Sunday, February 03, 2013

Why the Poor Fail

Eli, industrious bunny that his is was following some chicken tracks today when he wandered across Tim Worstall's blog.  Tim is one of those Galt in their own mind types and his boyz are of the same ilk. The topic was income inequality and Tim is for it.  From his point of view he earned his.  Fair enough, but there is an important subtext which is captured in two of the comments

  • Dennis The Peasant // Feb 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm
    What people like Reich fail to see is this:
    Much inequality results not because of the violence inhernet in the system, but because people make extremely poor life choices.
    And that ain’t our problem.
  • Martin Davies // Feb 3, 2013 at 9:45 pm
    If you chucked money at people making poor life choices, they’d still make poor life choices.Lost count of the number of times I’ve been told so and so has had a hard life. So for some reason they decided not to make a change then?
    Put a free opportunity in front of a hundred people and you won’t have all of them choosing to use it.
The question, of course, is why do the poor make bad choices, and Eli's visceral point of view was set by where he grew up but intellectually it was captured by George Orwell in the Road to Wigan Pier
Now compare this list with the unemployed miner’s budget that I gave earlier. The miner’s family spend only tenpence a week on green vegetables and tenpence half-penny on milk (remember that one of them is a child less than three years old), and nothing on fruit; but they spend one and nine on sugar (about eight pounds of sugar, that is) and a shilling on tea. The half-crown spent on meat might represent a small joint and the materials for a stew; probably as often as not it would represent four or five tins of bully beef. The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes–an appalling diet. Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food  A millionairemay enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable , you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let’s have three pennorthof chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and we’ll all have a nice cup of tea! That is how your mind works when you are at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don’t nourish you to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the English-man’s opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread.
There is much truth in this but it turns out that it is a middle class simplification of something much deeper rooted.  Anuj K. Shah, Sendhil Mullainathan, and  Eldar Shafir from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago published the results of a series of experiments in Science last November, investigating "Some Consequences of Having Too Little."  What are they.  We know what the problem is
The poor often behave in ways that reinforce poverty. For instance, low-income individuals often play lotteries, fail to enroll in assistance programs, save too little, and borrow too much. 
There are two general frames for this behavior, the first we could call progressive and Robert Reich almost certainly signs onto that
The first focuses on the circumstances of poverty, such as education (6), health (7), living conditions (8), political representation (9), and numerous demographic and geographic variables (10, 11). Put simply, the poor live in environments (for sociological, political, economic, or other reasons) that promote these behaviors.
Basically it is all of our faults and as Orwell points out being poor sucks so let's have a sweet.  The second is that of Tim Worstall and Dennis the Phesant and Martin Davis, it is the fault of the poor for making bad choices and their poverty is their own choice.

Shah and colleagues have a different point of view
When money is abundant, basic expenses (e.g., groceries, rent) are handled easily as they arise. These expenses come and go, rarely requiring attention and hardly lingering on the mind. But when money is scarce, expenses are not easily met. Instead of appearing mundane, they feel urgent. The very lack of available resources makes each expense more insistent and more pressing. A trip to the grocery store looms larger, and this month’s rent constantly seizes our attention. Because these problems feel bigger and capture our attention, we engage more deeply in solving them. This is our theory’s core mechanism: Having less elicits greater focus.
This is actually a general principal that applies not only to the poor, but to those for whom any resource, for example time, is scarce
And this hypothesis is about scarcity more generally, not just poverty. Indeed, just as expenses capture the attention of the poor, researchers have found that people who are hungry and thirsty focus more on food- and drink-related cues Likewise, the busy (facing time scarcity) respond to deadlines with greater focus on the task at hand.  Across many contexts, we see a similar psychology. People focus on problems where scarcity is most salient.
The pressing need to get through today leads to the neglect of tomorrow and the disasters that follow.
Because scarcity elicits greater engagement in some problems, it leads to neglect of others. While focusing on the groceries from week to week,we might neglect next month’s rent.While consumed with meeting tomorrow’s manuscript deadline, we might fail to prepare next week’s lecture. Attentional neglect appears in many domains. Low-income homeowners often do not attend to regular home maintenance while they focus on more pressing expenses. Neglected, these small repairs become major projects. 
This hypothesis provides a simple explanation of why the poor fall into the toils of the pay day lenders
Attentional neglect can explain another particularly striking behavior: why low-income individuals take short-term, high-interest loans, with interest rates that can approach 800%. These loans make it easier to meet today’s needs, but the loans’ deferred costs make it difficult to meet future expenses. If scarcity creates a focus on pressing expenses today, then attention will go to a loan’s benefits but not its costs. This suggests a clear prediction: Scarcity, of any kind, will create a tendency to borrow, with insufficient  attention to whether the benefits outweigh the costs.
 But cast in that frame we see ourselves
Consistent with this prediction, the busy also borrow. Facing tight budgets (i.e., deadlines), they borrow time by taking extensions. Like the poor, the busy often take extensions because they focus on urgent tasks, but neglect important tasks that seem less pressing. We suggest that both forms of borrowing stem from how scarcity shifts attention.
So if the poor are not morally deficient, the question remains what to do to help them.  Shah, et al.,  think that pointing out to people what their future needs are will help.  They are at the business school at the University of Chicago after all.  Eli demurs, remember that colleague who recommended you start working on that paper, grant recommendation, etc a few months ago.  You know she was right, you also know that you ignored her.  A straightforward reading of Shah, et al., is that the most effective method of dealing with poverty is to give the poor money.  This will break the heads of Dennis Martin and Tim, but, at least on the first level it is the answer that science provides.  Giving people a job without removing the stresses associated with poverty will not work because they will neglect their work under the pressure of their other problems.  One needs to provide the poor the space they need to devote the necessary energy to their work and lives.

Shah et al imply that the US welfare reforms of the 1990s were doomed.

UPDATE:  The Orwellian 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act has had little effect on poverty in the US, which continues to scale with the economy.  What has happened is that other mechanisms (e.g. food stamps and unemployment) have taken the place of cash payments.


55 comments:

Hank Roberts said...

Op. cit.

Anonymous said...

"Shah et al imply that the US welfare reforms of the 1990s were doomed."

I disagree that is what Shah et al imply and even if the paper did, there is little truth in it.


See here.

"That the 1996 welfare
reform was a success, in overall terms and on average, is
almost universally accepted by policy analysts and researchers."

http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/focus/pdfs/foc261c.pdf

Pinko Punko said...

That guy has Kim du Toit on his blogroll.

This is back in the DAY

Dennis the P, if the same one, is most famous for getting mad at Charles "Little Green Football" over the plotting of PJM.

This is a meeting of the supergeniuses club.

Pinko Punko said...

Oh man. Tim Blair too. Wow.

cRR Kampen said...

Cui bono?

/cRR

Anonymous said...

More literary allusion:

I often ask those who put forward the view that it's all about the life choices to read Grapes of Wrath & tell me what they would have done differently to the Joads and their bretheren.

Of course, not many of them ever bother...

anonySpilopsyllus

andrew adams said...

Worstall can occasionally have interesting things to say, especially when he gets away from economics, but most of his blog posts are along the lines of "here is something someone on the left said, aren't they stupid", with subsequent piling on from his like-minded followers - it's just lazy stuff.

On this particular issue I have made a couple of more substantive arguments in the comments to the piece Eli linked to but all I'll say here is that if only I'd have chosen to go to Eton instead of the local comprehensive school then I could have been Prime Minister instead of David Cameron. My own dumb fault.

Tim Worstall said...

"The topic was income inequality and Tim is for it. "

It's amazing how you divine that really. The post was actually about this quote:

"Half of the US’s total assets are now owned by just 400 people – 400! – and, Reich contests that this is not just a threat to the economy, but also to democracy."

And how it's simply not true. Which it isn't, true that is.

b. j. edwards said...

It's hard work being poor, and time consuming. Not only must the poor focus on, say, affording to buy food, they are often without transportation to a grocery store, relying on friends or relatives who might have a working car at the time. In rural areas this is particularly true. Ditto with access to health care, where many poor never see a doctor and rely on hospital emergency rooms dozens of miles away - when and if they can get transportation.

Not having resources nor choices is a big deal.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Why does anyone "fail"? Life kind of goes in all directions, doesn't it?

Jay said...

It's not nearly as interesting as a discussion on actual things to do with poverty - but the film actually argues (I believe in a second hand sort of way) that the richest 400 people in the US account for as much wealth as the bottom 50%, which is very different to what Mr Tim Worstall is flailing at - that the richest 400 people have 50% of the wealth.

I'm fairly sure that the bottom 50% don't have 50% of the wealth. Hence the inequality.

Jay sometimes likes to wonder how it is some characters who like to tell poor folk how it is actually make their own monies. Perhaps it's not always down to vastly superior character and intellect after all?

EliRabett said...

Tim is against income inequality? Who knew?

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

The basic problem with severe income inequality is that the economy is not designed to respond to customers/consumers, but rather to dollars. If the 1% control too much and the bottom half too little, the bottom half will be ignored--as in the food deserts of urban areas and the cultural and service wastelands of the US hinterland. After all, why subsist on nickels and dimes when you can clean up selling luxury goods to the 1%.

guthrie said...

Tim also lives in fairy land if he thinks that increased concentration of assets in the hands of people who are likely to use the money from said assets to influence politicians isn't a threat to democracy.

See also the Koch's, teaparty, lobbying, tax reductions etc etc.

Bryson said...

This same attentional problem has a lot to do with government policy failures: we're told, over and over, that government hasn't got (and can't have) the resources to fund education (when a few decades ago, despite being much poorer in absolute terms, we could build new universities, hire new teachers, and pay wages to them that were not constantly being driven down). We can't ensure access to decent health care, or pay for the infrastructure and energy systems we need to begin a transition to a low-carbon economy.

So instead we debate cuts to social security and medicare, blame teachers for poor educational outcomes and privatize schools-for-profit despite little or no evidence of improved outcomes, fantasize about using heroic violence to defend our rights while ignoring the consequences of 'guns-for-all, everywhere' policies, and obsess about 'socialism', 'Nazi-ism' and the black man in the oval office. A little confidence that we can still do great things would go a long way.

Hank Roberts said...

> people

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

> And how it's simply not true.
> Which it isn't, true that is.

What?

Look at the _circulation_ pattern and velocity of money, and then look at whether or not the people involved have a biological basis.

Most of the "money" isn't real; it's "indebtedness" -- "obligations to pay" -- and we know those illusions can be and are created far faster than the natural world.

Eventually you have to stripmine your field and eat the seed corn to pay the mortgage.

Then where are you, people?

-----------
Excerpt from: "Are Financial Markets Sustainable?" by Use Haiss and Atul Shah, Department of Accounting, Finance and Management, University of Essex, January 1999.
----------------------------------

... the modern world has actually converted debt into wealth. Positive wealth, in the form of physical assets such as land, houses, cars, etc. is ultimately perishable, but negative wealth (i.e. debt) need not be so. In fact, it is much more convenient to own 'debt' than physical assets:
"... the ruling passion of individuals in a modern economy is to convert wealth into debt in order to derive a permanent future income from it -- to convert wealth that perishes into debt that endures, debt that does not rot, costs nothing to maintain and brings in perennial interest" (p. 423). They explain further: (p. 424) "Although debt can follow the law of compound interest, the real energy revenue from future sunshine, the real future income against which debt is a lien, cannot grow at compound interest for long. When converted into debt, however, wealth discards its corruptible body to take an incorruptible one. In so doing, debt appears to offer a means of dodging nature, of evading the second law of thermodynamics, the law of randomisation, rust and rot. But the idea that all people can live off the interest of their mutual indebtedness is just another perpetual motion scheme -- a vulgar delusion on a grand scale."
-----
Daly H, and J. Cobb, 1994, "For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environmentf and a Sustainable Future" -- Beacon Press, Boston.

eveningperson said...

I don't know whether the paper is correct, but it is interesting to see some economists recognise that being poor is not the same problem as being rich. Normally economists assume that the former is like the other except that you just earn less and therefore will (or should) spend less.

Which is not true. But then, most of economics is not true, and the bits that economists tell the public are less true than the bits that economists themselves tell each other.

The advantage of the prevailing orthodoxy is that it 'works' over limited ranges of microeconomics over limited periods of time, and therefore has usefulness over the sort of spans in which business works. On the basis of which, people like Tim Worstall feel able to spout generalities on a much grander scale with their political motive a little disguised with an illusion of scientific truth.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

I wonder if anyone else sees any parallels to other "institutions" in which an underclass is obligated to support an overclass--feudalism, slavery. Take a look at your credit card bill next time and note the "minumum payment and the interest rate. Do the math and figure out how long it would take you to pay it off. How is that not indentured servitude?

Anonymous said...

"Take a look at your credit card bill next time and note the "minumum payment and the interest rate. Do the math and figure out how long it would take you to pay it off. How is that not indentured servitude?"


It is not, because you have a choice to pay more than the minimum. You have a choice not to use the credit card.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lumpus Spookytooth, phd.

I think the worst thing going on right now is middle class, college aged kids taking loans for college, then instead spending the money on clothing and booze, then failing out and not paying the loan back. I know several people who have done this, due to my younger age.

J Bowers said...

Here come Anon and Lumpus to defend the strong from oppression by the weak.

dhogaza said...

"I think the worst thing going on right now is middle class, college aged kids taking loans for college, then instead spending the money on clothing and booze, then failing out and not paying the loan back. I know several people who have done this, due to my younger age."

While many of us older people remember when state schools were so cheap, a student loan wouldn't cover the cost of booze ...

Anonymous said...

"Here come Anon and Lumpus to defend the strong from oppression by the weak."

Here comes J Bowers with lies and BS.

Anonymous said...

a_ray asks a question and I answer it and I am a shill for the rich.


What group protective think we have here at Rubbish Run. Do not evaluate any information that counters either your pre-conceptions or a "team" member, but immediately attack and froth at anyone who dare try to introduce another viewpoint or additional information on any given topic.


J Bowers you should hang out with Bernard, two peas in conformist pod.


Dave said...

Acemoglu argues persuasively it is generally the lack of institutions which would encourage them to make better choices.

I think this is probably the most useful answer, because it explains the others: institutions -> incentives -> choices -> outcomes.

That does leave open other questions, though -- why do we have the incentives we have today, and what are they, exactly, and how much should we really care anyway? I was fairly happy being a poor student, and in my days of working 60-hour weeks to get through a couple degrees and acquire certain elements of consumption and social status I came to admire a local man who possessed little but a constant smile. Now, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt this man had chosen to be poor (in a respectable rural fashion that involved taking little from others, I hasten to add), and to this day I cannot argue he had made a "bad" choice relative to mine. As the Spanish don't say, "se la vi."

Dave said...

BTW, I should point out, that poverty measure doesn't mean much, because it's relative, meaning it's virtually impossible to eliminate "poverty" no matter how high living standards rise for the bottom quintile (call me cynical for wondering if that's a feature or a bug).

Let's say in 2050 the poverty line is, oh, today's median PPP GDP per capita of around $50K. If 20% of the population is below that line, does society still have a "growing poverty problem," even if virtually everyone is above today's "poverty line"? I think the answer is either "no" or "why the hell would we care, they're all rich bastards?" And if this all seems overly hypothetical, well, today's poverty line is about where real 1950s median incomes stood, and virtually no one lives below the 1950s poverty line today.

Jeffrey Davis said...

It's very difficult to discharge school loans via bankruptcy.

Jon said...

@Dave

You seem to believe that the poverty threshold is defined as simply a fixed proportion of the median income or being in the bottom quintile of the population or some other measure based entirely on one's financial resources compared to other people, with no link to how much the necessities of life cost. This isn't the case. According to a couple of minutes of research, it is actually defined as three times the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963 adjusted for inflation using CPI, with some adjustments based on geographic variation in housing prices, etc.. Your apparent belief that poverty will always be with us by definition because there will always be a bottom part of the income distribution could stand to be more reality-based.

Dave said...

Jon,

With all due respect to your minutes of research, they are lacking in reality. Quoth Wikipedia:

The most common measure of poverty in the United States is the "poverty threshold" set by the U.S. government. This measure recognizes poverty as a lack of those goods and services commonly taken for granted by members of mainstream society.[8] The official threshold is adjusted for inflation using the consumer price index.

Russell Seitz said...

Given their Orwellian aversion to carrots, poaching rabbits, it pains me to say , is a capital way for the poor to improve their diet.

guthrie said...

Dave complaining that the poor will always be with us because the definition is the way it is, is both disingenuous and unhelpful.

For instance, there's the links between poverty and ill health to consider; the lack of opportunities (E.g. if schools are financed out of property taxes, poor areas have poor schools); the fact that misery, health, social dislocation etc are all to do not with absolute measures of poverty but with the relativity. And societies with more equal distribution of wealth have generally better outcomes. (e.g. Scandinavia)

guthrie said...

For Dave:
http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/overview/measure.html

"Following the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Statistical Policy Directive 14, the Census Bureau uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty. If a family's total income is less than the family's threshold, then that family and every individual in it is considered in poverty. The official poverty thresholds do not vary geographically, but they are updated for inflation using Consumer Price Index (CPI-U). The official poverty definition uses money income before taxes and does not include capital gains or noncash benefits (such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps)."

Gaz said...

So, how is being born into a poor family a poor life choice?

And Lachlan Murdoch is rich because he has made good "life choices"?

Economics has always struggled with the "initial endowments" problem. Look, there it is, under the carpet!!

Dave said...

guthrie,

Your arguments are nonsense. If living standards rise for those in poverty, all those things get better (do you really suppose they weren't worse at lower absolute incomes?). As the wiki says, this is basically a measure of income inequality.

But to argue income/wealth equality is desirable is to suggest Honey Boo Boo's family should control the same economic resources as the founders of Google or Apple, or the CEO of WalMart -- clearly some level of inequality is desirable. In any case,
Scandinavia has a similar wealth distribution to the U.S. and does not have superior outcomes, especially not when controlled for ethnicity (I hope you didn't buy the Norton-Ariely comparison of income to wealth!). In fact, they've been moving toward our model (e.g. Sweden reduced gov't from 70% to 50% of GDP).

There was of course a widespread and popular attempt to equalize incomes in the 20th Century; you may have heard of it, it was called communism. Whatever the quality of its intentions, it produced notably inferior outcomes. Incentives matter!

David B. Benson said...

guthrie --- Gosh but some few can live high on the hog in poverty via their capital gains.

Dave said...

Gaz,

Do people make choices after being born?

Choices do matter. The "education access" myth guthrie references is especially indicative. You see, there is not actually a correlation between education spending and student test scores -- NAEP scores haven't budged with a doubling of education funding in real dollars, and states that share costs across rich and poor districts don't find any improvement in the poor ones. Educational succcess isn't about access or spending, it's about motivation. That's why so many penniless Asian immigrants sent their kids to college that they started getting penalized for their race.

I won't go so far as to say you could put the children of the rich in a dirt floor shack with some sticks and they'd be teaching each other calculus by the end of the year, but they do look at the world differently than do children of the poor. The reasons for this grow not out of genetic inheritance or wealth, but of their institutional heritage.

Want the poor to do better? Give them better institutions, less corruption, more incentives to produce. We can all be rich someday.

EliRabett said...

The rich would like to think so.

Anonymous said...

Scaredy Mouse says: Talley's Corner. That little book really opened my eyes to what the urban poor face everyday.

Dave said...

It's what the facts say. We lifted the poor past the median income over the last 60 years, we can do it again.
1

Rattus Norvegicus said...

Uh Dave? The median income in 2011 was about $52K. Poverty line for a family of four is ~$22K.

Anonymous said...

"Nope Springs Infernal"

-- by Horatio Algeranon

Nope springs infernal
From the blest.
Hope springs eternal
From the rest.

Harald Korneliussen said...

The decision fatigue studies of recent years cast a light on why poor people act as Orwell said in Wigan Pier.

guthrie said...

Oh dear, I was thinking I'd been a bit harsh on poor Dave. Turns out no, he's a bit blinkered. Playing the evil communist card is the sign that you've really no idea what you are doing and don't know anything about the known effects of income inequality, let alone how it is getting worse in the USA, UK and probably other places and the problems associated with it getting worse.

Also enquiring minds want to know, is CHina communist or capitalist?
Furthermore, if we go back to Marx and Engels, when are the proletariat supposed to take over? Hint - after the capitalists have done their work in developing things.
Oh, and really, we can't all be rich, by definition in a 'free' market capitalist society there will be winners and losers and poor people. We can, with appropriate action by the workers, be better off in general, but the point at the moment is that in developed countries the workers are having pay and conditions screwed down whilst the cost of living rises.

At least you're paying attention to Acemoglu et al, which is good, I like their stuff myself although have a number of quibbles. People don't pay enough attention to the structural issues, but then they don't like to pay attention to the informational issues either.

cRR Kampen said...

" Hint - after the capitalists have done their work in developing things."

'Things'? You think capitalists 'develop things'? What nonsens. Your capitalists develop nothing, they are parasites of knowledge, developments. They feed off body and soul of Nicolas Tesla and they hate him for his true developing powers too. Yeah, read 'Atlas Shrugged' - the book Ayn Rand herself understood least of all!

If anything ever will be 'developed' by your capitalists, it will be the world of OCP -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RoboCop .

/cRR

Tim Worstall said...

"Tim is against income inequality? Who knew?"

Possibly those who have read a little more of my writing?

For example, I have several times praised this neoliberal globalisation thing. On the grounds that yes, it does indeed increase in country inequality. But it also reduces global inequality as the formerly destitute in other countries get a taste of that bourgeois lifestyle like three meals a day and a roof over their heads.

Re the US poverty measure: Dave is wrong. The official US poverty measure is one of absolute poverty. That 3 x the food budget of the early 60s uprated for inflation. This makes it unique: absolutely everyone else uses a relative poverty measure, some percentage of median income.

The new "supplemental" US measure also uses a percentage of median.

However, there's a much larger problem with the US poverty measure. A way in which it is also different from what everyone else uses.

"UPDATE: The Orwellian 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act has had little effect on poverty in the US, which continues to scale with the economy. What has happened is that other mechanisms (e.g. food stamps and unemployment) have taken the place of cash payments."

The problem being that those other things being done to alleviate poverty are not counted. And it started a long time before 1996.

Everywhere else measures poverty after the interaction of the tax and benefit systems. The four major poverty alleviation programs in the US are Medicaid, EITC, SNAP (food stamps) and Section 8 housing vouchers. None of these are included the the calculation of the poverty line.

Pre mid 70s poverty alleviation was mainly done through direct cash transfers ("welfare"). These cash transfers are counted when calculating the poverty numbers. Since then the aim (a bi-partisan one note) has been to provide in-kind benefits or through the tax system. These are not counted in the calculation of the poverty numbers.

The implication of this is that you cannot compare the poverty numbers over time. For exactly the same amount of money spent (inflation adjusted of course) in the two time periods, the 60s and the 00s, this measurement change would have increased the number recorded as being in poverty over time. What's actually happened is that spending on poverty alleviation has risen, substantially, and the poverty rate has flatlined. Some of this (I by no means claim all) is simply due to this difference in whether we count the money being spent on alleviating poverty as alleviating poverty or not.

"that the richest 400 people in the US account for as much wealth as the bottom 50%, which is very different to what Mr Tim Worstall is flailing at - that the richest 400 people have 50% of the wealth."

That's the way The Observer quoted it and that's what I was flailing at.

The corrected number doesn't particularly surprise me though. If you've got $10 in your pocket and no debt then you've more wealth than 30 million Americans. More than 30 million Americans have cumulatively that is. For there's an awful lot of people out there with more debt than assets. Most students leaving college with some debt for example. I'm really not sure I'd weep all that much over the plight of the medical resident with $500,000 in debt: and next year to be earning $300k or whatever.

As to increasing wealth inequality: sure, you've noticed the globalisation thing have you? Those at the top are no longer banking the profits from supplying 300 million Americans with things. They're banking the profits from supplying 3 billion middle class humans. I'd rather expect increasing wealth inequality in such circumstances.

And the defence of it is as above: that we've now got 3 billion middle class human beings which sounds a hell of a lot better than their all remaining dirt poor.

guthrie said...

See what happens when someone says T** W********?
He arrives!

EliRabett said...

Ah, Tim supports impoverishing his working class neighbors to support the global poor and his rich friends.

How silly of Eli to miss this.

Anonymous said...

"The Median Blues"
-- by Horatio Algeranon

A little past the median
Is where I'd like to be.
Not trying to be a comedian
But grass is all I see.

Anonymous said...

Tim is much smarter than the Rabbet.

Rabbet just wants to play victim cards.

willard said...

Speaking of choices, here are some good ones:

- More cooking at home.

- Freshly cooked meals at school

- An activist program to support parents who want better food in their child's school.

- Cooking in the community.

- A cooking course available in church halls, community and healthcare centers and the workplace.

- Freshly cooked meals in schools and colleges.

- Cooking lessons for kids at school.

- Lessons teaching basic food skills to healthcare and social care professionals

http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/why

Cooking is easy. Even I can do it.

Anonymous said...

Why are you even bothering to read TW? He's a complete waste of time, and resource.

Jay said...

"That's the way The Observer quoted it and that's what I was flailing at."
~ Tim Worstall

And thank goodness you were here to attribute a feature writers' mistake directly to the film and eagerly take the opportunity to stick the boot in. Take that lefties!

Anonymous said...

"The decision fatigue studies of recent years cast a light on why poor people act as Orwell said in Wigan Pier."

And there are some psychologically healthy strategies which work to perpetuate such things. I can remember being in a shopping centre with someone who was extremely hard-up - sole parent with 2 kids and no support from the father. I spotted a shop with a 50% off rack of children's clothes, dashed across to have a look and selected a couple of things.

She hadn't even *seen* the shop or the sign. This was a great opportunity to economise on necessities for the kids. Her mental attention was on eking out her pension payment for the rent and the power bills (cooking isn't necessarily a good option when you have to count the seconds the gas is turned on for) and school stuff. But, psychologically speaking, she was instinctively protecting herself from fruitless frustration about the things she couldn't possibly afford to buy - which had the side effect of literally blinding her to the chance of saving money on things her family actually needed.

And it was driven home even more forcefully when I offered some extra money for her caring for my kids. She said she didn't have any bills outstanding or things she "needed" so the money wasn't needed.

My view was that she'd so narrowed her view of "need" that she couldn't even imagine that buying a pair of shoes or some underwear **before it wore out** would mean that what she already owned would last longer in better condition. Apart from the usual problem of women in her position putting their own needs and interests in last place.

MinniesMum

EliRabett said...

Talley's Corner was also an important book for a younger bunny and its author, Elliot Liebow was remarkable

Anonymous said...

"If life were a video game, to be a white male banker would be the lowest level of difficulty"

Ariadne Capital's Julie Meyer on the Today programme.


https://twitter.com/bbcr4today

AnonySpilopsella