Thursday, May 10, 2012

Egalite'

Social Mobility is decreasing in America...  But there's more to the story...

Liberals love rushing in with bad news that damns America, and social mobility studies provide handy buckets of cold water to throw in the faces of flag-waving conservatives. “Heh heh heh…this ain’t such a great place after all…” they seem to be telling us with a mischievous relish.  Inevitably, this leads to unhinged attacks on Ronald Reagan and irrational calls for higher taxes...

... Which leads to unfavorable comparisons to Europe, and the conversation turns to wealth transfer schemes and more generous handouts, totally ignoring Europe’s parlous financial state and recent cutbacks in their generous welfare programs.

What the progressives leave out

Depending on how you look at it, the comparisons are not nearly as bad as they would have us believe.  One overlooked fact is that overall quality of life has improved for everyone in the US over the last 50 years.  We all live longer and consumer products and gadgets that entertain us and make life easier are available to all.

Here's the other side of the coin:
Research for EMP conducted by my colleagues at the Brookings Institution Julia Isaacs, Isabel Sawhill, and Ron Haskins shows that two-thirds of 40-year-old Americans are in households with larger incomes than their parents had at the same age, even taking into account the fact that the cost of living has risen.
That’s pretty impressive, but it actually understates the improvement between generations. Household size declined over these decades, so incomes now are divided up among fewer family members, leaving them better off than bigger households of the past. Another EMP study shows that when incomes are adjusted for household size, four out of five adults today are better off than their parents were at the same age. (Mobility Impaired)
There is no social mobility problem among the middle 60-80%. The “stickiness” occurs at the top and bottom.

The rich...
Among children with parents in the top fifth, 40 percent will remain there themselves, and nearly two-thirds of them will remain in the top two fifths. Again, the point is not that none or few of them deserve to be there. But practices such as legacy admissions to Ivy League schools clearly allow some advantaged children to coast in ways that sap economic growth.
The poor...
One study compared the United States with Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the United Kingdom. It found that in each country, whether looking at sons or at daughters, 23 to 30 percent of children whose fathers were in the bottom fifth of earnings remained in the bottom fifth themselves as adults — except in the United States, where 42 percent of sons remained there (Mobility Impaired)
Progressives enjoy damning the rich…
If it were learned that the car driven by the average American is 10 times more likely to burst into flames than the car driven by the richest 1%, what should the policy response be? Should it be to mandate that cars driven by the rich burst into flames more often?(The Inequality Obsession)
Many on the left seem to be advocating for that approach. Redistribution schemes won’t work and they are un-American. On the other hand, we should all be for scraping the rent-seeking leeches from the ship of state and purging the corporate moles from our government. Our federal government serves the rich and mindlessly bribes the rest of us without truly focusing in on those who really need help, and it needs to stop. Beyond that, I see nothing wrong with rich people and their progeny stubbornly clinging to the top so long as they are doing it legally.

Helping the bottom 20% help themselves

Clearly, we need to focus on providing those on the bottom a ladder out.  Data shows that education and family stability are key factors in escaping poverty

Walter E Williams has observed that following these steps leads to success every time:

* Graduate high school
* Get married before you have children
* If you get married, stay married
* Get a job, any job. A minimum wage job is a stepping stone
* Avoid engaging in criminal behavior

As a society, we should throw in the elimination of school districts drawn up by the rich to wall themselves off from the poor.  We should also embrace innovations like a longer school day where homework is done at school since we know many students go home to an environment not conducive to getting your studies done. Let's face that fact and find a way to deal with it.

Putting the pointing fingers away and helping the bottom 20% help themselves is infinitely more productive than engaging in eat the rich rhetoric.
Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built. -- Abraham Lincoln

Update:  I've asked Ducky to put up or shut up, so I'll do the same.  Here are three posts where I talk about poverty in America.  In each of the posts are links to authoritative sources that support Dr Williams's Steps to Success.

State-Sponsored Suicide 
Poverty and Immorality go Hand in Hand
Child Poverty and Single Childhood

Here's further food for thought:
Is Social Mobility Overrated?
OECD Study
The Inequality Obsession

22 comments:

Always On Watch said...

As a society, we should throw in the elimination of school districts drawn up by the rich to wall themselves off from the poor.

It is not only the richer school districts excluding students from across the line.

Recently here in the Washington, D.C, area, we have the case of Sierra Hammond. A longer article HERE in the Washington Post.

Anyone who knows about the Prince George's County Public School System, knows full well why Sierra's mother fled to the adjacent county for her daughter's education. It is not a race issue! The PG County Schools are a disaster -- along the lines of the schools in the District of Columbia.

BTW, PG County is the only county around here that will hire new police officers with a drug-abuse record. I kid you not.

Ducky's here said...

Bravo for realizing the loss of mobility is occurring.

Jeers for not realizing along with the idiot Williams that mobility is shrinking as well as prosperity in the group that follows his rules.

Pitch till you win. We have let the market commodify everything in our lives and let it intrude in institutions where it doesn't belong.
Enjoy the upward wealth transfer or get off your fucking knees.

Ducky's here said...

Also try Michael Sandel's new book What Money Can't Buy .

I think he has been effective describing our blunder in letting the market enter institutions where it doesn't belong. Doesn't belong if you care about the health of participatory democracy that is.

Silverfiddle said...

Not interested in your leftwing screeds.

The real problem is government intruding in markets where it doesn't belong.

Government has destroyed at least ten times more lives that the "robber barons" ever did.

Silverfiddle said...

@Ducky: mobility is shrinking as well as prosperity in the group that follows his rules.

To put it bluntly, I don't believe you. Provide some facts so we can examine your claim.

conservativesonfire said...

It doesn't take a genius to look around and see that countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRICs) are making their economies more free and they are reaping the benefits. Europe and the US are making their economies less free and are seeing the opposite effect. No where is the free market needed more than in our education sysytem.

Silverfiddle said...

For anyone interesting in delving further into the source date used by pundits on all sides...

Brookings - Creating an Opportunity Society

Ducky's here said...

conservative on fire --- the situation in India is similar to most developing laissez-faire economies. A relatively small number of people are indeed doing very well but there's more to the story.

The majority of the population is in farming and they are getting reamed. Suicides are skyrocketing and their poverty worsens.

Now you may think that's just their fault for not making better decisions or for simply being the losers in the market economy. But it may also be a structural defect in capitalism. One that Libertarians refuse to admit because that would mean that the market is not gospel and infallible.

I took a pretty good photo of the posters here at Western Hero.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/77953387@N05/7167071786/in/photostream

Jack Camwell said...

Call me crazy (and some of you might) but I think the upward mobility discussion is sort of outdated, at least for America.

This is not 18th Century Britain where nearly everyone is living in crap standards and the nobility keep everyone out.

This is not some third world country where people are kept ignorant and uneducated.

It seems to me that any society will hit a peak when it comes to upward mobility. We can't all be CEOs. We can't all end up making $100,000 a year.

Considering the facts that you pointed out, Silver, the discussion of upward mobility is pretty irrelevant today. If you're middle class in America, you've likely got a good home, a car, food on the table every night, all the entertainment things you could want, and some money left over (if you do it right).

Why the hell are we complaining about upward mobility when most Americans' needs are met, and then some?

Silverfiddle said...

You make a good point, Jack. Relative to many other parts of the world, our bottom 20% live pretty well.

Still, it is a legitimate point of investigation to figure out why 30-some percent stay stuck at the bottom. Brookings provides some good data.

Liberalmann said...

And what you leave out is the fact that our corporate controlled politicians, the GOP, the Koch Brothers and the wacko media are all actively trying to thwart social mobility by destroying the middle class.

Ducky's here said...

The problem is obvious, Jack.

We DID NOT reach that state of affairs through a strictly corporatist/consumer culture.

Much of what allowed us to get there is decaying and eroding due to the current economic/political climate.

WE ARE LOSING GROUND and it is a problem world wide.

Silverfiddle said...

Liberalman: You left out the democrat party.

Ducky's here said...

No, he wrote corporate controlled politicians .

viburnum said...

Ducky: "Much of what allowed us to get there is decaying and eroding due to the current economic/political climate."

You're halfway home Ducky. Now if we can only get you to recognize the causes we'll make a Libertarian of you yet.

Ducky's here said...

The problem you have their viburnum is denying the role of the left in America's history.
The robber baron era was not a resounding success, lot of suffering.

No, I don't want to go back there any more than I want to deny the need for markets to effect efficient pricing.

When you get right down to it, we are social animals with unique individual personalities. The tug between the communal and the individual will always be necessary.
The trick is to avoid the extremes of Libertarianism and Communism. My bias is towards the communal so I throw in with democratic socialism.

Our current government throws in with greed and insults any thinking individual who is sincerely trying to work this out.

Silverfiddle said...

I appreciate your candor Ducky. But let's really get honest and admit both parties have been captured by moneyed interests.

It's embarrassing when people on the left give the party of war profiteers like Diane Feinstein a free pass. Such facile tricks are beneath you, they really are.

viburnum said...

Ducky: "Our current government throws in with greed and insults any thinking individual who is sincerely trying to work this out."

Agreed as to government being the problem, but if that's the case how can you support more of it? Social programs have turned large segments of the populace into virtual wards of the state, driving us into debt so they can be farmed by politicians for votes. Aren't we better served by ideals of personal freedom and responsibility?

Ducky's here said...

Silver, where do you get the idea I support these clowns?

I can't stomach Dianne Feinstein. She's worse than freaking Obummer.

I can't abide Joe Lieberman, Jim Inhofe, Ben Nelson, John Kerry, Mary Landrieu, David Vitter, Jim Webb, Jeff Sessions, Kelly Ayotte, Jon Kyl, Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, Jim DeMint, Harry Reis, Chuck Schumer, Rand Paul ... get the drift?

Unfortunately the electorate seems to be comprised of mentally diseased people who think Allen West is a patriot.

The populace has been so brainwashed they think this freaking election means something substantial. Pathetic.

Finntann said...

"Social programs have turned large segments of the populace into virtual wards of the state, driving us into debt so they can be farmed by politicians for votes."

True, but don't also forget that economic programs have turned large segments of the business world into virtual wards of the state as well. They however, are farmed for money by politicians which can be turned into votes. The same can pretty much be said about Unions too.

I don't think the majority of us here would deny the important role the left has played in American history. My Great Great Grandfather died in a mine explosion, my Grandfather was active in the International Union of Operating Engineers, in fact my family has a long union history. I fully acknowledge the important role unions played in our history, but face it, unions aren't what they started out to be.

I will also fully acknowledge that a monopoly in business or capital is a bad thing.

Can you acknowledge that a monopoly on labor is also? Is not a closed shop a monopoly on labor? Does it not put the union in the same position as any other monopolist?

If I may be so bold, shouldn't your statement:

"The trick is to avoid the extremes of Libertarianism and Communism."

Have Libertarianism spelled with a small 'l'? Are not your issues with libertarianism issues with Anarchists, Anarcho-Capitalists, Minarchists, Hard Objectivists, Egoists, etc? Extremists that I myself have issues with? I am certainly not an anarchist, or even a minarchist.

Would we not be just as well served to avoid the extremes of the both the Republican and Democratic parties?

Was Gary Johnson an extremist as Governor of New Mexico?

As Thoreau said:

"That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe— "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have."

But as Thoreau also said:

"But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government."

The main problem I have with the left is that whenever confronted with a problem it seems the first and only solution to that problem that pops into their heads is more government.

We don't need more government, we need better government.

Cheers!

Right Wing Theocrat said...

Ask a 3rd world refugee where he'd like to go - gun toting, racist, homophobic, fascist-christian ruled, war mongering America OR welfare state, free abortions, multi-culti Europe and they'll still pick America.

When they start picking Europe, let me know then I'll start looking to that socialist paradise for better ways to do things.

Anonymous said...

can't abide Joe Lieberman, Jim Inhofe, Ben Nelson, John Kerry, Mary Landrieu, David Vitter, Jim Webb, Jeff Sessions, Kelly Ayotte, Jon Kyl, Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, Jim DeMint, Harry Reis, Chuck Schumer, Rand Paul ... get the drift?

Yes, of course. Apparently, Canardo hates EVERYBODY, except Karl Marx, whom he won't admit to adoring as his spiritual mentor.

~ FreeThinke