Sunday, January 12, 2014

Like a rolling stone? No, much worse!

Early last week CNBC devoted a good fifteen minutes of the Closing Bell show to a young freelance writer whose recent Rolling Stone article has gone, according to the show's host, viral. I listened to the young man and then went ahead and read his article. While I heard myself say "Wow!" a few times while reading, I concluded that those five economic things millennials should be fighting for were far too, frankly, farcical to devote even a paragraph to herein. Yes, condescendingly, I chalked it all up to his mere nine years of emancipation and the influence of his present surroundings.

So, young Jesse Myerson is excused. But what do we do with a guy like Paul Krugman? Paul reached the age of majority 42 years ago, and he's been awarded the coveted Nobel Prize for crying out loud! Upon reading his latest NY Times OP-Ed The War Over Poverty, while sounding several "Wow!"s in the process, I concluded that this guy's on a par with the clueless-to-the-ills-of-collectivism, bleary-eyed rolling stone I referenced above. So perhaps, as I did with Myerson, I should simply ignore Krugman and pursue more worthwhile subject matter. But the thing is, he doesn't deserve a pass. He's been around the block far too many times to chalk him up as a harmless majority-aged male with a juvenile intellect. Scarily, as evidenced by his wide following, lots of grown-ups believe this guy (btw, I was once taken to the woodshed [big-time] myself---by an adult---for criticizing him). According to the popular "progressive" himself, all grown-ups, save for Republicans, buy what he's selling. Here's a snippet:
You can see the new political dynamics at work in the fight over aid to the unemployed. Republicans are still opposed to extended benefits, despite high long-term unemployment. But they have, revealingly, changed their arguments. Suddenly, it’s not about forcing those lazy bums to find jobs; it’s about fiscal responsibility. And nobody believes a word of it.

Beyond that bit of bravado, Krugman, in his latest, does his usual: he links his assertions to studies performed by "progressive" think tanks---
Furthermore, there is strong evidence that antipoverty programs have long-term benefits, both to their recipients and to the nation as a whole.

---without the merest mention of studies (here's one, here's another) that don't play to his prejudice.

Here he is on what everyone had wrong (save for perhaps "everyone" during the 70s), but are now getting right:
For a long time, everyone knew — or, more accurately, “knew” — that the war on poverty had been an abject failure. And they knew why: It was the fault of the poor themselves. But what everyone knew wasn’t true, and the public seems to have caught on.

The narrative went like this: Antipoverty programs hadn’t actually reduced poverty, because poverty in America was basically a social problem — a problem of broken families, crime and a culture of dependence that was only reinforced by government aid. And because this narrative was so widely accepted, bashing the poor was good politics, enthusiastically embraced by Republicans and some Democrats, too.

Yet this view of poverty, which may have had some truth to it in the 1970s, bears no resemblance to anything that has happened since.

Well, shoot, this is where he runs into trouble, even with his own. Here's fellow "progressive" NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on the culture of dependence reinforced by government aid. Note his point regarding the nature of the handicaps afflicting S.S.I. covered children during the 70s as compared to today, and the "huge stake" families have in their children failing in school:
About four decades ago, most of the children S.S.I. covered had severe physical handicaps or mental retardation that made it difficult for parents to hold jobs — about 1 percent of all poor children. But now 55 percent of the disabilities it covers are fuzzier intellectual disabilities short of mental retardation, where the diagnosis is less clear-cut. More than 1.2 million children across America — a full 8 percent of all low-income children — are now enrolled in S.S.I. as disabled, at an annual cost of more than $9 billion.

That is a burden on taxpayers, of course, but it can be even worse for children whose families have a huge stake in their failing in school. Those kids may never recover: a 2009 study found that nearly two-thirds of these children make the transition at age 18 into S.S.I. for the adult disabled. They may never hold a job in their entire lives and are condemned to a life of poverty on the dole — and that’s the outcome of a program intended to fight poverty.

Here's a bit more from Kristof, but please read his entire piece, as well as Krugman's:
Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

Most wrenching of all are the parents who think it’s best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month.

“One of the ways you get on this program is having problems in school,” notes Richard V. Burkhauser, a Cornell University economist who co-wrote a book last year about these disability programs. “If you do better in school, you threaten the income of the parents. It’s a terrible incentive.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we cannot ignore the likes of Paul Krugman. His utter lack of objectivity, as he perches high (in the public eye) among "progressive" economists, means we cannot discount his rants as we do the useless ramblings of a Jesse Myerson. They are inherently dangerous, particularly---in the most recent instance---for the poor.

I suspect I'll be meeting someone back at the woodshed soon...

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