Spreadin’ Love 566

Nicholas Kristof shows Charles Murray some love.

Today, I fear we’re facing a crisis in which a chunk of working-class America risks being calcified into an underclass, marked by drugs, despair, family decline, high incarceration rates and a diminishing role of jobs and education as escalators of upward mobility. We need a national conversation about these dimensions of poverty, and maybe Murray can help trigger it. I fear that liberals are too quick to think of inequality as basically about taxes. Yes, our tax system is a disgrace, but poverty is so much deeper and more complex than that.

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3 thoughts on “Spreadin’ Love 566

  1. One study of low-income delinquent young men in Boston found that one of the factors that had the greatest impact in turning them away from crime was marrying women they cared about. . . Jobs are also critical as a pathway out of poverty, and Murray is correct in noting that it is troubling that growing numbers of working-class men drop out of the labor force.
    This is just stupid. As expected in an article written by a man, we don’t get any insights on why, exactly white working class women should want to marry one of these unemployed juvenile delinquents.
    Married women earn less than single women, and a clean child-support check may end being more useful than a guy who comes with a bigger income but horrible money management skills.
    Shouldn’t we assume that poor women are, as a group, rational, and will start marrying poor white men when they behave in a manner that makes them worthy of marriage? Marriage began to decline just at the time that women started getting other (better) options.
    Looking at these ‘think pieces’ on Murray reads a little bit like reading: “After the Civil War, the combined earnings of the white landowners and the former slaves were less, combined, than the income of the plantation as a whole in the 1850s. The problem is therefore the breakup of the traditional plantation structure, and we should find a way to get it back. Yet for some reason the former slaves seem resistant, despite these economic charts we keep showing them . . .”

  2. “Marriage began to decline just at the time that women started getting other (better) options.”
    One of those being public assistance.
    I’m sure it’s very complicated to work out how the incentive systems work, but we do have to figure in the value of the various programs and cash assistance that a woman might become ineligible for if she married even a low-income man.

  3. Marriage aside, poverty benefits also may create an incentive where it doesn’t pay to make a little more money.
    Megan McArdle talks about that here, with charts:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/12/when-it-comes-to-taxes-on-the-poor-the-supply-siders-are-right/250099/
    Less seriously–can we pay poor people not to get neck, hand, and face tattoos? (Speaking of tattoos that may limit employment, my husband once saw a guy at an auto place working in shorts. The guy had WHITE tattooed on one calf and POWER on the other.)

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