Pity the Poor Super-Rich

When the welfare debate was raging in the 80s and 90s, I never understood how a group with so little power–poor single women, often minority–were misperceived as having such a huge effect on society, while those who had the lion’s share of power weren’t to blame at all. More importantly, there was a bizarre assumption that whatever effects poor single women might have were entirely their fault.

In light of the collapsing Jenga Pile o’Shit known as the ‘subprime’ mortgage /foreclosure/ ‘jingle mail’/ Bear Stearns crisis, blaming poor women does seem a little silly. I’m surprised the housing meltdown hasn’t been blamed on poor, single mothers. Everything else is.
Daniel Gross brings on the snark (italics mine):

In the underclass, unmarried, young fathers don’t take responsibility for their children. In the overclass, twice-married, middle-aged Wall Street daddies don’t own up to the consequences of their insane financial miscues. Wall Street titans are almost incapable of seeing the problem with taking nine-figure payouts in years in which their stocks plummet. “There’s just a total disconnect between the compensation and the responsibility for their actions,” says William Cohan, a former Lazard banker turned author.
In his book The Age of Abundance, libertarian author Brink Lindsey boils down the difference between the desperately poor and the blissfully rich to an ability to focus on the long term. “Members of the underclass operate within such narrow time horizons and circles of trust that their lives are plagued by chronic chaos and dysfunction,” he says. By contrast, elites are well-organized long-term thinkers. Riiiiight. “Modern Wall Street is a system,” says Charles Morris–a former Chase banker and author of The Trillion Dollar Meltdown–“that rewards crazy risk-taking in the short term without regard for the long-term consequences.”
Critics point to a pervasive sense of victimhood in the underclass. But listen to what Bear Stearns CEO Alan Schwartz told the troops after his firm succumbed to wounds that were almost entirely self-inflicted. “We here are a collective victim of violence,” he said. Yep, just another case of the Man keeping the Man down.

Degenerate rich white culture….

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6 Responses to Pity the Poor Super-Rich

  1. MAJeff, OM says:

    With all those Welfare Queens buying up the Vodka and Cadillacs, what’s left for a poor CEO to buy?

  2. Todd says:

    As long as that myth that anyone can make it in America is maintained, the events that are transpiring now will continue to happen.

  3. Eric Lund says:

    I’m surprised the housing meltdown hasn’t been blamed on poor, single mothers. Everything else is.

    It hasn’t been directly blamed on poor, single mothers, but many of the posters who frequent blogs that specialize in this topic blame the buyers–some of whom are either single mothers or poor, and a few are both–for their dire financial straits. Never mind that the buyers were steered into loans with horrific terms by bankers or mortgage brokers who knew or should have known that the borrowers could never afford to repay the loans. Never mind that when state officials raised alarms about the practice, Bush’s Office of the Comptroller of Currency stepped in and preempted all of the relevant state laws.
    In fairness, many other posters on those sites do blame the banks and mortgage companies.

  4. I wonder if you saw this article in the Globe about Charles Kareis’ take on the question of why poor people don’t do a better job of long-term planning (speaking in generalities).
    Basically, his argument as I understand it, is that the central aspect of being poor is not so much not having money as it is having lots of problems, and that the marginal utility of fixing one of your problems declines when you have lots of other problems which would remain untouched.
    I see this a lot among my students – basically when you fall far enough down in wealth, your life starts to fall apart in a dozen or a hundred ways, and you end up either frantically trying to ward off a series of impending disasters, or just giving in and giving up. In other words, the “operat[ing] within such narrow time horizons and circles of trust” is a result, not so much a cause or not only a cause, of the fact “that their lives are plagued by chronic chaos and dysfunction”.

  5. Michael Jefferis says:

    With reference to “why poor people don’t do a better job of long-term planning”
    Spare cash on hand has a lot to do with whether or not ones life can be managed by short or long term planning.
    If you are poor (no spare cash at all) every problem that could be fixed with money is magnified. If you have a flat tire, you can’t get it fixed because you don’t have any money (and it is the spare tire you have been running on for a year), you are very late to work, your pay is docked, you fall a little further behind. You find $20 on the street which you spend on vodka because you won’t get another chance to obtain some relief. The tire will cost $30 to fix anyway, so why deprive yourself of a rare chance for a little pleasure.
    Poor people know (from experience) that spare money is a rarity and that during the next 30 days an unrewarding event (like your sister begging for money to pay her gas bill) will take it away from them. Saving doesn’t make sense because it just causes more deprivation. (Saving money for a rainy day only makes sense if you actually have spare cash at the end of the month. If you are poor, expenses always exceed income.)
    Further, if your grandmother and your mother were also poor, you probably grew up in a “culture of poverty.” Even if your income matches expenses, you will not have learned very much about saving or planning.
    It is not typical for an otherwise fortunate child of the middle class to behave AS IF they had grown up in a culture of poverty. A university student may be broke and in debt (and the absence of cash will magnify every problem) but they do not expect this situation to be their life’s story. These children carry the markers of a prosperous background and will probably be able to access very helpful resources (like a job, a loan, a gift) that someone from the culture of poverty won’t be able to access. There are markers for the culture of poverty–dress, grooming, language, posture, emotions, etc.) that prospective employers, bankers, and charitable individuals usually don’t like. (And I haven’t even mentioned race.)
    Very poor people often behave as if they had nothing to lose, and generally they are correct. So, you are on general assistance, living in a Catholic Charities building, and dining at a food program. You decide to sign up for a cell phone. Stupid? What is the worst thing that can happen? After you fail to pay the first bill your service will be cut off. Big deal. Will that ruin your credit rating? Credit rating? What credit rating? So what if I spent most of my welfare check to start service. What disaster would $70 prevent?
    Socialist friends are predicting a depression – with some joy, because the worse things get, the sooner the revolution – a fanciful idea, of course. But it does seem that more and more people are being forced into an economic depression – its just not happening as fast or dramatically as it did beginning in 1929. The economic decline is manifested in the slowly growing number of people (who would think of themselves as middle class) who find that they no longer have spare cash, and some no longer have assets than can draw upon (thanks to banks pushing home equity loans, etc.) even though they are employed. They are finding that their formerly effective methods of planning are now irrelevant.

  6. drdrA says:

    I wish on every person who has ever told me (and since I live in a very very conservative area this happens quite a bit) that it’s the victim that is to blame (be they victims of poverty, rape.. fill in your favorite category)- the opportunity to live in the shoes of that victim for just one day. I honestly believe that those who blame poor people for not bettering their own position can not imagine, in their wildest imagination what its like to live in poverty.
    An great book ‘Class Matters’ by Bill Keller has a quite excellent summary of this subject.

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