Archive for the 'General Politics' category

Generational Wealth

Aug 17 2016 Published by under General Politics

In the midst of the Milwaukee unrest this week, a young man on the scene was interviewed (Orlandis Jackson, interviewed by local NBC affiliate). He said something along the lines of how "the rich people have all the money and won't give us none."

This immediately went viral on the Tweeters as unsympathetic voices howled over his seeming entitlement. 

This bothers me.

This young man may not understand the full scope of wealth disparity. He may not realize the causes. And/or he may not have the rhetorical skills to express his understanding fully. 

But he was right

In a deeply fundamental way. The "rich" of this country got that way, and stay that way, by stealing from the poor. The problem of inner city unrest is not that we (and for today the "rich" are the moderately well off, that includes most of my audience. Yes, you.) won't "give" other people money. It is that we build our wealth at their expense.

I twittered a link to a study showing black communities paid more per dollar of insurance coverage, despite lower company loss rates, compared with nearly identical white communities. 

The aftermath of Ferguson MO unrest illustrated very clearly how  municipalities have shifted to nuisance summons as a way to make up for the powers that be refusing to tax themselves. Guess who gets the tickets?

And even in a general sense, tax schemes have become increasingly regressive. Taxes and fees on consumption replace progressive income / wealth taxes. Wages for labor are  taxed more highly than is investment income. Etc. All designed to shift the burden of society away from the rich. 

Our DonorsChoose drives show how we (the rich) refuse to pay to educate all and have shrunk school funding in poor communities. Education isn't everything but it does help some people to escape the poverty they were born into. 

Which brings us to redlining (still a thing) and neighborhood unspoken compacts and other things that prevent black people from buying homes in slightly better neighborhoods. Interesting comment here:

Sharkey’s research shows that black families making $100,000 typically live in the kinds of neighborhoods inhabited by white families making $30,000.

Real estate ownership is a huge wealth tool. Huge. Increasing property value becomes a financial cushion if nothing else. Reduces housing costs overall, with good use of the mortgage income tax deduction. Permits one to obtain loans (or at more favorable rates) for other wealth enhancing purposes. Such as higher education. Launching sonny-boy's hi tech startup company. 

And from there we can drill right back down to Costco shopping. It's cheaper to be rich. We buy in bulk and store the stuff in our big houses. Toilet paper, extra milk in our second fridge, tampons and toothpaste. All cheaper when you are wealthy. 

So stop sneering at the young man in Milwaukee. He may have phrased it inelegantly. But he was speaking a fundamental truth. 


Getting back around to the generational part of this post. Redlining was the policy of the Federal Housing Administration from 1934-1968. Federal policy. From the administrative entity that was supposed to help Americans afford to buy homes. Some Americans, apparently, but not other Americans. See Josh Begley maps here for a few key cities in our largest State. This discrimination is just for the availability of mortgages.

There is also the kind of discrimination that prevented minorities from purchasing houses in certain neighborhoods even if they had all of it in immediate cash money.

As far as I am aware, minorities did not enjoy special tax exemptions to account for their treatment at the hands of the FHA. Meaning, correspondingly, the FHA discriminatory redlining activity was transferring wealth from minority citizens to white citizens. The lack of fair opportunity to build wealth, particularly when that opportunity is buttressed by taxes, is stealing from Peter to pay Paul (the families that were able to use such opportunities).

Note that if you are unable to buy a house, the odds are that you are paying rent to the person who owns the property. Who is enjoying the leverage of you paying down the loan while their property values (wealth) inflate over time. This is yet another way in which wealth is transferred from the less well off to the more well off. Home ownership rates in Milwaukee are lower than in the state of Wisconsin as a whole. Home ownership rates for black Americans lag those of white Americans.

The wealth of property ownership in particular locations can be transferred generationally in many ways. First, it may confer indirect benefits in school quality, peer associations and vocational connections. Second, there is direct inheritance of the wealth later in life. There are a few people in my neighborhood who inherited houses. Given the amount we pay for our mortgage, well, that's a substantial jump ahead for the standard model American Dream family, let me tell you.

In between we have the transfer of the ability to purchase a first house. When my wife and I were looking to buy our first house we ran across a stat that some 30% of first time buyers had some sort of family assistance. (I can't find anything on that right now so if you have links, drop them in the comments.) Loans for downpayments and co-signing (with later relinquishment of ownership rights) for the loan are common. Helping to fix the new purchasers' credit. Etc.

A subtle effect is timing. Real estate markets cycle, as you know. And mortgage rates can vary tremendously, which affects affordability. As it happens, my now-spouse and I were looking to co-habitate during a fortuitous set of real estate conditions. Despite one of us being a postdoc and one a graduate student in a fairly pricey real-estate market, the conditions were ripe. We'd be paying about the same for a mortgage that we were facing for rent. The only issues were the usual. Credit? decent. Debt to income, decent. Income to price....hmmmm, not great but those were the bubble days so...maybe. This left the downpayment. We didn't have it. And wouldn't have been able to save it for years (which, as it happened, would have been well into the peak of the housing bubble. And we'd still be short of the now-increased amount.). Generational wealth to the rescue.

It isn't only the cash, it's also about when that cash is available to you. Whether that be for housing, for emergency loans for something now that will save you money longer term, paying for education...the scenarios go on and on.

Our generational wealth stretches back several generations in our family. Home ownership, decent jobs and relatives who moved up in economic class relative to their upbringing, in many cases through education. All of my kids' four grandparents ended up as educators, three of them for career length. Three have advanced degrees. They started when education careers meant a decent stable job with benefits and pensions. Some of their parents were educated, some not, but all were eventually middle class. Two of them were raised by single mothers (who were born over 100 y ago so think of that generation!), one of which had a sibling have to go to work to support the family instead of furthering education. So right there within family, generational privilege available more to one than the other. And I don't mean to imply it was ever easy. But they were all able to take advantage of an environment in which there was not systematic discrimination against them. (Possible ethnic discrimination of three generations upstream due to an immigrant wave but that had subsided certainly by my parents' generation.)

This post isn't designed to recommend Harrison Bergeron solutions or to criticize those of you with immense generational privilege and wealth. It isn't to beat my breast about how lucky I had it.

This post is about thinking a little deeper about why a young man in Milwaukee might complain that the rich never give the poor any money. And what that really means beneath the words.

And, y'know, maybe for those of you who habitually think that you never had any special privileges so why should anyone else...maybe you could think about your generational advantages?

43 responses so far

A couple of concerned citizens

Aug 12 2016 Published by under Anger, General Politics

First there was this lovely* gentleman from a Trump rally in Florida:

A rally which featured this equally delightful** example of RealAmericanism***

Then there was the guy (h/t @neuromusic) who you would think was just a garden variety dimwit who doesn't understand the law and hates cyclists. Until he gets to the part where he threatens to "pull a Trump on you". I don't think he was talking about scamming this poor cyclist out of a real estate investment and filing Chapter 11 to walk off with the money either, but I'm sure our conservative commenter friends BV and N-c will be right along to explain how this was a joke. Or that it is a complete coincidence that out of control, raging violent homophobic road rage jerks reference Trump.

*for the Trump apologists, who seem to be perplexingly dimwitted on the topic lately, this is what sarcasm looks like.

**also sarcasm.

*** ____________ (fill in the blank exercise)

11 responses so far

Fascist demagogues, gaslighting and the good Germans

Aug 10 2016 Published by under General Politics

We have a standard issue GOP apologist, longterm commenter Neuro-conservative, trying to gaslight the Trump comments on 2nd Amendment people.

No offense, DM, but you are seriously imagining things.

I also recently had an extended discussion on politics relating to Trump and so-called main stream Republican values with my so-called main stream not-crazy Republican neighbor.

I have been pondering a related issue.

History has many examples of totalitarian horribleness emerging with the acquiescence of "normal" people who would never agree to the (eventual) orgy of violence and repression if it had been raised at the start. They get there, presumably, in small steps.

I assume part of this process is an active disbelief that the fascist demagogue "really believes" his most extreme comments. These good Germans*, sorry mainstream Republicans, must surely delude themselves about the direction in which things are heading. So gaslighting critics is the only possible option.

And the truth is, most nascent fascist demagogues *don't* gain ultimate power. So it is easy to gaslight any concerns that may be expressed in any particular case. To say, as Neuro-conservative does, that any critic is merely overreacting. To pursue false equivalency claims with some other lesser perceived offense of someone who is not the fascist demagogue in waiting.

After all, these are early days. And even when they start with the really horrible stuff, even totalitarian states tend to keep the full reality out of the public view. It is very easy for the supposedly well-intentioned average normal person to ignore the signals. Until it is far, far too late.

A comment from @ShmoF16 brought up The Dead Zone awhile back. In this movie, the totalitarian charmer politician is revealed by the actions of a desperate critic who sees him for what he truly is, and tragedy is averted. Reveals, as in, on national teevee. Trump is being revealed daily on national teevee and it does seem to help, a little. His polling numbers are continuing to head downward and Hillary Clinton's campaign is competing in new swing states that used to lean Republican.

This is not enough yet, in my view. Life doesn't follow fiction I guess. People of the main-stream Republican bent are so dedicated to their ideology of demonization of the opposing camp that they are unable to see what is right in front of their face. Unable. I believe this because the alternative is to think they know full well what is coming and the welcome it.

I'm not there yet. I like my neighbor. I think people like Neuro-conservative are mostly just deluded and not actively evil.

*Another interesting ponder I had. The accusation of following Godwin's Law is itself a form of gaslighting. The law sort of implies that since reductio ad Hitlerum occurs, that all mentions of National Socialist Germany automatically invalidate** any argument as obviously absurd. This fascinates me since I'm smart enough, unlike many Internet discussants apparently, to understand that similarities, metaphors, parallels or comparisons need not be identical in quality or extent to be of value.

**Godwin himself argued that his Law was not a fallacy.

In December 2015, Godwin commented on the Nazi and fascist comparisons being made by several articles on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying that "If you're thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler or Nazis when you talk about Trump. Or any other politician."[citation]

69 responses so far

Trump advocates assassination of Hillary Clinton

Aug 09 2016 Published by under Anger, General Politics

August 9, 2016 was the day.

34 responses so far

Political observation

Jul 25 2016 Published by under General Politics

When pressed, the more mainstream supporters of Donald Trump in the Republican party insist that they believe that Trump does not really mean the full import of his wildest statements. He doesn't really plan to block all Muslims from entering the country, he doesn't really mean to deport all undocumented immigrants, he doesn't really mean to.... etc. So, as I understand their thought process, it is okay to support his candidacy and this doesn't mean that you support all that crazy stuff.

Interestingly, these self-same people have a burning hatred (or at least a profound irrevocable mistrust) of Hillary Clinton because they believe that she doesn't really mean what she says during the campaign or in her prior political activities. They are positively obsessed with conspiracy-level accusations about her alleged insincerity, dis-ingenuity and secret machinations. And completely and utterly unable to take her policy statements, and descriptions of her reasons for her prior actions, at face value. And to be clear, it is not just that they criticize her actions. They are worked up to an absolute frenzy about their beliefs about her alleged insincerity, far more than they are about the actual policies or actions.

It's fascinating. On the one hand Republicans support Trump because they believe he is a liar. On the other hand, they absolutely hate Clinton because they believe that she is a liar.

52 responses so far

Thought of the Day

Jun 08 2016 Published by under General Politics

Hillary (H-Rod, as Isis the Scientist puts it) gave one heck of a General election speech last night.

She is going to mop the floor with Trump all through the coming campaign.

This will be a bigger landslide win than Reagan's. 

18 responses so far

Talk about taking one for the team

Mar 16 2016 Published by under General Politics

How would you like to be the first person Obama nominates for the open Supreme Court seat?

And you have to go through the dog and pony show with no chance of being confirmed?

Sitting through fake interview after fake interview with Republican Senators?

Whoever volunteered for that has my respect. Service to a nation undeserving.

14 responses so far

Question of the day

Mar 14 2016 Published by under General Politics

When did the majestic plural become the default for US political candidates?

Is it just me or is it particularly jarring when a populist man of the people like Bernie Sanders uses it?

10 responses so far

Trump is not the problem

Mar 14 2016 Published by under General Politics

Donald Trump is not the problem. He isn't.

The real problem lies with the 30-40% of US Republicans that favor him for President.

As I saw someone put it, these people do not disappear if Trump is defeated in the primaries, during a convention fight or in the general election.

Those people are still there.

And they, with their affection for violent, fascistic nativism, are what we need to dismantle.

57 responses so far

Trump: "Send the Brownshirts to Sanders' rallies!"

Mar 13 2016 Published by under General Politics


This is where we are, America.

8 responses so far

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