[Ali] Bootstrap Fury | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Ali] Bootstrap Fury

I was attempting to have a nonviolent "discussion" with my conservative father the other day when he said the phrase, "Pulling themselves up by their bootstraps." After quickly looking around for President Reagan, I realized the man responsible for my existence had said that to me in reference to the ideal social welfare system.

This did not surprise me in some ways. This one tiny sentence has paraphrased the American ideal of self-sufficiency for years and has bled into the foundation of our social welfare system. In my completely mature decision to prove him wrong, I Googled "Pulling themselves up by their bootstraps" as soon as I got home. Many of the articles the very-scientific Google regurgitated, agreed that the idea of "bootstrap pulling" was a lie foisted upon the "have nots" to make them feel guilty about being poor.

Leaving it up to the poor to do their own bootstrap pulling sounds fabulous. I mean, who could disagree with making people responsible for their own economic viability? It's simple, right? Insert strap into slot (A)pathy on boot. Pull strap through slot (B)ureaucracy on boot. Jerk the hell out of strap until you reach slot (C)apitalism, and all is right with the world. Anybody can do that.

I think the concept is significantly more complicated than is ever truly explained, though. Until we understand the culture of thought underneath our beliefs about the poor and needy, we will never truly change the state of the social welfare system in this country. We must also understand how the strength of our social service system affects everyone, not just those in the lower socioeconomic bracket.

If you can force poor people to participate in their disenfranchisement by blaming them for it, you cripple their ability to change it. If you tell a woman who is desperately trying to find work, "It is your own fault that you are not viably employed," you are telling her that her family doesn't deserve to be helped. You effectively remove the one thing needed for people to actually help themselves: the belief in self-efficacy. How can you teach a person they are viable and should invest in the American system when in the very process of doing so, you tell them they do not deserve it?

Maybe we should look at it from a different perspective. What is my personal responsibility toward the poor? People that do not have anything, therefore having nothing to lose, and that do not feel invested in the system of which they are a part, will denounce that system and all of its moral ambiguity. This means crime. If we push people into a corner and tell them they must work for whatever they get, then afford them no work, all the while bombarding them with materialistic symbols of what they should be getting, there will be crime. You tell them to build a house, and you give them no tools.

How does a person discern between which is the path (s)he is supposed to tread? We make the options so disparate and then expect people to choose the one with fewer rewards.

If I were 13 and poor, why would I choose to work three jobs to pay for an education when I can sell drugs and make the same money? I wouldn't. Yes, some would say that selling drugs is wrong. I would say our culture teaches our children that selling drugs isn't wrong because it makes the most money.

The very fact that we live in a culture where money is all-knowing and all-seeing makes it even more difficult to validate this "bootstrap" path to poor Americans. If money is the one thing valued above all others in our culture, it lowers the probability of people acting according to an internal morality—especially when this internal morality doesn't have the financial rewards of other readily available paths. We expect the poor populations to do "right" based upon an internal moral code, while surrounded by a culture that functions on external sources of rewards.

Essentially, we expect the poorest and least educated to perform at a higher moral level than the rest of the population. When people fail at this task, they are then made to feel ashamed. We look down upon them, never realizing we are one paycheck away from this same snide expression. This ability to disassociate only fuels our culture's incessant belief in "us" and "them."

In what world does it make sense to punish the least educated of our population for operating on a moral level that is not even expected of the president of the United States?

Until the highest of us make choices for others based upon these same morals, how can we ever expect those of us we squash, talk down to, ignore and imprison to live better?

One thing highly ironic about the use of this phrase is that the strap was originally put onto the boot to make it easier to put the boot on. So, technically, lazy people created the very bootstrap you tell people to use.

How perfectly American is that?

Ali Greggs is a social worker in Jackson and a regular JFP columnist.

Previous Comments

ID
70491
Comment

Just as ìweî shouldnít tell the poor that they are the sole proprietors of their circumstances, you certainly donít blame those who are not poor. Encouraging those having the least in society to be more self-resilient does not make you an elitist. Perhaps if more social pundits would forgo political correctness(a la Bill Cosby) and not attribute all the ills of society to those with more or the most in society, the term ìpull yourself up by the boot strapsî would not be so out of bounds when someone dares utter the term. It is beyond me to believe that people are limited to being poor because they lack the capacity to do what is morally right or to be self-sufficient. The enigmatic ìweî you speak of simply cannot win within your view, it is fine to support and uplift those with the least in society, but god forbid ìweî should have any expectations that theyíll ever become self sufficient, possess morals, and abide by the law.

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-08-11T00:13:43-06:00
ID
70492
Comment

Very good article, Ali. One of the best you've written, I think. It captures a side of this debate that needs expression. I think you summarized it very well with this line: "Essentially, we expect the poorest and least educated to perform at a higher moral level than the rest of the population." However, having said that, I do think you have only addressed one part of the issue. The commenter above (K Rhodes) addressed another part, pointing out that "Encouraging those having the least in society to be more self-resilient does not make you an elitist". But I'm not going to comment further, or add any of my criticisms. I really don't think my opinions on this subject are well-informed enough to add much to the discussion, especially when there are so many others whose opinions are more well-informed (my Mom, for one). Hopefully, some of these others will chime in. But, really, I just wanted to let you know that I think this is good work. You said some things that needed to be said, in a way that communicates them very well. Good job.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-11T13:40:09-06:00
ID
70493
Comment

Uh, three things I think. First this quote from Thomas Wolfe that showed up on my Excite portal today: So, then, to every man his chance -- to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining golden opportunity -- to every man his right to live, to work, to be himself, to become whatever his manhood and his vision can combine to make him -- this, seeker, is the promise of America. - Thomas Wolfe Second, Ali, my favorite editorial ever came out when I was in college during Reagan's campaign. It showed a picture of Ronald Reagan with his hand on a little black boy's shoulder with them both looking up with wonder at the sky, and Reagan telling him that all he had to do was "pull himself up by his bootstraps." Then you looked at the little boy's feet, and he was barefoot. Third, I'm not quite understanding Rhodes' point as stated here: Just as ìweî shouldnít tell the poor that they are the sole proprietors of their circumstances, you certainly donít blame those who are not poor. Encouraging those having the least in society to be more self-resilient does not make you an elitist. This is a serious jump in logic. I don't see Ali "blaming" the well-to-do for the poor; she is calling on them to help the poor have the tools they need -- the bootstraps, as it were -- to pull themselves up. There is a huge difference in that and "blaming" the rich. That's a rather absurd distillation of what she's sayingóbut, unfortunately, very common these days. Of course, encouraging others to be "resilient" does not make one an elitist. I do that, and I certainly don't think I'm an elitist. (By the way, I also do not think the words "educated" and "elitist" are interchangeable, but that's a tangent.) There is so, so, so far between "encouraging" people to take responsibility ("going Dr. Laura on your ass," as I call it) and trying to not provide them, or even taking away, the tools (the proverbial bootstraps) that they need to pull themselves up. The national dialogue that needs to happen is over those friggin' bootstraps. The truth is, not everyone has them, and the even harder truth is that many people like it that way and want to keep all dem damn bootstraps for themselves. Finally, Rhodes, you need to study Bill Cosby in context, not simply from the types of sound bites that folks like Limbaugh and O'Reilly like to grab to try to say that he's on their side in the whole black-folk-don't-take-enough-responsibility schtick. Cosby's comments are one helluva lot more nuanced than you apparently seem to realize. Finally, finally, Rhodes, the following statement of yours is downright offensive. I can't even believe you're trying to say that Ali is arguing this. How cheap and ridiculous such a reading is: but god forbid ìweî should have any expectations that theyíll ever become self sufficient, possess morals, and abide by the law. Lord.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-11T15:36:08-06:00
ID
70494
Comment

I never said that we shouldn't expect them to be self-sufficient. I was saying our current culture and system really don't ALLOW them to be. People NEED "tools" to be self-sufficient. No, I myself am hugely against the "blaming childhood for my ills". Hell, we all had crappy childhoods. But, I had a crappy childhood with parents who were able to afford childcare, a good education, good food, and many other things people deem as being "needed". It is beyond me to believe Here's your problem right here. I didn't ask you to believe...I asked you to consider the possibility that maybe what you believe isn't the only way to think. I didn't ask you to believe. I asked you to dream.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-11T19:17:42-06:00
ID
70495
Comment

I would also like to clarify that I placed no blame on the very politically correct "haves". I addressed WE...I did that purposely because I AM included in this "we"...I did it because I know that *I*, even though I work with these populations every day, will NEVER understand their reality. It would be narcissistic for me to even think that I could judge the way they live their life by the standards of my very different upbringing. The key word there is "different". No one ever said "better". I hope that made sense.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-11T19:23:29-06:00
ID
70496
Comment

Ladd: "Finally, Rhodes, you need to study Bill Cosby in context, not simply from the types of sound bites that folks like Limbaugh and O'Reilly like to grab to try to say that he's on their side in the whole black-folk-don't-take-enough-responsibility schtick. Cosby's comments are one helluva lot more nuanced than you apparently seem to realize." Cite, please?

Author
This user is on probation for trolling.
Date
2005-08-11T23:26:32-06:00
ID
70497
Comment

People NEED "tools" to be self-sufficient. I agree, and don't we have those tools in America. Things like free childcare programs for high school mothers and single parent college students; food vouchers; government assisted rent; United Negro College Funds; low income scholarships; free lunch programs at schools; school fee waivers for low income families; after school tutoring programs; Boys & Girls clubs. Could low income families use more tools? Certainly. However, there are already a great number of tools readily available. Some will take advantage of those and achieve tremendous success. Some will never make it, regardless of the tools available. Some, sadly, will slip through the cracks. My point, if I even really have one, is that no American can honestly say that he/she doesn't have any options or resources to better him/herself. Perhaps some have more, some have less, but no one has none. We need to remember that some of our greatest citizens in history came from extreme poverty, and in times (historically) when there were NO social helps. No welfare, no scholarships, etc. This doesn't mean we should stop providing tools, but it does prove that in this country if you have the will to succeed you can. Perhaps where we need to turn our attention is not toward more money and programs, but more personal involvement (i.e. Big Brothers/Big Sister; Boys & Girls Clubs, Mentor Programs), where those in need of a helping hand are exposed to people who will help them know their options and make good choices.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-08-12T09:03:03-06:00
ID
70498
Comment

I'm all for mentoring programs. I sure wish some of the ones that have gone under due to lack of funding recently were still around. Do you know why the famous people from extreme poverty are WELL KNOWN and talked about? because, they CAME FROM EXTREME POVERTY. This, in and of ITSELF, says that despite what American's SAY (we all have the equal tools to make it) that they STILL recognize internally that coming from THOSE ODDS are a lot more disparate than saying "hey, here's the president of the united states, he came from a really rich white family who sent him to all the best schools." That nulls your point.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-12T09:51:12-06:00
ID
70499
Comment

That did not null my point. My point was anyone can make it regardless of where they start. My point was not that all, most or even many will make it out of extreme poverty, only that they have the opportunity. And besides, what is wrong with coming from a really rich white family and attending all the best schools? You say that like there is something wrong with that.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-08-12T12:33:54-06:00
ID
70500
Comment

Now...I read what you just wrote...and I got THIS "what's wrong with only 1% of 75% of America's population "making it"? The 75% of the 1% that will most assurdedly ALL MAKE IT will be "plenty". Don't you think that the odds should be a little better than that?

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-12T12:38:22-06:00
ID
70501
Comment

I've got to stop drinking in the afternoon.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-12T12:40:12-06:00
ID
70502
Comment

The problem, Cap'n, is that right-wingers cherrypicked Cosby's comments to make it sound like he was saying that they are right that everything the black community faces it has done to itself. They jumped all over certain things he said -- much as we see happen here sometimes -- and say, see, black folks are supposed to do it all for themselves. The shallow thinkers manage to believe that it's either-oróeither you call for the black community to take complete responsibility and abdicate white folks, or you want white folks to do everything for black people and they do nothing for themselves. That is a patently absurd, and very cynical way, to take Mr. Cosby's comments, or Ali's for that matter. Here is Cosby's Brown v. Board speech. Here is a follow-up interview he did with Tavis Smiley on NPR, verbatim. Some money quotes from that one: Cosby: It was the white man who got the word from somebody who was there, who called the white man, who put it in the white paper, which is called the Washington Post. And from that, they left out Mr. Cosby saying 50%. They left out the part about fathering, and they certainly left out ìWe've got to take back the neighborhood and the responsibility--take it back.î Then they added something that I think was incorrect, that the people came out stone-faced, stunned. I don't think they were. And I heard the audience a couple of times saying, ìyes,î people applauding. and Cosby: I don't give me a blank about those right-wing white people! They can't do any more to us than they've already started with. They can't try to throw us back any farther than they've tried to throw us back. And they're doing a very good job of it. The point, of course, is that oneówhether Cosby or Aliócan hold two thoughts at once and call for the black community, and everyone else, to take responsibility, while believing that they need some bootstraps with which to pull themselves up to make up for those efforts by the "right-wing white people," as Cosby calls them, "to throw us back." And the problem, brandon/jade (which are you now? the husband or the wife? or are y'all joined at the hip?), is that many folks in the pretend-bootstrap crowd want the bootstraps such as those you mention done away with.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-12T12:41:44-06:00
ID
70503
Comment

Good Lord, would all y'all stop worrying about some pretend attacks on rich white folks? Some of my best friends are rich white folks. Quit. Changing. The. Subject.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-12T12:42:58-06:00
ID
70504
Comment

Ladd ñ Third, I'm not quite understanding Rhodes' point as stated here: Just as ìweî shouldnít tell the poor that they are the sole proprietors of their circumstances, you certainly donít blame those who are not poor. Encouraging those having the least in society to be more self-resilient does not make you an elitist. This is a serious jump in logic. I don't see Ali "blaming" the well-to-do for the poor; she is calling on them to help the poor have the tools they need -- the bootstraps, as it were -- to pull themselves up. There is a huge difference in that and "blaming" the rich. That's a rather absurd distillation of what she's sayingóbut, unfortunately, very common these days. Of course, encouraging others to be "resilient" does not make one an elitist. I do that, and I certainly don't think I'm an elitist. (By the way, I also do not think the words "educated" and "elitist" are interchangeable, but that's a tangent The fact that she (Ali) asked that the rich do more is indicative of blame or fault in my view. Ladd -- Finally, Rhodes, you need to study Bill Cosby in context, not simply from the types of sound bites that folks like Limbaugh and O'Reilly like to grab to try to say that he's on their side in the whole black-folk-don't-take-enough-responsibility schtick. Cosby's comments are one helluva lot more nuanced than you apparently seem to realize. Finally, finally, Rhodes, the following statement of yours is downright offensive. I can't even believe you're trying to say that Ali is arguing this. How cheap and ridiculous such a reading is: but god forbid ìweî should have any expectations that theyíll ever become self sufficient, possess morals, and abide by the law. Lord.î My familiarity regarding Cosbyís comments were not derived from pretentious fascist (i.e. OíReilly & Limbaugh). My statement is no more offensive than stating that poor thirteen-year-old kids in this country are so morally destitute that their only option is a life of crime.

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-08-12T13:13:54-06:00
ID
70505
Comment

Okay. Once and for all. I'm not BLAMING the rich people. What the hell? I am also NOT saying that 13 year olds are morally corrupt. What I AM saying is that maybe the social service system in this country isn't REALLY operating at the level at which you think it operates. I am saying that EVERYONE should be responsible citizens and UNDERSTAND how this system "really" operates. Don't spout splatitudes about "best case scenerios." Life isnt lived in best case scenerios. End of f-ing story. Whether that means the system is flawed or the thought behind it is, it doesn't matter. It doesnt work. It may work 1% of the time, but any business man would trash those odds in 2.2 seconds.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-12T13:23:04-06:00
ID
70506
Comment

Ali Greggs ñ I never said that we shouldn't expect them to be self-sufficient. I was saying our current culture and system really don't ALLOW them to be. People NEED "tools" to be self-sufficient. No, I myself am hugely against the "blaming childhood for my ills". Hell, we all had crappy childhoods. But, I had a crappy childhood with parents who were able to afford childcare, a good education, good food, and many other things people deem as being "needed". It is beyond me to believe Here's your problem right here. I didn't ask you to believe...I asked you to consider the possibility that maybe what you believe isn't the only way to think. I didn't ask you to believe. I asked you to dream. I would also like to clarify that I placed no blame on the very politically correct "haves". I addressed WE...I did that purposely because I AM included in this "we"...I did it because I know that *I*, even though I work with these populations every day, will NEVER understand their reality. It would be narcissistic for me to even think that I could judge the way they live their life by the standards of my very different upbringing. The key word there is "different". No one ever said "better". I hope that made sense. Being that youíre a social worker, you must certainly encounter many poor individuals that do little if anything to attain a higher quality of life. My greatest empathy is with the kids who grow up imporverished.

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-08-12T13:43:23-06:00
ID
70507
Comment

Rhodes, it was offensive because you are trying to say that other people here -- Ali, me perhaps -- do not have "expectations that theyíll ever become self sufficient, possess morals, and abide by the law." This is ridiculous and shows no reading comprehension of anything that has been said here. And it is putting words in people's mouths they did not say, and that it takes a severe lapse in intelligent thought to try to say others are saying. Stop it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-12T13:49:47-06:00
ID
70508
Comment

Ladd said this: Rhodes, it was offensive because you are trying to say that other people here -- Ali, me perhaps -- do not have "expectations that theyíll ever become self sufficient, possess morals, and abide by the law." But Ali said this in her column "How does a person discern between which is the path (s)he is supposed to tread? We make the options so disparate and then expect people to choose the one with fewer rewards. If I were 13 and poor, why would I choose to work three jobs to pay for an education when I can sell drugs and make the same money? I wouldnít. Yes, some would say that selling drugs is wrong. I would say our culture teaches our children that selling drugs isnít wrong because it makes the most money." I am not saying Ali is entirely right or wrong with this statement. But I also don't think you can tell Rhodes that he's a complete idiot for responding the way he did, given statements like this.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-12T14:16:19-06:00
ID
70509
Comment

Now GLB, that doesn't say I don't expect them to. That says its just a lot harder than people think it is. The entire column was about how HARD it is to do the right thing. Not because of "white rich people", not because they are "internally morally corrupt", but because the system (which fully asserts that is DOES have boot straps) doesn't quite fit with what our culture values TODAY. American's love a self made man because he confirms their beliefs that the system works. It makes us feel less guilty. People, I'm not BLAMING you for poverty. Get a grip. I"m saying that WE should possibly THINK about how difficult our "system" makes it for EVERYONE to succeed. That statement is no longer fitting. ...Concrete Thinking.....party of two...?

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-12T14:22:02-06:00
ID
70510
Comment

Fair enough, Ali. But I just don't think Rhodes can be labeled an idiot for saying what he said, in light of such quotes.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-12T14:36:15-06:00
ID
70512
Comment

GLB, no one's calling Rhodes an idiot, although I am accusing him/her of an idiotic and offensive leap in logic, or lapse as I called it already. (We all have those; I certainly do.) I am a bit flabbergasted, though, that you think that is what Ali's statement does. Do you truly not see the difference here between what she said and turning that into not having expectations for the young people? If not, I'm not sure what else I have to say on the topic. Arguments like this take all onus off the people with the most ability to help the unfortunate, no matter whose fault it all was in the first place. "Why, mama, should I help that man whose car broke down? I didn't do it." Whinnnnneeeee. As for all this obsession with "blame"óif what Ali is doing is blaming rich people for the plight of the poor, she's in good company. Go read the Bible and some other fine spiritual texts. I truly, truly feel sorry for people who, when asked to help unfortunate people with food, housing, clothing, education and equal opportunity, can only turn around and whine about being "blamed." Can you hear my tiny violin playingf or you right now? Be the change, people, and stop worrying about what people are "blaming" you for. Life's too short to be so damn defensive, and selfish.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-12T14:47:08-06:00
ID
70511
Comment

Ladd -- "Rhodes, it was offensive because you are trying to say that other people here -- Ali, me perhaps -- do not have "expectations that theyíll ever become self sufficient, possess morals, and abide by the law." This is ridiculous and shows no reading comprehension of anything that has been said here. And it is putting words in people's mouths they did not say, and that it takes a severe lapse in intelligent thought to try to say others are saying. Stop it." Ladd, it is clearly outlined in Ali's text, and I think it takes a lapse in intellect for someone not to readily comprehend what she (Ali) clearly stated!

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-08-12T14:47:08-06:00
ID
70513
Comment

No, Rhodes, it takes a jerk to put words in another person's mouth as you are repeatedly doing -- even as she tries to spell it out for you more clearly.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-12T14:48:18-06:00
ID
70514
Comment

Ladd, there is no need to result to name calling, being that we differ in regards to what Ali stated within her text.

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-08-12T14:54:01-06:00
ID
70515
Comment

Rhodes, it's kind of precious that you're offended now after repeatedly telling someone else what they were saying. You don't just get to go around life putting the most ridiculous, extreme spin on everything so that it fits your view of the world and not be called out on it. Personal responsibility (wo)man. Reap what you sow.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-12T14:57:36-06:00
ID
70516
Comment

Um, HI *raises her hand*, yeah....over here...*Waves them above her head*. Rhodes....I think I will disagree with "clearly stated" since I've told you fourteen times I didn't say that. And, seeing as how I wrote the damn thing...and it came OUT OF MY HEAD I'm thinking I would know what the hell I was saying. The column is about how the current social service system (chracterized by the phrase "Pulling them up by the bootstraps"), when super imposed on our culture's current values, NO LONGER FITS. Anyone else like to tell me what the hell I said and what the hell it meant? Now, if you want me to directly address "self sufficiency" I will. I never said I didn't expect them to be self sufficient...I say we punish people when they fail instead of lifting them up. I said that this, in turn, further separates the classes which pushes "collective responsibility" thought even further away from the forefront. Now, that's what I said...and what I meant. If you didn't get that...I"m sorry. As per everything "written" its up to individual interpretation. You have two choices here 1) continue to fight with the author over what she meant 2) agree that we may have to disagree. I'm going with #2 because its Friday, I'm getting off my meds this week, and I would like to make it thru the weekend without posting the work M%$#R F$%#R on a message board. Thank you and good night.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-12T15:01:07-06:00
ID
70517
Comment

Thank you, Ali, for the clarification. Too bad it was needed. I got your point the first time, I'm happy to say. As for the choices, I am going to respectfully ask Rhodes to defer to the author on what she meant. If Rhodes insists on putting words in your mouth that he/she wants to hear, it's bedtime for Bonzo. That's a violation of the User Agreement. Last call, Rhodes. Time to move past the FUD and back to the intelligent discussion part. Ding, ding.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-12T15:05:00-06:00
ID
70518
Comment

I will forgo your act of being condescending and allow the the text in question to stand alone in discerning what is ridiculous in what I have said and what is true.

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-08-12T15:14:31-06:00
ID
70519
Comment

Ladd: You said this: "I am a bit flabbergasted, though, that you think that is what Ali's statement does. Do you truly not see the difference here between what she said and turning that into not having expectations for the young people?" Ali said this in her article: "How does a person discern between which is the path (s)he is supposed to tread? We make the options so disparate and then expect people to choose the one with fewer rewards" I accept Ali's clarification of her intent, as expressed in earlier posts. But, just reading the text of the original column, Ali seems to be saying that our expectations for these individuals are unfair, because "we" created a system in which the rewards are disparate; i.e. "bad" behavior is where the real rewards lie. Can you not see how one could construe this to mean that Ali is implying that we have no cause to expect "good" behavior, because the system that "we" have put in place does not reward it? Why is it so ridiculous for someone (i.e. Rhodes) to conclude that from this text?

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-12T16:22:13-06:00
ID
70520
Comment

No, GLB, there was nothing about that statement in Ali's column that would lead me, or I suspect most people, to believe Rhodes' characterization. Even if you think that pulled-out sentence meant that, which I didn't, there is such a context. I think they're even teaching schoolkids these days to pay attention to such a fancy-schmancy liberal idea as context. Rhodes was clearly tryiing to discredit Ali's column and turn her into some rich-people-hatin'-superpredator-excusin'-bleedin'-heart-who-doesn't-believe-people-need-to-take-responsibility-liberal-commie-nutball ... and failed miserably. It's not like we don't see this tactic every day, or hear it on talk radio if we can stomach such a thing. Fortunately, in print, it's painfully transparent. Now, can we please discuss what Ali was trying to talk about. I have a feeling she will agree with me that we can stipulate that Not All Rich People Suck so we can have an actual conversation here.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-12T18:19:24-06:00
ID
70521
Comment

Ladd: Well, we can just disagree on that point. I think I did cite Ali in context. It's as plain as a pikestaff to me. Maybe I'm just not nuanced enough to understand it. Like I said before, I dig this column. The main reason I do is that Ali does a good job of pointing out how difficult it can be at the bottom, because you don't have a safety net. So any mistakes "cost" a lot more, so to speak. I think Ali is mainly trying to enegage our personal awareness of this, so we aren't so glib about people who are poor. Of course, a lot of people aren't glib about it, and do a lot in their lives (without any publicity) to try to help productively. This includes liberals, conservatives, you name it. I suppose there aren't a lot of Objectivists doing this, but for them it is a sin to help the poor. So they have a religious exception. {:) Anyway, I'm rambling. I apologize for that.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-12T18:35:19-06:00
ID
70522
Comment

Screw nuance. You quoted two sentences, GLB, to prove that Ali said something she didn't. That's not in context by its very definition. Now, I will declare this particular pissing contest officially over. The horse is dead. Dust to dust. As far as the rest of your comments, the rambling is fine. It's about something important -- and what the column actually said. Feel free to carry on with that part.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-12T18:48:53-06:00
ID
70523
Comment

As a writer, I find this thread really depressing. Our schools obviously aren't doing enough to promote reading comprehension. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-08-13T10:31:31-06:00
ID
70524
Comment

TH, onesí reading comprehension should not be scrutinized simply because one does not share in your or anyone elseís biased interpretation of the text, your interpretation is perhasps fielded upon your sharing in the authorís opinion, of which the impartial text is purely based.

Author
K RHODES
Date
2005-08-13T15:14:36-06:00
ID
70525
Comment

K, it may surprise you to learn that most op-eds are often based on the author's opinions. That's why they're called op-eds. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-08-13T16:01:04-06:00
ID
70526
Comment

Question? What separates the 1% of the 75% that do make it, from the 99% of the 75% that don't? I am not sure that I know the answer to that question, but would be interested in your opinion, especially since you work in this field. For the record, I do agree that those numbers are really, sadly, disappointing and should be much higher. One last thought. We really need to reconsider our definition of poverty. Poverty is a relative term. What we call poverty in America is borderline luxury in virtually all of the rest of the world. Having spent some time abroad, I learned that poverty in America means government housing, food stamps and medicare, whereas poverty in most all other countries on the planet means starving to death, or dying a slow painful death by disease in a "house" that looks like a tool shed. This is not to say that we shouldn't do anything about "poverty" in America, only that we need to keep our bearings about what poverty really is. In fact, what we call poverty in America today is what 99% of Americans lived like prior to World War II.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-08-15T08:41:50-06:00
ID
70527
Comment

I learned that poverty in America means government housing, food stamps and medicare, whereas poverty in most all other countries on the planet means starving to death, or dying a slow painful death by disease in a "house" that looks like a tool shed. This is not to say that we shouldn't do anything about "poverty" in America, only that we need to keep our bearings about what poverty really is. In fact, what we call poverty in America today is what 99% of Americans lived like prior to World War II. This is an untrue statement. I think you haven't SEEN "poverty". It looks like dying of a disease in a tool shed in America JUST like it does everywhere else. I think most people are under the impression that you bee bop into a "government benefits" office (most people think there is ONE centralized one) and you sign up for all the free crap you want and bee bop out. No one thinks that there are virtually forty government offices, who all do different things, who do not speak to one another...the waiting lists for housing are years long. Unemployment benefits are limited, as is "welfare". Food stamps come out to a FRACTION of what it costs to feed a child. (about 150$ a month for THREE PEOPLE IN A FAMILY.,..how much do YOU eat?) and that is ONLY if they "qualify" which means two more stops at two different offices probably dealing with people MORE educated than you who WILL NOT inform you of your benefits and who are, most often (not ALL the time) completely NOT NICE TO YOU. (that was the nice way to put it). So, if you have a single mom with two kids working TWO jobs, just to stay OFF welfare....she has to take off work several times a year to go "requalify" for her benefits. This is probably in a job that doesn't have great job security...and sometimes they get FIRED for having to take time off. And, I think we all know about the state of Medicaid in MS. I've walked into house IN THE MIDDLE OF JACKSON who had no running water (they were hauling it from down the street) the house was infested with roaches, scabies, and fleas....the mother's food stamps ran out ten days before the end of the month (she was feeding the kids cold cereal every day to make it and wasn't eating herself). And, before you say ANYTHING about her...this woman had left an abusive relationship six months prior (the man went ot JAIL in MS for spousal abuse which means he practically had to KILL HER) and her children, and she, were starving. She told me in the interview she hadn't left before then after ALL the beatings because she was scared she wouldn't be able to care for the children. She left an abusive situation...something we TELL women to do...and her worse fears came true. She was becoming homeless and her children were starving. IN DOWNTOWN JACKSON. I also fell thru her kitchen floor...there was a big hole. That was fun. So, what this article is saying. How do you expect HER child (a child who has poor nutrition, poor hygeine and doesn't feel safe at home...ALL PREDICTORS OF FUTURE SUCCESS IN EVERY CHILDREN'S STUDY EVER DONE) to compete at a "bootstrap" level with the rest of the population? So, maybe you REALLY need to reevaluate what you think "poverty" looks like. I appreciate you actually asking the question...many people do not. :)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T09:07:26-06:00
ID
70528
Comment

I learned that poverty in America means government housing, food stamps and medicare, whereas poverty in most all other countries on the planet means starving to death, or dying a slow painful death by disease in a "house" that looks like a tool shed. This is not to say that we shouldn't do anything about "poverty" in America, only that we need to keep our bearings about what poverty really is. In fact, what we call poverty in America today is what 99% of Americans lived like prior to World War II. This is an untrue statement. I think you haven't SEEN "poverty". It looks like dying of a disease in a tool shed in America JUST like it does everywhere else. I think most people are under the impression that you bee bop into a "government benefits" office (most people think there is ONE centralized one) and you sign up for all the free crap you want and bee bop out. No one thinks that there are virtually forty government offices, who all do different things, who do not speak to one another...the waiting lists for housing are years long. Unemployment benefits are limited, as is "welfare". Food stamps come out to a FRACTION of what it costs to feed a child. (about 150$ a month for THREE PEOPLE IN A FAMILY.,..how much do YOU eat?) and that is ONLY if they "qualify" which means two more stops at two different offices probably dealing with people MORE educated than you who WILL NOT inform you of your benefits and who are, most often (not ALL the time) completely NOT NICE TO YOU. (that was the nice way to put it). So, if you have a single mom with two kids working TWO jobs, just to stay OFF welfare....she has to take off work several times a year to go "requalify" for her benefits. This is probably in a job that doesn't have great job security...and sometimes they get FIRED for having to take time off. And, I think we all know about the state of Medicaid in MS. I've walked into house IN THE MIDDLE OF JACKSON who had no running water (they were hauling it from down the street) the house was infested with roaches, scabies, and fleas....the mother's food stamps ran out ten days before the end of the month (she was feeding the kids cold cereal every day to make it and wasn't eating herself). And, before you say ANYTHING about her...this woman had left an abusive relationship six months prior (the man went ot JAIL in MS for spousal abuse which means he practically had to KILL HER) and her children, and she, were starving. She told me in the interview she hadn't left before then after ALL the beatings because she was scared she wouldn't be able to care for the children. She left an abusive situation...something we TELL women to do...and her worse fears came true. She was becoming homeless and her children were starving. IN DOWNTOWN JACKSON. I also fell thru her kitchen floor...there was a big hole. That was fun. So, what this article is saying. How do you expect HER child (a child who has poor nutrition, poor hygeine and doesn't feel safe at home...ALL PREDICTORS OF FUTURE SUCCESS IN EVERY CHILDREN'S STUDY EVER DONE) to compete at a "bootstrap" level with the rest of the population? So, maybe you REALLY need to reevaluate what you think "poverty" looks like. I appreciate you actually asking the question...many people do not. :)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T09:13:32-06:00
ID
70529
Comment

And before anyone says ANYTHING, I wasn't saying we shouldn't EXPECT her children to "produce", I'm saying that the system isn't supportive of their EFFORTS...especially when our culture doesn't support thier EFFORTS. DISCLAIMER: NO RICH WHITE PEOPLE WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF THIS POST. IF YOU HAVE ANY COMPLAINTS REGARDING SAID "HARMING" OF RICH WHITE PEOPLE, PLEASE REFER TO MR. EAT ME at the OFFICE OF KISS MY ASS. ;-)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T09:17:43-06:00
ID
70530
Comment

Ali, do you mind if I ask, what were you able to do for that woman? Please understand, I'm not trying to bait you or anything with this question. You gave us a tragic situation that is (evidently) not uncommon. But you, as a social worker, represent the "system" we have in place to help her. So what were you able to do? Again, please don't think this is some kind of trap. I'm not out to get you. I just want to know. Your column is about how the system is incompatible with our reality. Since you are person who is on the front lines of that system, I want to know what resources you have at your disposal. Not to criticize, but just to know.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-15T09:27:01-06:00
ID
70531
Comment

I forgot to REALLY answer your question....it could actually probably better be answered if you looked up "resiliency factors for children"...I am actually involved in a national research project related to these factors. They ARE things like "good nutrition, social supports, school, feeling safe at home." Those are the factors that separate... Social service program's INITIAL aims were to provide these "factors" to the less fortunate (by the government )so they COULD be on a "level playing field". I'm saying the system NEVER addressed that...well, it doesn't NOW...let's put it that way. Therefore...the bootstraps are flawed. Hence, everything you believe about poverty...everything you collected thru social constructs, what they taught you in school, even what your MAMA said....was based on a concept that NEVER EXISTED...or at least, doesn't exist now. Are people beginning to understand me yet?

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T09:28:43-06:00
ID
70532
Comment

GLB I work for a program (NOT GOVERNMENT) that was able to assign the woman a case manager that helped her to navigate the system to get her benefits (but how good is a system that can't be navigated by the people it purports to support?) We were also able to provide her with some groceries...and help get her water turned back on. The rest of the stuff...well, sometimes it doesn't get resolved. We helped clean her house, feed the kids, get them school uniforms.... But, my major concern is that WITHOUT an outside educated social worker to ADVOCATE for her and get her benefits...this woman was unable to "help herself".

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T09:31:58-06:00
ID
70533
Comment

Ali: Thanks. I just wanted to know. I happen to know who you work for (I'm not stalking you, I just have several close friends who have worked there, so I heard), and, for what it's worth, I do send some of the dough I make at my nerd job to support your organization. And I really do appreicate what you do. As regards to the "system", do you have any suggestions of what you'd like to see happen? Is there an "Ali's Super Social Welfare System" (ASSWS)?

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-15T09:40:50-06:00
ID
70534
Comment

Where would I start? ;) I have a list....but, maybe we'll save that for a column!! I know you don't stalk me. Besides, I KNOW WHERE YOU HANG OUT...YOU SWEET TEA DRINKER!! :-)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T09:47:35-06:00
ID
70535
Comment

Unsweet, actually. That's probably not a big surprise, though. {:)

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-15T09:49:11-06:00
ID
70536
Comment

Ali, Three things. 1) I am truly, sincerely thankful for the work you are doing and it is good to know that this family was able to be helped and be able to survive. Let this serve as a disclaimer for the next two comments, which are not intended to ignore this woman doing the right thing and suffering for it, only to offer support for my previous posts. 2) The reason this lady's situation was a story was because of the extreme nature of it. She represents 1% of the 75% who are in "poverty." She is actually in poverty, but most of what is called poverty in America is just lack of luxury. Most people, even those described as poor, are not anywhere near as bad off as this family. This is an extreme case and there will always be extreme cases. 3) Your post as to the outcome of this situation proves my point. Is she in a bad situation? Yes. Was she able to get help? Yes! You gave it to her! My point was that in America no one can say there are not tools and resources to help you make it. I know you mentioned how difficult it can be when there are 150 different offices, none of which communicate. My point was that in truly impoverished countries those offices don't even exist. There is NO HELP.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-08-15T11:25:41-06:00
ID
70537
Comment

PS I left this out, but God bless you for what you do. You may not be able to change the world but you are making a difference one family at a time. Here is my suggestion. We convince our Federal government to cut off ALL foreign aid, every penny, for one year. I believe the amount we give to foreign countries, even our enemies, is in the tens of billions per year. What if we kept that money for one year and used it to help every family below the poverty line. Imagine how much good could be done.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-08-15T11:32:16-06:00
ID
70538
Comment

brandon/jade you need to come to work with me for one day. That wasn't an EXTREME case. In fact, I had to short thru the ones to decide WHICH one to freaking tell you. That case is the RULE, not the exception. If people stopped giving money to churches...just like they do in times when the economy is bad...(RIGHT NOW) I will lose my job. In fact, in the last year we've lost four positions due to funding. This cut down the number of people we could serve by 60%. That means there are NOW 60% LESS people out there that would be willing to help this woman. There were only HALF as many as we needed to begin with. Magical thinking, anyone? And, yeah, God has already blessed me. I'm trying to shove his ass down the line...

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T11:43:48-06:00
ID
70539
Comment

And, yeah, God has already blessed me. I'm trying to shove his ass down the line... I am not sure what this means? Please explain.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-08-15T12:21:21-06:00
ID
70540
Comment

Really? O.K. I was referring to me shoving God "down the line" to bless all the other people out there who "aren't" blessed yet.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T12:22:39-06:00
ID
70541
Comment

B.J. wrote: The reason this lady's situation was a story was because of the extreme nature of it. She represents 1% of the 75% who are in "poverty." Brandon, what is your source on this? How do you know this? i would argue that you can't possible know it and, thus, am befuddled about why you would throw unsubstantiated rhetoric like this around to show that you are more knowledgeable about people in poverty than, say, a social worker who works with them every single friggin' day. Feel free to convince me I'm wrong. I'm not trying to be mean to you -- I sense a heart in there -- but these are the kinds of statements that don't help anything if you don't back them up.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-15T12:29:08-06:00
ID
70542
Comment

Ladd: Well, I wasn't going to say it because I don't think it really matters, but where are the numbers 1% and 75% coming from in the first place? How is "making it" defined? Did I miss something? Like I said, I don't think it matters much, but if numbers have to be accounted for, then they have to be accounted for. Maybe they were and I missed it. If so, I apologize.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-15T12:33:43-06:00
ID
70543
Comment

Those numbers were not meant as scientific data, just at Ali's numbers (75% and 1%) in her previous post were not meant as scientific data. I was using her numbers. I am not trying to say I know more that Ali or anyone else. But for the record, I too work with the poor every single friggin' day.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-08-15T12:37:20-06:00
ID
70544
Comment

Touche GLB The difference is my estimations are actually a WHOLE HELL OF A LOT CLOSER THAN HIS. ;-) Due to personal experience...and well, small things like having a graduate degree in the actual subject matter.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T12:38:47-06:00
ID
70545
Comment

Maybe you're right, Ali. But I didn't intended my comment as a dig at your numbers. I was just trying to make the accountability consistent, so to speak. I don't really see that the exact numbers are relevant for this discussion. Also, I don't know brandon/jade 's credientials, but he/she might have a master's too, or even a Ph.D.! Of course, as well all know, Ph.D.'s can't even decide which leg they should use to start putting their pants on without a huge grant and a 5 year study. So that wouldn't be too impressive. {:)

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-15T12:51:39-06:00
ID
70546
Comment

GLB-Don't I know it. I once tried to kill six of them in a meeting just for bickering about who got first name placement on an article. Its a pissing contest. And, you are right about brandon/jade...but I would assume at some point that would have been pointed out to me. So, I could have them fired for knowing nothing about their job.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T12:57:38-06:00
ID
70547
Comment

THAT WAS A JOKE!! Christ, I could start a side business making Thanksgiving themed wreaths with all the corn cobs floating around this message board.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-15T12:58:37-06:00
ID
70548
Comment

I'm no Ali Greggs, but I've spent enough time around people who need assistance on rent, utilities, etc., and can't get it, that I know the problem she's talking about here is very real. Yeah, you can eat on $50/month; for weeks at a time (don't ask why), I watched everything I ate to make sure that everything I ate, cumulatively, cost no more than $1/day. (Food Club Mac & Cheese actually makes a damn good lunch; splurge and add Tomato Soup, and one 33 cent box--on sale--will last you two or three days.) Sure, in downtown Jackson we don't have people with distended bellies walking around naked and covered in flies. But is dying of disease really a whole hell of a lot better? And should kids have to eat on $1.30 a day? Come on. You can't even buy a brownie at Cups for that. If you want to give people bootstraps, buy lots of store brand food--peanut butter and canned meat are especially needed; anything high in protein that doesn't have to be refrigerated--and donate it to Stewpot. Give to your local church--First Baptist actually does some pretty good stuff, but you can't go wrong with Catholic Charities, either--I haven't been doing as much of this as I should, but thank God for the people who are actually out in the trenches feeding the hungry and healing the sick. There are plenty of fine armchair Christians who sit at home and eat their $10 suppers and sleep well at night resting comfortably in the knowledge that everyone who is poor and suffering in this city "probably" deserves it. That's a real nice defense mechanism. I know I don't like to think about the poor and suffering. I'm sitting here in a recliner right now, full of cafe lattes and Boca burgers, typing on a PowerBook G4 laptop while people a few miles away are feeding their kids cereal with water because they can't afford milk. What kind of monster am I? An all-too-common one. Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-08-16T00:38:29-06:00
ID
70549
Comment

(And for those of you who don't want to donate to a church--which I can understand--direct donations to Stewpot are always welcome.)

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-08-16T00:40:25-06:00
ID
70550
Comment

Tom: All this is true. Full stop. The expression "God helps those who help themselves" is NOT in the Bible. However, I want to make a couple of comments, not in contraditon of what you said, but in addition. I fully support giving to Stewpot and others. I also fully support creating a system where people are afforded the opportunity and the means to pull themselves out of poverty. I think Ali's column is saying that that's not the system we have now, and it needs to be fixed. However, no system will pull anyone out of poverty who doesn't want to work for it. And they will have to work harder than an average person will, because anyone trying to transition from one economic state to another will have to put in a lot of extra effort. If, for example, I wanted to get stinking rich, I'd have to work a lot harder than I am now to maintain my middle class lifestyle. Fortunately for me, I don't want to be stinking rich. A lot of people in poverty are willing to do this, and only want the opportunity. A lot don't. A lot of poor people want the best for their children. A lot could care less. This is true of all economic classes, but whereas friends and family pick up the slack for the freeloaders in other social classes, the social services system has to do it for the poor. And they consume a lot of the time and resources that could otherwise go to people who want to do better. That's just reality, and that's what we have to work with. I don't think poverty is a liberal or conserative issue. There are both conservatives and liberals who want the same thing: for there to be no poverty in America. They have different ideas of HOW to do that, but that's what they want. It would be nice if they could share ideas and not worry so much about who gets credit. There are also another group liberals and conservatives who want another thing: to feel justified. The liberals do it by pointing fingers at conservatives and "rich old white men", the conservatives do it by pointing fingers and liberals and "lazy" poor people. And nothing gets done. Anyway, just some thoughts.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-16T12:28:44-06:00
ID
70551
Comment

Nicely said Tom... I have tried to avoid getting caught up in this thread, 'cause I don't think I have anything to add that Ali or someone else hasn't already said except : 1) if you are not in a position to donate $$ or items, donate yourself. Many CBO (Community Based Organizations) are only able to exist because of volunteers. I think people can get a true appreciation of the state of the nation and the "welfare" system only by understanding and seeing first hand what a struggle "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" can be. It's easy to think "Get a job" when you see someone on the streets, but have you actually thought about the process one has to go through to get into the work force. If you have no permanent address, if you haven't been able to bathe, if you can't read or write, if you don't have food or have a medical condition that needs to be addressed....the process one has to go through from the streets (and trust me there are plenty of people on the streets in MS) to "getting a job" are arduous at best. And that's if you are in a position to be able to work...not to mention if one needs childcare, etc. 2) Some social workers are there to help people navigate the system (and as Ali said, itís hell trying to show you actually QUALIFY for benefits), but social workers also do therapy (psychiatric social work), do A&D counseling, do life coaching, do medical discharge, community organizing, grass roots political and policy work, etc. I am tired of people going by the stereotype of the social worker as the DHS ìbaby snatcher.î Itís a very diverse field in which to work. YEAH ALI!

Author
MANGUM
Date
2005-08-16T12:50:18-06:00
ID
70552
Comment

Amen, Mangum. I will say this though. I have spent a lot of time in my life with transients and panhandlers, and have probably interacted personally with something like 100 different individuals. I liked a lot of these guys, but to my knowledge not one of them ever showed any signs of really trying to get out of their situation, and very few really wanted to. I just say that to say that if you do volunteer and end up talking with these guys, don't let it get you down. I think it's worth it to interact with these guys, even if they have no intention of getting any better. They may just try to manipulate you the whole time, but sometimes they will actually have an honest conversation. Besides, the human contact is good for both them and for you. It is what it is.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-16T13:04:04-06:00
ID
70553
Comment

I have to amend that. There is one of these guys I know of who seems to be genuinely trying. So there is always hope.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-16T13:10:47-06:00
ID
70554
Comment

This comment by GLB jumped out at me: The liberals do it by pointing fingers at conservatives and "rich old white men", the conservatives do it by pointing fingers and liberals and "lazy" poor people. And nothing gets done. Hmmm, nice double stereotype and equal-opportunity slapping. However, that doesn't make this an accurate statement just because it's supposedly, uh, fair. Let's dissect. First, "the liberals." Could you be more specific, GLB? Who are you talking about who are "pointing fingers at conservatives and 'rich old white men'" and not getting anything done? Could you give us some examples, please? Are you saying this applies to all "liberals," or just the ones you know? Who used the "rich old white men" quote that you have in quotes? And why is nothing getting doneóbecause people are blaming "rich old white men"? If you do that, does that automatically mean that you are not getting anything done? Now, apply the same questions to your swipe against conservatives. Is it true that conservatives who just whine about "the liberals" never get anything done about poverty. I'm not their biggest fans, and not even I believe such an extreme statement. Two stereotypes don't make a right.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-16T13:19:49-06:00
ID
70555
Comment

Also, the following statement by GLB applies equally as well to many of the people who post on this site, not just to the poor folks we deign to condescend to: I think it's worth it to interact with these guys, even if they have no intention of getting any better. They may just try to manipulate you the whole time, but sometimes they will actually have an honest conversation. Besides, the human contact is good for both them and for you. It is what it is.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-16T13:25:16-06:00
ID
70556
Comment

Ladd: I was making sweeping generalizations, based on my personal interaction with, well, people. Generalizations are wrong, I think, when we use them to pre-judge individuals (pre-judice). But I was just making a general observation, trying to show that this issue is not a liberal versus conservative issue. At least I don't think it is. One school of thought may indeed be more efficacious than the other, but I think there are people on both sides who really want to see something happen. Of course individuals are individual, and I suspect that most everyone is a "doer" at some times, and a "justifier" at others, and no one resides in either of the camps I drew up at all times. Again, I was just summarizing some patterns I tend to observe.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-16T13:46:17-06:00
ID
70557
Comment

Donna, that's darned clever. And it was wonderful to finally meet you yesterday! Trey, thanks for this, and agreed. Volunteer work is ALWAYS needed. Some friends of mine are involved in the local Crisis Line ministry, which is also immensely useful--that's the best place for people to call if they need help. The folks who answer the phone over there have to go through a fairly rigorous training program first, and they have one of the best assistance directories in town. GLB, I don't follow. Many liberals are rich old white men; that's very often where the funding for these initiatives comes from. And some of the most active volunteers in Jackson are rich, old, conservative, sometimes even borderline racist old white men. None of us are in a position to gloat; even Mother Teresa spent most of her money on new monasteries rather than the poor. What's important is to get to work and write checks and donate goods, not to look for excuses not to. As for folks who don't seem to want to get out of poverty: You know, I've noticed that sometimes, too--though I have seen more situations like the one Ali described. Wily panhandlers are the most visible poor folks, but they aren't even close to being the only poor folks. But even in the case of folks who don't seem to have any get-up-and-go left, let's say you knew a teenage girl who practiced self-mutilation--cut herself on a regular basis. Would you say she deserves to be cut if she cuts herself? Or would you wonder what it was in her life that made her feel good about cutting herself? Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-08-16T13:54:29-06:00
ID
70558
Comment

Tom: I dont' follow. I don't understand how my comments elicit this response from you. It seems that you and Ladd didn't read my whole comment or something. I think you and I are on the same page. I'm not being difficult or obtuse (or at least I'm not trying). I just really dont' understand.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-16T14:13:06-06:00
ID
70559
Comment

GLB, that wasn't a criticism of you, and on a second reading I'm not entirely sure it's a criticism of your argument. However, one of the problems I do see in the current environment is that we have a dominant political party that accuses the poor of defrauding the government, of being a criminal element, and of wholeheartedly deserving their fate. Sometimes this is plain old robber baron economics; other times it's that blasted Prosperity Gospel. Those of us who are liberals would like to see this change. When you spoke of a group of liberals and conservatives who are more or less in balance, the liberals blaming the rich and the conservatives blaming the poor, it sounded a little glib to me. When pure conservatism is the law of the jungle and pure liberalism is a socialist system, it's really hard to say that they're equal in the way they deal with the poor. I mean, that's like saying they're equal in the way they deal with gay marriage or gun control. I speak here, of course, of political conservatism. Religious conservatism--other than the anti-Christian Prosperity Gospel--is very much oriented towards care of the poor, which is why I have no reservations about supporting right-leaning groups like the Salvation Army or even the Southern Baptist Convention in their charity work. In Mississippi, the Southern Baptist churches do as much as anybody to take care of the poor, no question. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-08-16T17:11:30-06:00
ID
70560
Comment

Religious conservatism--other than the anti-Christian Prosperity Gospel--is very much oriented towards care of the poor, which is why I have no reservations about supporting right-leaning groups like the Salvation Army or even the Southern Baptist Convention in their charity work. In Mississippi, the Southern Baptist churches do as much as anybody to take care of the poor, no question. Thank you, Tom. This was the point I was teasing out in my response to GLB's stereotypes of the right and the left. Truth is, people on both "sides" help the poor, especially when you factor in religious conservatives. That's why simplistic, two-way paradigms don't work. There are plenty of greedy folk (and old white ones) on the left, and plenty of people on the right who actually follow, for instance, Jesus' teachings about helping the less fortunate. That does not mean, however, that there is no one left to criticize or, to get back to Ali's original point, that the old Reagan-esque, "compassionate" conservative bootstrap argument doesn't need a wee bit of challenge. Let's just try to avoid stereotypes as we do that. That's hard, of course, because of the people that good conservatives are allowing to speak for them these days about the being poor being the fault of the poor. But that sure doesn't mean that everyone with conservative ideas, or who is old and white and male, has those same ideas. That, to use my current favorite word, is absurd.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-16T17:31:04-06:00
ID
70561
Comment

Ladd: Well, this may be dead horse abuse, but I didn't stereotype the right and the left. I said that there are both conservatives and liberals who make excuses, and conservatives and liberals strive to help the poor. Which is what you said. Which is why I'm confused. Oh well.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-16T19:08:02-06:00
ID
70562
Comment

Mangum-you know your comment means that everyone must drink, right?

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-16T19:19:43-06:00
ID
70563
Comment

I have my tea right here. Bottoms up.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-16T19:29:15-06:00
ID
70564
Comment

Do the drinking game rules still apply? Nice to see you are still writing GLB(T).

Author
MANGUM
Date
2005-08-16T20:31:20-06:00
ID
70565
Comment

Thanks, Mangum. Glad to know you are still out there in cyberland too.

Author
GLB
Date
2005-08-16T20:35:34-06:00
ID
70566
Comment

GLB, I think the problem is that a lot of your argument got mushed together with K Rhodes' argument. I can't speak for Donna (though I suspect she'd say much the same thing), but I was arguing more with the general line of discussion preceding your post than with your post itself. Don't sweat it. You're doing fine. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-08-16T21:29:48-06:00
ID
70567
Comment

By the way, AG, enjoying your op-eds tremendously. Seriously, no diss meant to other writers, but it is rapidly reaching the point where the first thing I look for after the cover story is the Ali Greggs article (if I haven't already seen it online). Dynamite stuff. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-08-16T21:33:27-06:00
ID
70568
Comment

Another perspective of "bootstraps". 20-something Middle Class White Collar Workers might get a $45,000 year job supurb benefits with Megabux Corp Megabux sees 1.83 million shares of its stock trade daily on The New York Stock Exchange. Megabux is also listed on the London FTSE, the Tokyo Nikkei, and the Frankfurt DAX. Why did this person get the dream job? Because they knew the 52 year old Chief Financial Officer of !!!!!!!!!!! This person has a bright future because of CONNECTIONS!!!!!!!! Sure doesn't sound like bootstrapping on their part!!!

Author
Philip
Date
2005-08-16T23:08:02-06:00
ID
70569
Comment

Yeah, that's sure as heck how I got started in my line of work. I got my first book because I happened to know a writer out in Berkeley who needed a co-author and thought of me. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-08-16T23:36:24-06:00
ID
70570
Comment

Tom- I'm not quite sure I deserve that praise, but thank you very much. I'll try to live up to it. This means that all columns from here on out will probably suck. ;) Just wait until I hand in eight hundred words on high heels and how they are women's most valuable weapon.... In more ways than one...;)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-17T05:49:26-06:00
ID
70571
Comment

Tom Head-- it may surprise you to learn that most op-eds are often based on the author's opinions. That's why they're called op-eds. Actually, ìop-edî is called ìop-edî because it is traditionally a page in a newspaper opposite the editorial page. It use has been bastardized to mean ìopinion editorialî but is not its true meaning. See http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&oi=defmore&q=define:OP-ED and http://www.freesearch.co.uk/dictionary/oped or http://www.answers.com/topic/op-ed .

Author
Johann
Date
2005-08-17T08:19:31-06:00
ID
70572
Comment

Johann, I have been enlightened. Thank you. Ali, funny thing is that now I'm looking forward to that high heels article! Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-08-17T16:32:23-06:00
ID
70573
Comment

Me, too, Johann, I didn't know that, either. But Ali's column is still an op-ed even if it isn't opposite the Editorial page. Thus, Tom's original point is still right on. And I agree: Ali's column rocks. We're thrilled to have her. And we hope that she -- who also happens to be a great singer -- shows up for karaoke Friday night.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-17T16:35:06-06:00
ID
70574
Comment

Did someone say "stand up and make an ass of yourself in front of lots of people you don't know" was happening on Friday night? Because, I will SO be there.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-08-18T07:16:57-06:00
ID
70575
Comment

I can't believe no one has called this out: "Here is my suggestion. We convince our Federal government to cut off ALL foreign aid, every penny, for one year. I believe the amount we give to foreign countries, even our enemies, is in the tens of billions per year. What if we kept that money for one year and used it to help every family below the poverty line. Imagine how much good could be done." We give a smaller percentage of our GNP, i.e. our wealth, to foreign aid than virtually any other non-impoverished country in the world. Yes, we give the most in raw dollars, but in terms of impact on the average taxpayer, we give the least, and we make a fraction of the impact that a nation of our wealth and power could. And please don't give me the business about how private donations make up for this... foreign aid is a statement of national priorities. Our priorities are, US first, screw everyone else. Maybe if, instead of cutting foreign aid, we STOPPED FIGHTING WARS BASED ON ABJECT LIES, we could save money (not to mention lives, America's moral standing in the world etc.) the right way. Here is documentation for what I am talking about: http://www.terrorismanswers.org/policy/foreignaid_print.html http://www.globalissues.org/TradeRelated/Debt/USAid.asp By the way, Ali, great column as usual.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-08-22T11:28:44-06:00
ID
70576
Comment

Thanks, Scott. Good points, and love the all-caps part. ;-) Preach, brother.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-08-22T11:40:32-06:00

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