Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Times' continued promotion of class warfare

The New York Times has a good story. Instead of complaining that government didn't give her enough of a helping hand, Angela Whitiker turned her life around herself. It's a heartwarming story of someone who discovered that education and determination are the key to success, not government programs. But as part of liberal agenda, and more specifically its new series to promote class warfare, the Times included a few subtle editorializations:

"...counting what was left of her food stamps..."

"She worked at a fast food restaurant, rising to assistant manager but never making much more than minimum wage."

The Times seems to be insinuating that government didn't do enough to help her. Food stamps aren't enough; we need to raise the minimum wage. Then there's have the "Class Matters" front page. Here's a screenshot, in case it changes:

Notice that first sub-story? If you read it, it talks about "conservatives" who say that marriage and stable families are key. Then it quotes a few liberals, like Julius Wilson of Harvard, who say that "government should increase its support for low-income women who want to go to college." There you have it: the Times must downplay any evidence of social mobility, and downplay any success not induced by government. The Times' new series on "class" is nothing more than spreading these myths: that there's an ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor, "the rich" will always be above us no matter how successful we become, and therefore government must make people "equal."

Then the story stated that, despite her income (she's now in the top 10% income bracket), "Saks and Macy's" are still above her. First, I don't know what Macy's the reporter is familiar with, but not everything there is that expensive. The intelligent shopper waits until sales, and especially the out-of-season clearances. Second, what is the Times saying, that she's now middle class, and it's wrong that others are making so much more than her?

Of course her new life isn't perfect; it isn't new that "middle class" doesn't equate "financially secure." As the old saying goes, "Expenses rise to meet income," and Americans do have a very high marginal propensity to consume. So many Americans start earning more money and getting better credit, only to think what new things they can buy: Italian leather couches, dining room sets, bedroom sets, home theatre systems. They never think to use plastic only for emergencies, let alone make do with what they already have and save the new income.

She didn't have to spend so much on her Chevy Blazer. One that's a few years old but in good shape would have sufficed (and cost thousands less). How about a minivan, which would get slightly better gas mileage and have the passenger room she needs? Then there's her expensive couch, not to mention her cellphone. Is it any wonder that, though she earns $83,000 a year, she had to choose between paying the telephone bill or for her daughter's prom?

Far be it from me to criticize someone who's worked hard to improve her family's life, but she has a bit more to learn. I know, because when younger, I was similarly foolish with money. Now is not the time for her to change to a part-time schedule. She already cannot afford her current lifestyle; what makes her think she can on reduced pay? She wants a Lincoln Navigator. She has her eye on a big house. Until she learns to control her money, though, she'll never start saving. Income alone won't increase wealth. Now is the time for her to budget, to cut back, and to tell others, "I'm really sorry, but I can't afford to keep giving you money."

Hopefully her son Nicholas will someday get out of his self-entrapment of low-paying jobs, petty crime, and children he struggles to support. I've written before (nothing new if you've paid attention to Bill Cosby and the late Pat Moynihan) that black Americans destroy themselves with high illegitimacy rates. Today, 70% of black births are illegitimate, and Nicholas' own children are no exception. At 22, he's fathered three children, apparently with different women! He's currently living "with the mother of the second of his three children." And when not working or getting into trouble, he dreams of making it big with rap music.

This is also nothing novel, but I'm dismayed how young black males have been shifting their "making it big" dreams from pro sports to rap music. "I wanna be like Mike" has degenerated into idolizing the rap "musicians" who often have rap sheets longer than their royalties contracts. Lofty goals aren't inherently wrong, but the reality is that exceedingly few will "make it" in pro sports or the music industry. Many hopefuls like Nicholas have forsaken a real education (or at least vocational training), so with nothing to fall back on, what can they do but the lowest jobs? This reminds me of a shocking realization when my high school senior class rehearsed our graduation ceremony. Some seniors (perfectly emblematic of the expression "white trash") weren't graduating but loitered around the auditorium anyway, making snide remarks. I asked myself something I'd never before considered: "What kind of jobs can they get?"

Ms. Whitiker's second-oldest, Willie, is only 21 but has a more severe criminal record involving drugs. He's also fathered two children. Banishing him from the house until he reforms was tough love, and very necessary. His mother found the strength to say, "This is where it stops. I won't let my other children even see this cancer of gangs and drugs." I had to smile at her refusal to let her other children get away with merely a high school education, and especially her

So in more than one way, she's a good lesson to us all. Godspeed to her and her family, and may we all learn well about the road to success, and the cost of travel once you get there.

My inbox just received a Border's coupon for one item, and I think I'll use it for Thomas Sowell's new book. "Black Rednecks, White Liberals" discusses issues like these which hold back blacks, and we shouldn't be surprised that Dr. Sowell is getting great reviews.

[Updated a little from the original.]


Blogger TKC said...

Just one quick observation. I'll wager one ice cold lager that Ms. Whitiker's biggest expense is the same one I have.

Government taxes.

We are paying for a federal government to the tune of 2 trillion dollars a year and it still can't balance its books. That is just the federal government. I'm not sure what the state is taking out. It obviously varies by where you live. Is this level of taxation really wise for what we are getting? I think not. But it sure makes the folks at the NY Times feel good and for me that counts for absolutely nothing.

Sunday, June 12, 2005 5:34:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

To be sure, she would be paying a lot of taxes. Her Social Security taxes alone are over $5100 per year, which means her employer is paying an equal sum that she'd otherwise get. She spends so much money, though, and ought to learn to cut back. A lot of Americans should, too. As onerous as they are, we can't do anything about taxes right now, so we have to budget them like any other expense.

Then take a couple of my relatives as the opposite example. They're very well off, with a fine house and investment portfolios. But they still go shopping at Costco and Wal-Mart, and the clearance racks at Macy's aren't beneath them. That's how they've accumulated wealth. Ben Franklin's saying always rings true: "Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves."

I grew up mainly in Utah. Though I was never Mormon, most of my friends were, and I became very familiar with their church. They will help members who are down on their luck, but the Church heavily screens applicants. From what I understand, their recommendation in almost every case is one word: frugality. Having trouble meeting the bills? Well, is cable TV a necessity? How frequently do you eat out or go to the movies?

Sunday, June 12, 2005 6:57:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

This is documented somewhere on the Citizens Against Government Waste website, I think, but I can't find it right now.

States like Alaska and West Virginia receive more money from the federal government than their citizens pay in federal taxes. Of course, it all balances out in the end; the rest of us pay for it. California especially, as I recall.

Sunday, June 12, 2005 7:33:00 PM  

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