city streets and then just arrest the homeless for smoking. Because they’re the most likely smokers, of course, and throwing them in jail will get them off the streets. The Chron has more:

As Mayor Tom Bates sees it, the alcoholics, meth addicts and the like who make up a good portion of the homeless population on Shattuck Avenue downtown and Telegraph Avenue on the south side of the UC Berkeley campus “almost always smoke.” And because smoking bans are the hot ticket these days for California cities, why not meld the two as part of a “comprehensive package” for dealing with the street problem that Bates says “has gone over the top”?

In this case, vagrants could be cited for taking a drag on the town’s main drags.

The program will be paid for by raising parking fees by fifty cents per hour around the city.

There are so many things wrong with this program that it’s hard to know where to begin. First, at least in NY, there are lots of people, homeless and homed, who smoke on city streets. Is the ordinance only going to be enforced against the homeless (which would be illegal selective prosecution)? And since when is the best way to reach out to the homeless to punish the behaviors that may have contributed to their predicament in the first place? While the mayor may be correct that many of the Berkeley homeless are meth users or are addicted to alcohol, fining or incarcerating them based on those addictions (and the addiction to nicotine) neither helps solve the level of homelessness nor addresses the cause of homelessness. If the mayor — and the progressive people of Berkeley — are really concerned about decreasing homelessness around their city, maybe they should consider providing support systems for homeless people, including drug treatment, mental health services, and — gasp! — help securing shelter. Laws like the Berkeley law make it even more difficult for the homeless to get off the streets: by ensuring criminal records and preventing access to social services, the city makes it harder for people to obtain and keep jobs.

At least there is one voice of reason in Berkeley. Kriss Worthington, a city Councilman who proposed a law in 2001 that would have prevented cops for ticketing people for sleeping on sidewalks (the law failed of course), recognized that the proposed law would accomplish little:

“My interest is in making things better for the homeless and business,” Worthington said. “And none of these things — a bunch of new laws — look like they will do.

You know what I think is bad or business? Having restaurants tell people they can’t step outside to smoke because they might be mistaken for a homeless person and arrested. Sheesh.

(also at AB&B; thanks to Jill for inviting me to guest blog this week.)


via Michael comes this revolting blog post from Rachel Moran, a nice Florida girl who thinks that the homeless are sub-human and should be physically assaulted for having the audacity to speak to her. No, really:

We are thinking about proving this nuisance and need for civil action by making a short film called “Eddie Rolls on the Homeless,” whereby Mark secretly videotapes me and Lil Sis in a variety of situations to see how many homeless people approach us and, then, how many of these situations escalate into harrassment. Then, he’s gonna videotape Eddie in the same scenarios, only Eddie is going to beat up every homeless person who escalates the contact after being told that his panhandling is illegal and annoying.

You’re planning on beating up homeless people on video and it’s panhandling that’s illegal and wrong?

I suspect that Rachel and her friends are under the impression that beating someone up in response to verbal harassment is self defense. She may have a problem demonstrating that in court, though, when her idea to attract as many homeless people as possible and then physically assault them is published on the internet, and the crime is videotaped.

I resent street harassment as much as any feminist (or any woman, for that matter). I support calling men out on their bad behavior. And if a man attempts to assault someone, I hope his would-be victim puts him in the ER. But I certainly don’t support unprovoked assault, or attacking someone because he asked for money or responded when you told him that he’s a lazy bum who should go to Hell.

But then, this Rhodes Scholar’s problem doesn’t seem to be with harassment. It’s with the very existence of these filthy street “people” in her city.

At the table, Eddie was a little heated still and started to tell another story about how he had beaten up some other homeless guy.

We have decided that the homeless problem in St. Petersburg is becoming entirely out of control. Part of the problem is that a bunch of idiot liberal ‘Burgers will just stand there and let homeless people ramble on at them and then fumble for money or let themselves get yelled at when they don’t have any. I seriously know girls who are, like, afraid of downtown during certain times now, which is horrendous, because, for Christ’s sake, this is St. Petersburg, not Manhattan.

As someone who lives in Manhattan, I’ll point out that the homeless aren’t particularly threatening. Homelessness is a social problem, and it needs to be dealt with — but not by treating homeless people like stray dogs. The majority of homeless people are only homeless for one day. Rachel is talking about the chronic homeless, the people who usually suffer from serious mental health problems or physical addictions. The chronic homeless need ongoing support, not an overburdened shelter system which, for all of its good intentions, is limited to pushing them through a revolving door. And they certainly don’t need a narcissistic fuckwit blogger and her sociopath friends attacking them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to courageously fend off Manhattan’s homeless minions as I walk downtown to get dinner.

Michael encourages you to contact the St. Petersburg police.

No racism here, no sir!

Jane Galt links to my post on food stamps and mentions that when she was in the grocery store recently, she asked a cashier what the acronym “EBT,” something on the supermarket checkout machines, stood for. Jane is white. The cashier was black. The cashier stared at her and said, “That’s for food stamps.” Jane felt dumb, as many of us probably would, and could feel her privilege staring her in the face. She walked out feeling like the cashier was thinking that she was a stupid, rich white suburban idiot.

Jane’s commenters did not like this story. I’m not going to address their arguments because, well, they don’t really have any beyond “you thought that she thought that you were a white idiot? Well what if she was an uppity black?! REVERSE RACISM!,” which is just silly, considering that the cashier didn’t actually say anything to Jane other than giving her the answer to her question, even if it was delivered in an incredulous way. And yet the cashier was the one who, according to commenters, lacked graciousness and was rude.

In other news, according to Jane’s commenters, I’m “angry.”* Fair enough. Not having enough to eat, or only having access to low-cost low-nutrition foods because of where we happen to live or because of the families we were born in to, makes me angry. Sharing my country with people who apparently feel absolutely no responsibility or empathy for their fellow human beings makes me angry. Seeing undeniable racial lines when it comes to class, economics, and access to the basics like healthy food and a good education, living in a country with a deeply racist history that continues to thrive even if it’s easy for the economic elite to ignore, and then reading white people complain about “double standards” and “racist stereotypes against white people” as if the situations were anywhere near analogous makes me angry. Yes, I am angry. In the paraphrased immortal words of someone I can’t remember, if you aren’t angry, you’re not paying attention.

But it’s not Jane’s post that’s of primary interest to me (not to say that Jane’s post isn’t interesting — it is — and Jane is definitely an intelligent woman whose thoughts are worth reading, even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything). It’s this post from TJICistan that caught my eye. TJIC also links back to my food stamps/obesity post, quoting this paragraph:

What’s making you fat now? Food stamps.

The argument goes something like this: Low-income people are more likely to be overweight than wealthier Americans. Low-income people are often on food stamps. Therefore, we should re-vamp the foodstamp program because clearly federal food relief leads to obesity. Also, poor people today (read: uppity Negroes) feel entitled to things like food, unlike the humble poor of yesteryear (read: white people, as evidenced by the examples used by the conservative authors – the characters in “Cinderella Man” and “Angela’s Ashes”), who knew enough to be humiliated by their economic situation…

He responds:

The amusing thing is that when the poster goes way overboard trying to exaggerate the Republican stance on things, she gets about halfway to my position.

Except for the word “uppity” – that’s not really my kind of phrase.

He’ll just stick with “Negroes,” thank you very much.

(And for the record, I wasn’t trying to illustrate the “Republican” perspective so much as the argument of the authors of the Hoover article. But that’s beside the point.)

Earlier in his post he writes:

Yeah, dumb, privileged middle class white Jane Galt stayed in school, graduated, didn’t get pregant, didn’t yell at her bosses for “dissin’ her”, and thus, quickly ended up in the middle class…where she generates sufficient wealth to allow her to pay for her groceries herself, as opposed to making bad choices, generating minimal value, and being a net drain on the productivity of others.

How much do you want to bet that he’ll throw a hissy fit when I say he’s racist? Double points if he comes back and tells me that no, I’m the racist, because he’s colorblind and just expects those lazy black folks to pull their own weight the same way that hard-working white people do.

*I know we’ve been over this before, but I’m always entertained when female bloggers are accused of being “angry,” as if it’s horribly unbecoming, while the boy bloggers are just as angry, but coming from them it’s “passion” or “righteousness” or simply “exactly what you’d expect from a politically opinionated person.” What’s the deal? Is it because the furrowed brow doesn’t go so well with the titties?

A Conservative Trifecta: Fat-shaming, welfare-state-hating, and victim-blaming

What’s making you fat now? Food stamps.

The argument goes something like this: Low-income people are more likely to be overweight than wealthier Americans. Low-income people are often on food stamps. Therefore, we should re-vamp the foodstamp program because clearly federal food relief leads to obesity. Also, poor people today (read: uppity Negroes) feel entitled to things like food, unlike the humble poor of yesteryear (read: white people, as evidenced by the examples used by the conservative authors — the characters in “Cinderella Man” and “Angela’s Ashes”), who knew enough to be humiliated by their economic situation. From the Hoover Institute article:

The searing images of the Great Depression, and the movie’s themes of pride, humility, hard work, and family, present an interesting contrast to the plight of the poor today. Although there are no doubt many individuals and families in need, the picture of poverty in America today can best be described as muddled.

To which “independent woman” Charlotte Hays follows:

Well, that was then, and this is now: Today many people regard receiving food stamps not as a humiliation but as an entitlement. We’ve made it that way. At one point, there were food stamp ads in the New York subway. They were designed to show that even ordinary, middle class folks might have to resort to food stamps in a spot of trouble.

Imagine that: a program which sought to lessen the humiliation of being on food stamps. Ha. Everyone knows that the poor should be properly humiliated for their lack of income. It’s the compassionate conservative way.

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The Hyde Amendment

Women’s eNews has a great article about the anti-choice Hyde Amendment, and pro-choice efforts to dismantle it now that Hyde has left Congress.

A quick 101 for those who aren’t familiar with the Hyde Amendment: Passed in the late 1970s, the Hyde Amendment blocks federal Medicaid funding from paying for abortion. So if you’re a low-income woman who depends on government aid for your healthcare, your options are limited based on anti-choice ideology. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment in 1980, arguing that while abortion must be legal in the United States, the federal government is not required to pay for it. On the coattails of Hyde, most states have also barred their Medicaid funds from paying for abortion (New York is a notable exception). Further, under the “it has to be legal but we don’t have to pay for it” theory supported by the Supreme Court, the federal government has refused to provide certain reproductive healthcare services for women in the military, women who depend on Indian Health Services for their healthcare, some federal employees, federal prisoners, Peace Corps volunteers, and women on disability insurance.

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Why fix the problem when we can push for a feel-good policy that won’t work?

Apparently, there’s still a horrible crisis in education.  And the answer according to some pundits is to go back to single sex schools.

Advocates of single-sex education for girls believe that, in general, many girls thrive when educated apart from boys. Research concerning the academic achievement of girls suggests that in coeducational classrooms they often defer to boys, are called on less frequently than boys, receive significantly less teacher attention than boys, and are less likely than boys to study mathematics and science. Evidence suggests that attending single-sex schools improves many girls’ academic performance and attitude toward less traditional school subjects for girls while encouraging them to assume non-traditional career paths.

Microcredit Pioneer Wins Nobel Peace Prize

This is awesome.

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their pioneering use of tiny, seemingly insignificant loans — microcredit — to lift millions out of poverty.

Through Yunus’s efforts and those of the bank he founded, poor people around the world, especially women, have been able to buy cows, a few chickens or the cell phone they desperately needed to get ahead.

Microcredit has been a most effective tool for lifting people out of poverty. It’s also a means of empowering women, since the overwhelming majority of the loan recipients are women who are trying to provide for their families but just don’t have the money to buy the one small thing that could help them start a business or just have enough resources to create a surplus of wealth that lets them get ahead rather than simply spinning their wheels. And it has broader effects, as well:

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