Thursday, November 27, 2008

Musings: Spreading the Wealth

It was a rosy sort of morning when Koko and I went walking on streets devoid of people and cars, save for one truck driven by a hunter with his dogs in the back that got Koko all whirling and twirling and excited. We passed a house with an inflatable hybrid Pilgrim-turkey out front and it gave me a flashback to all those turkeys I made in elementary school while learning a highly romanticized version of the first Thanksgiving that reinforced the notion of white superiority.

I imagine kids are still making their turkey art projects in class, but I wonder if what they’re being taught has changed, now that we have a much better sense of what really went down.

Meanwhile, the news is full of talk about the other thing that's down, and that's the economy, but it’s harder to assess exactly how the shake up is playing out. The other day I was talking to a man who runs a jewelry store, and he said a lot of folks had been turning in their gold Hawaiian heirloom jewelry for scrap value, just to get by. But on the other hand, although tourist traffic has slowed, those who do stop by the shop aren’t holding back on spending money.

So clearly some folks still have, and others who did, now do not.

Democracy Now! recently had an interesting interview with Stephen Pimpare, author of “A People’s History of Poverty in America.” In his book, Pimpare asked: “How has the experience of being poor and in need changed over time?”

And what he found is that even though we like to tell ourselves that things have gotten better for poor people because they now have TV sets and in some cases, access to government and nonprofit aid programs, the “experience of poverty over the course of American history has changed much less than we might like to believe.”

Pimpare observes:

We have historically understood poverty as a moral failure. In fact, we have a whole architecture of language we use to talk about this, the culture of poverty. The notion that there is either something inherent in individuals that leads them to be poor, some sort of moral emotional, intellectual failing, or some sort of collective culture that is born and bred in poor communities, in which we pass poverty around, almost as if it is some sort of disease.

The interview was intriguing because it juxtaposed this view with the prevailing attitude that has driven the massive handouts to corporate America and Wall Street: they’re too big, vital and important to fail. Yet we know that some of them are tanking because of moral failures, in the form of excessive greed, selfishness and disregard for the shareholders, and that some of their actions stem from a collective culture that is born and bred in the communities of the nation’s elite.

Why is it OK to give them the big handout, with few or no questions asked, while the average folks who are down on their luck are treated like losers, dirt bags and scum who must fill out long forms and undergo close scrutiny and evaluation before they government kicks down some food stamps, subsidized housing or cash?

And that’s caused me to wonder, what if we gave all those billions to the people, rather than the corporations, brokerage houses and banks? What kind of nation and economy would be created if people who have spent their lives struggling — the poor and middle class — suddenly had the capital to start a small business or join with others to form a manufacturing cooperative? What if they could attend a college or trade school to improve their skills? What if they were able to pay off their mortgage and their credit cards and live without that crippling, stifling debt?

In short, what if the people, rather than the power brokers, were given the big bail out, the sudden windfall that allows them to dig themselves out of a hole and move ahead?

After all, it is our money.

33 comments:

Ed Coll said...

Joan wrote; "And what he found is that even though we like to tell ourselves that things have gotten better for poor people because they now have TV sets. . . "

Actually it has been argued that things have gotten worse because of TV

"In Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital (Journal of Democracy, January 1995, Volume 6, Number 1) Putnam surveys the decline of "social capital" in the United States of America since 1950, which he feels undermines the active civil engagement a strong democracy required from its citizens. He believes the "movement of women into the workforce", the "re-potting hypothesis" and other demographic changes have made little impact on the number of individuals engaging in civic associations. Instead, he looks to the technological "individualizing" of our leisure time via television, Internet and eventually "virtual reality helmets".
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bowling_Alone&oldid=251715671

With an average TV viewing time of four hours per day per person, it is hard to see how anyone has any time left to devote to grassroots organizations to change things for the better. On the other hand TV (and esp the internet) does have the unintended consequence of pissing of the apathetic by promoting endless consumerism as the highest aspirational value by which we judge "success" as viewers slip from the middle to lower class. Americans do have a sense of entitlement that if left unmet (or declines) for a protracted period of time may result in major social disruptions at some indeterminate point in the future.

Ed Coll said...

Another aspect of networked technology not addresses by Putnam is the ability to organize actions across geographically dispersed populations. Somali OPFOR used cel phones to successfully turn the high tech U.S led 1993 "Operation Restore Hope" into the tragic "Mogadishu Mile".

Anonymous said...

> Why is it OK to give them the big handout, with few or no questions asked, while the average folks who are down on their luck are treated like losers, dirt bags and scum who must fill out long forms and undergo close scrutiny and evaluation before they government kicks down some food stamps, subsidized housing or cash? <

The social values of our wealthy business elites and their government enablers have changed little since Dickens railed against them in mid-19th century England. Modern safety nets and political correctness notwithstanding, beneath the 21st century skins they're still the same turkeys.

Anonymous said...

Is such ignorance of the history of poverty in America the result of willful ideological blinders or just general ignorance? I remember Kennedy's poverty tour where he found children with distended bellies literally starving to death in Appalachia and parts of the south. Poverty today in America is a far different experience than it was in prior decades.

41 percent of all poor households own their own homes.

The average home owned by a person classified as poor has three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

Over three-quarters of a million poor persons own homes worth over $150,000; and nearly 200,000 "poor" persons own homes worth over $300,000.

Only 7.5 percent of poor households are overcrowded. Nearly 60 percent have two or more rooms per person.

The average poor American has one-third more living space than the average Japanese does and four times as much living space as the average Russian.

Seventy percent of poor households own a car; 27 percent own two or more cars.

Ninety-seven percent have a color television. Nearly half own two or more televisions.

Nearly three-quarters have a VCR; more than one in five has two VCRs.

Two-thirds of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

Sixty-four percent of the poor own microwave ovens, half have a stereo system, and over a quarter have an automatic dishwasher.

As a group, the poor are far from being chronically hungry and malnourished. In fact, poor persons are more likely to be overweight than are middle-class persons. Nearly half of poor adult women are overweight.

Despite frequent charges of widespread hunger in the United States, 84 percent of the poor report their families have enough food to eat; 13 percent state they "sometimes" do not have enough to eat, and 3 percent say they "often" do not have enough to eat.

The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children, and in most cases is well above recommended norms.

Poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes that are 100 percent above recommended levels.

Most poor children today are in fact super-nourished, growing up to be, on average, one inch taller and ten pounds heavier that the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.

Anonymous said...

The Victorians' self-serving fiction that the poor are in fact more well off than we think is alive and well on this Thanksgiving.

Ed Coll said...

Anon wrote; "Is such ignorance of the history of poverty in America the result of willful ideological blinders or just general ignorance?"
and then lists some unattributed stats. 41% of all poor own their own homes! Unless ownership is interpreted as meaning "paying off" instead of "paid off" I don't believe it. Although I meet some of the criteria on the list, I do not meet all so I must be sub-poor.

nunya said...

I liked the ʻwhat ifsʻ on this, Joan.
Yes, what if a group of families were GIVEN (similar to the corporate welfare giveaway) a large chunk to coop a business? And I donʻt mean restrictive grants.
The mindset of the ones that have scalped the worldʻs resources for insatiable greed is too ingrained...that certain segments of society are not supposed to achieve high status.

Take Neil Abercrombie for example; My friends, if you donʻt allow the passage of the Akaka bill (and instead seek self determination/sovereignty), you will surely descend into chaos. (not verbatim) But he believes the white man must rule. And cannot fathom that the Hawaiians could be intellectually superior to him. And this coming from a man who drove a yellow taxi in Honolulu for 20 years..tsk. I guess by now heʻs chewing on both shoes.

Another example: It was accidently uncovered during research by law students, a statement by Inouye regarding enactment of the Apology Bill..."..donʻt worry the Hawaiians are too stupid to figure it out.."Iʻd guess heʻs chewing on a couple shoes too.

Those are a couple of local references but it is well established that issues like education are doled out in levels they deem safe. Education (genuine education) of the masses is a threat.
Welfare is another hideous insult/assault; donʻt want to give people enough to get on their feet and donʻt believe recipients are intelligent enough to handle anything more than $100.

My all time favorite movie for this is ʻTrading Placesʻ with Richard Pryor.

Anonymous said...

Anyone tempted to believe the numbers in the post by Anonymous November 27, 2008 3:24 PM, should read Darrel Huff's How to Lie with Statistics (W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1954).

;)

Anonymous said...

I remember Kennedy's poverty tour where he found children with distended bellies literally starving to death in Appalachia and parts of the south. Poverty today in America is a far different experience than it was in prior decades. You simply do not encounter that kind of poverty here now.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous November 27, 2008 3:24 PM" is typical of the Hear No Evil, See No Evil attitude that has long greased American upward mobility.

Far more honest if these folks would just say they don't give a damn, instead of adding insult to poverty by spreading the soft soap of feel-good statistics.

Anonymous said...

it is an interesting question - which, if one had to choose, would be better:

1) a growing disparity between the top and the bottom, but the standard of living of the bottom is also rising well over the years

or

2) a much, much smaller disparity between the top and bottom, but the standard of living of the bottom stays pretty low and does not increase much over time


yes, the "gap" factor is bad....but a near-stagnant standard of living for the "bottom" would be bad too. answering this question, or at least discussing it, begins to help better frame things

nunya said...

1) and 2) are interesting to consider, but it seems like not only does the gap get wider but the extremes are severe; multi-billion net worths as opposed to a plain old millionaire and poverty levels so dire now middle class a paycheck away from the street and then tent cities/warehouse shelters cropping up everywhere.

Anonymous said...

You can quickly assess by use of language that Nunya is a well educated sovereignty advocate.
That means we're hearing from one of a few, who are using the many more, poorly educated, to face incarceration, loss of business, and loss of savings to further an agenda. History is full of such "leaders." On Kauai, barbers and boat tour owners have followed them to their demise.
Perhaps this one will be outed before real damage is done.

Anonymous said...

On Kauai, barbers and boat tour owners have followed them to their demise.

Huh?

Anonymous said...

The Waialeale boat tours (which used to be alongside Smith's on the Wailua River) owner and the owner and one of the barbers in the barbershop across the street from the State building, both did the "sovereignty suicide" thing and stopped paying taxes.
The rotted boats were destroyed last Spring and the barbershop is somebody else's.
Just two local examples.

nunya said...

Just two examples of exactly what?

Anonymous said...

"sovereignty suicide"

Anonymous said...

Sounds more like suicide for you.?

Anonymous said...

"The Waialeale boat tours (which used to be alongside Smith's on the Wailua River) owner and the owner and one of the barbers in the barbershop across the street from the State building, both did the "sovereignty suicide" thing and stopped paying taxes.
The rotted boats were destroyed last Spring and the barbershop is somebody else's.
Just two local examples."

Wow. Well I hope those are isolated examples. I hear nut jobs, on Kauai and elsewhere, talk all the time...and most of the time I figure ~ "ah, just hot air, no harm done." If anybody has more examples like this, and/or knows how often such a thing happens in HI, please share them.

Anonymous said...

If anybody has more examples like this, and/or knows how often such a thing happens in HI, please share them.

It's in the papers lately. Mahealani Ventura-Oliver and the Hawaii Loa Foundation are ripping off Kanaka Maoli out of thousands of dollars by selling them fake documents and telling them the documents mean they don't have to pay their taxes anymore. Don't listen to these con artists. Don't give them your money. Watch out. Evil comes in all color skins.

nunya said...

Especially white.
I know a lot more instances of similar situations in Hawaii.

The first and most immediate ones, youʻve all probably heard about already is thequiettitlequiettitle, happening every single day in fact.

Anonymous said...

check it out. Nunya's a racist!

nunya said...

No just stating facts. So sue me, moron.

Were you trying to distract from my ʻQuiet Titleʻ post as to whites ripping off Hawaiians?
Or in your rascist view, is it only Hawaiians that are ripping off Hawaiians????

Come on.

Anonymous said...

Evil comes especially in white skin? That's not fact. That's ...racism! It fine if you want to. Just don't kid yourself.

Anonymous said...

Nunya, four "quiet" little words:

We Will Stop You

Whatever it takes; it will be done.
You know it's true.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this site is a hate crime just waiting for a criminal charge.

Did I read that last post right?

Got a tracer running on some of you folks but the last one is a concrete doozy.

So I guess weʻll see who gets who.

Anonymous said...

don't get me wrong, nunya's understanding of the world (based on past posts) is below that of an 8th grader in a good school system that aced "world studies" or "world history"....still, come on, is anybody really claiming that an appreciable number of white people (and others, sure) did not basically take advantage of the fact that most polynesians in hawaii around the turn of the century and for decades afterwords did not know much about this "new" UK-style real property law? don't be revisionist or blind, its lame (as lame as claiming being a grunt back in kingdom days was some sort of cake walk)

nunya said...

December 2, 2008 7:54 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nunya, four "quiet" little words:
We Will Stop You
Whatever it takes; it will be done.
You know it's true.
December 2, 2008 9:35 PM

Let me make sure Iʻm reading this right, Anonymous...

Is that a threat?

Katy Rose said...

All distractions aside, the inconvenient truth for all settlers who uphold and benefit from US interests in Hawai'i is that "under international law, Native Hawaiians have the right of self-determination because their nation was invaded and annexed by a colonial country, the United States" (Yoshinaga and Kosasa in "Asian Settler Colonialism," Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008.)

Whether or not the US or we citizens of the empire recognize that, it is a fact of international law.

Self-determination means self-government, control over land base and resources, and so forth. Native Hawaiians have been systematically prevented from exercising basic self-determination by the United States.

The question of whether or not the balance of power can be shifted in order to bring this into fruition is one we must all claim a stake in.

Those of us who support justice for the Hawaiian nation should base our activities in a strong political and strategic analysis; in particular we should keep in mind that it is not up to us non-Native allies to guide the struggles of Native peoples. Our role as allies is specific.

I would argue that endless round-robins with internet trolls is no more than a tragic dereliction of our duties to effectively support the restoration of Hawai'i to its people.

Anonymous said...

Stop you politically is what was meant since Nunya's posts are political...geez what a bunch of paranoid freaks.

Anonymous said...

...is anybody really claiming that an appreciable number of white people (and others, sure) did not basically take advantage of the fact that most polynesians in hawaii around the turn of the century and for decades afterwords did not know much about this "new" UK-style real property law?

So what?...unless you were the one who did it, or you were the one who had it done to you. It's a manufactured guilt...one YOU CHOOSE to take upon yourself. Don't EVEN try to pin it on me because of my color, heritage, culture, socioeconomic status or religion you unpolitically correct little sovereignty dweebs.

Anonymous said...

"So what?...unless you were the one who did it, or you were the one who had it done to you. It's a manufactured guilt...one YOU CHOOSE to take upon yourself. Don't EVEN try to pin it on me because of my color, heritage, culture, socioeconomic status or religion you unpolitically correct little sovereignty dweebs."

...nope nope, i follow what you are saying, and either i was not clear enough or you misunderstand (or both, to some extent). i was merely pointing out what seems to have occurred (which of course, is the relatively easy part). i did not offer a "therefor."

Anonymous said...

Katy may want to take on the self loathing settler title; but, the rest of us (most of us) think differently.

Oh yeah, that means we need EDUCATING duuuuuuuuhh!!!