Humans, not very classy…

Class and inequality share a kinship of sorts with racism, in that the people most affected by it vehemently claim that it is a real problem and those with the power to impact it seem to not see it that way.  A.S. gives a three pronged approach to class, blame the poor, the rich are hording our jobs and doom and gloom.  The following chapter deals with poverty statists, but in shown in a global light.  The only thing more concerning than the raw data was the trend.  It ended with a explanation of blame the victim Vs. blame society. 

The first definition of class offered is “Class as individual attributes and material conditions of life”  which is a way of explain class as the result of the interaction of various attributes possessed by people. Along with individual traits (education, strong work ethic, clumsily ect…) there is also the conditions it which the person lives, whom the person interacts with, the 1st definition claims that these things dictate what type of job the person will occupy, indeed the persons very worth to the society. It is quickly pointed out that this view does not address the mechanism behind the inequality in a value of jobs, which is addressed in the rich are hording our jobs.

I loved this section, I had only heard of Webber in passing, and his idea of exclusion is very interesting. This section examines the relationship between jobs with high levels of income and power  and the scarcity of the skills needed to fill them, and goes on to examine the reasons for that scarcity. It is claimed that “Private property rights are the pivotal form of exclusion that determines access to the “job” of employer” That by actively excluding people from types of works (and ownership of the means of production) the capitalist is forcing scarcity for their position, and without such property right 1. there would be far more opportunity for everyone to control the means of production and the value or income associated with that activity would go way down ( as people would no longer be excluded.

Lastly the dark interpretation was covered; here there is no niceties of civil discourse. Domination and exploitation, being defined as: Domination is the ability to control the actions of others, like how the government makes us obey speed limits, exploitation is benefiting economically from this domination, like a speeding ticket. The “Class as exploitation and domination” definition see the capitalist as keeping the working class at a disadvantage in order to exploit work out of them, a grizzly view to be sure, but after seeing it play out first hand in the Newmans and the Standlys it is hard to dismiss at least as a practical interpretation.

 

The following cpt. dealt with where exactly the U.S. stands ( or stood) in relation to other developed countries in terms of poverty, and the numbers look comparable, until taxes and transfers are taken into account. The poverty rate for children in the U.S., Sweden and France are all around 25%, until taxes and transfers are taken into account (IE aid to the poor), after taxes and transfers the us rate is largely unchanged (aprx 26% to 22%) but Sweden drops to 2.6 and France to 7, so our means of dealing with (or mitigating) poverty is far less effective than our European counterparts. The topic then focuses on the social viewpoint of such aid, and why we do not do as much for our poor here in the land of opportunity that they do across the pond.

Which takes us to The “BLAME THE VICTIM” view, explained as the idea that the poor are in their situation because they share a trait or characteristic , earlier it was expressed as a lack of intelligence, then worse as a genetic flaw, and  in 1950 as a “the existence of an outlook and style of life which is radically present-oriented and which therefore attaches no value to work, sacrifice, self-improvement, or service to family, friends or community.” This I think has no basis in reality, for while a rich man can indulge his basic desires with almost no consequences to his wealth, a poor person pays dearly for the most basic forms of satisfaction, the notation that the poor indulge more and that is the reason they are poor seem ludicrous, at least in the absence of comprehensive study on the consumption habits of the wealthy ( and I would venture a guess that such a study would show the wealthy among us indulge just as much, it just is cheaper for them to do).  Now the poor as a group may or may not be more motivated than the wealthy, but rewarding any attribute (regardless of what it is) in the manner the wealthy in this country are rewarded by the market is ridiculous, basing it(huge financial windfall) on work ethic and connections and access to capital have the same moral footing as basing it on skin color or gender as we did in days of old. This leads to the converse view;

“Blame Society” or the idea that the “system” is inherently bias the people with capital are keeping the working class from ever getting a share of the wealth that is representative of their composition of the population. There are structural issues in place that help to marginalize the poor, namely competition in the labor pool, prohibitive cost of education and good old fashion racism (the de-facto kind that comes from statists, not the old boy club kind).

This all ties into the film, specifically Tony, at the start of the film back he was being paid 17$/hr. working for Briggs and Stratton, and had good benefits to boot. That income represented the MOST anyone (in the entire movie) had for a hourly wage, including in 2000’s. We see firsthand how the system is bias against the poor, when Tony lost that job  (through no fault of his own) his wife had to start taking odd jobs, now there was no one to watch the kids, and the added stress took it’s toll on the marriage ( which ended) and the family. Let’s contrast that to a wealthy family, if the bread winner is suddenly without income downsizing is always an option, having a war chest that can weather many months would make being un-employed a far less stressful endeavor and child care would not need to suffer. As for the Stanley’s, I saw a man who worked very hard all his life, was devoted to helping the people around him, but NEVER got the benefits of his labor. It is not spelled out in the film, but I the Stanley’s were only able to maintain their life style due to his preaching (most congresses will provide a place for the preacher to live, this is a HUGE expense for most poor people). It was even more sad to see the kids all heading down the same street, except for Keith, the single child that got to go to college, but he now works for a system that exploited his farther and kept his family in poverty to survive, far from a happy ending.

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