Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Poison of Poverty

Paul Krugman’s editorial does a lot of stating the glaringly obvious. And while it could serve as a primer for “Social Inequality 101,” it perhaps simplifies things a bit too dangerously.

I mean revelations like this “in modern America parental status trumps ability: students who did very well on a standardized test but came from low-status families were slightly less likely to get through college than students who tested poorly but had well-off parents.”

Uh, duh. You needed a study to realize this? Poor people can’t pay for college like rich people can regardless of how smart you are, the whole “free ride” thing doesn’t really happen, and dumb rich people end up going to Yale and becoming President, not exactly a news flash.

Most of the article is like that, totally true, but painfully obvious.

Here however, are my two problems with it:

1) “Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are proposing new initiatives against poverty. But their proposals are modest in scope and far from central to their campaigns. I’m not blaming them for that; if a progressive wins this election, it will be by promising to ease the anxiety of the middle class rather than aiding the poor.”

Why? Aren’t there poor democrats and republicans, and don’t they vote? And if poor people don’t vote, wouldn’t a candidate who doesn’t deny their existence stir them to vote? Am I being naive to assume that a “progressive” candidate who actually acts progressive and don’t play to the middle of the road would win more admiration than a panderer? And that this kind of settling, excusing, and letting off the hook-ness is what has got us in such a mess? Krugman says that health care not poverty should be the #1 priority, but aren’t the two hugely linked?

2)The ills and burdens of poverty, in childhood, in rich countries, in the world in general can’t be emphasized enough, but lines like “Poverty in early childhood poisons the brain.” Make me a little itchy, it seems like a statement that could be misused to say things like “Poor people aren’t as bright as rich people, because they are poor and because they aren’t so smart, that’s why they stay poor.” Which I realize is not at all what they are saying, but sound-byte able quotes like that often get co-opted by the enemy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Things I learned from Reading

Whilst reading the paper this weekend I learned two things:

1) Polaroid is going to stop making film, which just seems wrong, after all “Shake it like a picture using the technology licensed by Polaroid.” Just doesn’t have the same ring to it…

2) What a Super Delegate is (hint: they will decide who the Democratic nominee is and they are comprised of a lot congress members, former presidents, and the like, so it’s pretty obvious who will win)

Which got me thinking about how totally f-ed up our electoral process is. The Onion breaks it down

Here are a few of my favorites:

Election 08 Glossary

Caucus: The process by which Americans are quadrennially reminded of Iowa's existence.

Democracy: A moderately representative plutocracy.

Electoral college: A process by which the number of states in the Union is narrowed down to the most important seven or eight.

Hope: An intangible object within every American that is destroyed every four years in November.

Likability : The degree to which each candidate is able to hide the extent to which he or she is full of shit.

Rock The Vote: Something that is, apparently, still happening.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Time for Change is Now

I read this joke earlier this week (I don’t remember who wrote it), but it seems appropriate in light of the super close results of Super Tuesday:

It gave a lot of black people hope when a black man beat a white women in Iowa, but you might get in trouble if you carry that over into your life. You can’t just go around pushing white women over and saying “Our Time for Change is Now!”

But what about gently nudging them and whispering it in their ear?

And is it socially acceptable to push John McCain over?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Key to Not Feeling Poor: Find New Friends

It’s a cute idea to try to put a happy face on the effects of the impending recession . But it’s horribly misguided. The author of the article laments how his hood (my own South Park Slope, although it sounds like he lives in the fancier more actually Park Slope part) has changed since he moved there, all the authentic shops getting pushed out for the yuppiefied ones. But, ahem, didn’t you start/continue the gentrification by moving there? I know I did, I know my block has changed a lot in the 2 ½ years I’ve lived there. And it’s not like I’m pro gentrification by any means, but you can’t really criticize your neighbors for doing the same thing you are.

And as he seems to be struggling with, you can’t call Wall Street types dicks if you secretly (or publicly) envy their fancy shit. So, yeah the guy on the subway was totally right about both of you. It doesn’t make you a better person just because you feel guilty about your materialism, nor does dissing your “poor” roots while waxing nostalgic about a time and place where everyone went without.

So my solution to save money on therapy trying to reconcile your wealth-lust/liberal guilt is this: Stop hanging out with such douchebags. Seriously, all of the friends mentioned in this article sound insufferable: $300 bottles of wine? Paying someone to decorate your apartment? Flying your friends to Mexico for your birthday? Here’s some insight, maybe the suffocating feeling of the “commodification” of New York has something do with the company you keep. These aren’t a good representation of your average New Yorker.

Oh and the joy of a cheap, uncomplicated life? Yeah unemployment and food stamps are super charming…