Liberals Hate Poor People

Analysis of political issues across the world

Liberals Hate Poor People

Postby Joe » 20 Jun 2013, 02:28

A very liberal acquaintance of mine remarked recently that Wal-Mart is the most “destructive” entity in the world because its business plan focuses heavily on reducing costs! This is only slightly less shocking than progressive New York Daily News columnist Neil Steinberg’s description of the company as “an enormous fascist beast”. Wal-Mart’s emphasis on cost control and low prices runs afoul of a number of liberal shibboleths such as buying manufactured items from nations having wage scales below some arbitrarily derived minimum, selling “too cheap” and operating in sprawling “big boxes” that crowd out local mom and pop stores. That Wal-mart furnishes its customers serviceable to excellent products at deep discounts and that items it obtains from third world regions provide otherwise non-existent jobs is willfully ignored.

One trip to a Wal-mart in say Hattiesburg, Mississippi quickly reveals that it is the least economically endowed who shop there. The cars of the working poor and the elderly fill the Wal-mart parking lot. With many prescription drugs at $4 for a month’s supply and cut-rate groceries, clothes and other necessities of life, the company brings American prosperity to the least of us. It is no stretch to assert that Wal-mart does more for poor people in this country than all the liberal welfare programs adopted since the New Deal - and without damning consequences. Overseas Wal-mart suppliers provide countless men and women with jobs at a wage they stand on line to accept.

In public education, progressive teachers unions foster a culture of inferiority where excellence is suspect and mediocrity rewarded. These same unions promote bloated, out of touch school administrations that siphon off much needed funds from the classroom. Deweyite educators push multicultural and new age curriculums in place of basic and foundational studies. Our schools no longer teach grammar, civics, a truthful history of our nation and other subjects necessary in preparation for life in a 21st Century world. It is the children of the impoverished of course who are condemned to these factories of failure.

Free exchange of goods and services is among the most dignified and moral acts in creation. Dignified because each man gets what he wants from the bargain and moral for the transaction is totally without compulsion. Free enterprise with its handmaiden, privately owned property is the ultimate wealth and prosperity engine yet created by the society of men. The excess profit of trade has furnished every improvement in man’s environment and life since the dawn of time. Liberals despise private property, trade and profit.

Unfettered, free enterprise will ever produce more and better goods and services at lower prices. The production of this merchandise and benefits create the jobs by which the meanest among us may improve their lot. The lower prices guaranteed by competition put more and more quality products in their homes. Social reformers seek heavily sanctioned state control of both trade and production with favored products and services subsidized and others regulated away. Each time the heavy thumb of government falls on the scales of the marketplace, more poor people are put of work and denied the advantages they need and desire. Progressives seem to abhor general prosperity.

Extreme environmentalism harms struggling people by artificially raising gasoline and other energy prices. Excessive regulation and taxation restrict profits thus impairing job creation, again disproportionately affecting families at the bottom of the ladder. Farm subsidies push up food prices making it more difficult for the humble to eat properly.

From demonization of large discount stores to ineffective state schools. From family devastating welfare programs to excessive regulation and taxation I can think of no progressive policy that has produced anything but a negative impact on the less well off. The left claims a deep affection and compassion for poor people. Measured by the effect of its actions, liberals hate poor people.
Joe
 
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Re: Liberals Hate Poor People

Postby Caleb » 21 Jun 2013, 05:18

I think that at least one of the major complaints about Walmart is justified though: NIMBYism. NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) labour and environmental laws and where they intersect with consumerism are a major moral blind spot. Of course, I am equally guilty of being party to this phenomenon.

The point is that much of what occurs (labour violations, environmental degradation) in the countries of the suppliers to Walmart simply wouldn't be tolerated in Western countries. How would you feel if you found out there was a sweatshop up the road, or that they were pumping dangerous chemicals into the air near where you lived? So why is it okay that these things take place in other countries (China being the poster child for such things) just so we can buy cheap, imported rubbish? This shouldn't even necessarily be a left vs right argument anyway, but it has been turned into one.

One of the major downfalls of free market economic arguments is that they conveniently ignore what are known as externalities.
Caleb
 
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Re: Liberals Hate Poor People

Postby Michael » 21 Jun 2013, 15:52

The point is that much of what occurs (labour violations, environmental degradation) in the countries of the suppliers to Walmart simply wouldn't be tolerated in Western countries. How would you feel if you found out there was a sweatshop up the road, or that they were pumping dangerous chemicals into the air near where you lived? So why is it okay that these things take place in other countries (China being the poster child for such things) just so we can buy cheap, imported rubbish? This shouldn't even necessarily be a left vs right argument anyway, but it has been turned into one.


My view is that the responsibility is on the people living in those countries to stand up for themselves. People are choosing these jobs because they pay highly (compared to their previous, agricultural level of income) and they are willing to put up with the downside risks (environmental degradation). As they get wealthier, and let's remember that they had no domestic opportunities, they will be able to start to care about labour and environmental issues. It's been the same story in the West: we were able to care about the environment once we had industrialized. I don't believe people living in other countries are stupid or naive - I believe they are making the best choice for themselves in their situation. It's certainly better (and less corrupt) than us sending them "foreign aid".

As for buying cheap, imported rubbish: that is a part of what we get from overseas manufacturing, but we also get an enormous range of high-quality products.
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Re: Liberals Hate Poor People

Postby Caleb » 22 Jun 2013, 00:42

Those are not the points I'm making though. People would rightly see that hiring an assassin to kill your ex-wife would be just as bad as pulling the trigger yourself.

I also think you're slightly off the mark about the West cleaning up its act. It didn't clean up its act. It simply exported its externalities, which is my whole point. If China ever gets to that point, it will simply export those externalities also. It always flows downhill. That's why this also has analogies to immigration. Immigration has positives and negatives, but the funny thing is that those with wealth and prestige always manage to get the positives (cheap labour, ethnic restaurants...I'm kind of scratching my head for many more benefits now), yet they export the externalities (crime, lower school performance, etc.) to the neighbourhoods of others and bill the whole situation as somehow enriching. Those neighbourhoods are always touted as eventually catching up, yet what if they don't?

We live in a finite world, yet people still want the contradiction of, for instance, cheap denim jeans in their shops and a pristine environment free of labour violations.

My simple question would be this: If Walmart is so good, why are the underclass still so trashy? Why, with all their spending power that has been freed up by cheaper imported goods, are they still comsuming (both physically and culturally) garbage?
Caleb
 
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Re: Liberals Hate Poor People

Postby Caleb » 22 Jun 2013, 04:43

Michael: I had to run off earlier, so I didn't have time to fully outline my position.

I think that globalisation, of which Walmat and other such stores are a part, has been fairly good for middle class people in the main. It has certainly benefited me. I am not so sure about society overall though. It probably has in many ways, but one thing that is not considered is that it has led to the loss of many skills that might one day be essential again. There is a difference between a manufacturing job, trade or craftsman's job and a Walmart job that is essentially an unskilled service job. In the short term, we may not notice, but there may be a time when this comes back and bites us. Maybe not. Who knows. I am generally a proponent of free trade, but I can see some of these issues still. Also, I think the replacement of those other kinds of jobs, even if relatively low skilled, has had a truly deleterious effect upon the lower class, particularly men.

I believe that the benefits of globalisation have largely passed the lower class by. There have been two kinds of benefits of globalisation, I think. One is access to cheaper and/or better goods. The second is access to previously inaccessible ideas or experiences. I'd like to deal with the second first.

In the case of previously inaccessible ideas or experiences, I am talking basically about the huge amount of information we now have at our fingertips, and access to books, music performances, etc. that vastly exceed what any king or scholar had access to in the past. Another aspect of this might be the ease and relatively cheap cost of international travel, for instance. In all of these respects, I probably lead a much richer life than my grandparents did. Yet the lower class don't really. In as much as the lower class have embraced the internet or anything else, they haven't really progressed. Now we might say that's their own fault, and it is to a large extent, but I think there are other forces at play, and besides, I think it challenges the notion of progress as being linear for all.

The other issue is economic. Aside from cheap clothes or other consumer items and junk food, I'm not sure the lower classes have really progressed here either. I'll deal with each of those in turn. Firstly, I'm not even sure that having constant access to new and cheap fashion really improves anyone's lot. It might even make people less happy. I don't know that my grandparents were any less happy simply because they didn't own ten pairs of shoes or twenty t-shirts. Furthermore, those that they did own actually lasted a long time because they were designed and made that way. There's an inbuilt obsolescence with things now that, even aside from marketing, keeps people on a treadmill. You might argue that the real price of a Rolex has come down, but the lower classes don't consume those kinds of things anyway. They churn through things that even if they didn't replace for reasons of fashion, they'd have to replace because they're just so shoddily made. Something that is half the price but needs to be replaced three times as often is not a better deal at all. Are the lower class really better off than their parents' or grandparents' generations? I'm not entirely sure that they are.

Then there's food. I'm always surprised that more poor people don't grow a lot of their own food, but they don't. Regardless, what they do consume is cheaper, per calorie, than food for previous generations (although this may reverse if the long term trend of commodity prices continues to reverse as it has in the past decade). Yet a lot of food now is not even really food in a sense. It's energy, but it's not nutrition. We're now faced with the really perverse situation where people suffer extreme malnutrition whilst simultaneously being obese, where people are dying from diseases related to too many calories rather than not enough. I think that in terms of general health, if not for certain technologies (which I don't think are keeping pace with the problems to do with obesity, for instance), we'd surely have to say that people were actually much healthier forty years ago, probably even if they did live five or ten years less. I suspect they had much better quality of life. It's really hard to argue that kids with type 2 diabetes has been an improvement.

I think all of this bread and circuses, even when provided by the free market (except it's not free market anyway because there are massive government subsidies or other interferences such as letting corporations remove their externalities in dodgy ways) masks much deeper issues.

Wages, especially for men, have pretty much stagnated in real terms over the past forty years. This has been masked by cheap imports (or locally produced food), easy access to credit and the exponential growth of the welfare state. The latter two, at least, will completely dry up or take major hits, if they haven't already. They're simply unsustainable. Another blow to men has been that those traditional jobs they once had that, even if fairly low skilled, allowed them to take some pride in contributing something to society have been replaced, as I mentioned above. What truly productive role do the lower class, especially men, play anymore? All of those little community businesses that would have interacted before and been the scene of countless conversations that helped to create the glue that held the community together have disappeared. Does anyone even know who the person working at Walmart is, let alone converse with him or her, let alone start organising community events as a result anymore? Everyone lives in their own little caves out in the middle of nowhere, they drive to a massive box somewhere off on the horizon, stock up on Doritos and Playstations, and then disappear back to their holes in the ground somewhere again. I've lived in places like these and just walking across the parking lot can take ten minutes. They're massive, dehumanising concrete jungles, and inside it's more of the same, just more brightly lit.

Once you throw in what has happened in the family or the education system or other institutions of society over the past couple of generations, we're talking about a society that has been absolutely gutted from the inside out. Is it any wonder then that we have fat, stupid, lazy people who don't care? Some are actively anti-social, others merely a complete drain on society (because even the working poor probably cost society more than they get in benefits). Sure, we can blame them, and I like to as much as the next person, but I don't think that's the solution?

What is the solution? I don't know. I'm against the notion of protectionism. Most other solutions I can think of that would be imposed simply wouldn't work either. Yet sometimes of two possible paths, neither is a good one. They might both be bad.

I don't even think this is a left vs right issue in the normal sense. I think that liberals do hate poor people, but I don't know that the right necessarily like them either. There seems to be some kind of unholy alliance between the institutional elite and the crony capitalists. As I wrote in my earlier post, the elite get the benefits, but none of the drawbacks, of all this. They live in nice places with trendy cafes offering exotic drinks and dishes, or shop at boutique clothing or handicraft stores. That's not how it plays out in the suburbs or the small towns with a Walmart though. The elite occasionally lambaste one set of capitalists such as the military industrial complex, or the petrochemical industry, but that's all for show, and then it's business as usual. Both sides of politics get contributions from all industries. They're all hedging their bets and lobbying.

I know this comes off as completely reactionary, but we're not going to have a positive and productive reaction against feminism, multiculturalism or any of the rest of it when our notion of shopping or other public places is a gargantuan box in which no one stands around talking to one another, but in which they buy cheap garbage for their consumption. The traditional marketplace was not just a place that people went to buy fish and vegetables. It was a lot more than that. It was an institution that we have utterly gutted.

On that note, I leave you with this.
Caleb
 
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Re: Liberals Hate Poor People

Postby Yessica » 15 Jul 2013, 05:53

Michael wrote:
The point is that much of what occurs (labour violations, environmental degradation) in the countries of the suppliers to Walmart simply wouldn't be tolerated in Western countries. How would you feel if you found out there was a sweatshop up the road, or that they were pumping dangerous chemicals into the air near where you lived? So why is it okay that these things take place in other countries (China being the poster child for such things) just so we can buy cheap, imported rubbish? This shouldn't even necessarily be a left vs right argument anyway, but it has been turned into one.


My view is that the responsibility is on the people living in those countries to stand up for themselves. People are choosing these jobs because they pay highly (compared to their previous, agricultural level of income) and they are willing to put up with the downside risks (environmental degradation). As they get wealthier, and let's remember that they had no domestic opportunities, they will be able to start to care about labour and environmental issues.


I like to disagree on this one, because I highly doubt all the people working in sweatshops do so because it is what they chose to do with their lives.

My family is from Germany (tell me if I am telling you this to often) and I know for sure that in the GDR political prisoners worked in "sweatshops" against their will producing goods for big global players such as IKEA as a prominent example.

I also know for sure that people in the GDR were made "test" medications against their will and it was big american companies which did that. They basically paid the GDR for selling them their own subjects and the citzens of the GDR had no choice about this. Many did not even know they were subjected to this tests. They thought that their doctors were giving them a "normal" medication.

It is not like people everywhere really have a choice to "stand up for themselves". In the GDR the official truth was that there were no major environmental issues in socialist states. It was in the school textbooks. I have happened to read those of my parents.

If a persons dared to question the official truth that person disappeared and when that person reapeared years later he had a broken nose and talked to nobody... and people were afraid to talk with him because they thought that in that case it would look like they did not love socialism enough.

That is what I have been told about live back then.

What I think is that Eastern Germany was by far not the worst country. In fact people who lived in other socialist countries have been telling me that it was the best.
Many people still live in conditions like that and still have no choice, no vote and do not have the tools to help themselves.

That is why I buy fair trade if I can and if I do not have that customer choice I try to buy only from democratic countries.

On the other hand I think that globalism has helped people in many developing countries. For example I heard that the child mortality rate has been reduced in Bangladesh and there are more people who know how to read now that the industry of producing clothes has become important for the country.
Because of the population growth people would starve to death if they did not have the choice to work there.

So, sorry for my bad English today. It's difficult for me to talk about a topic in English which I have not talked about in your language before.
Yessica
 
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