The Heritage Foundation can kiss my formerly-impoverished ass.

I started to write this to a person on facebook, but I realized I was uninterested in the conversation that would follow.

But once I was done ranting, I had written so much text that it felt like it needed a home.



So, my facebook feed showed me a thread in which you made some comments about a recent heritage foundation study, that I'd like to address. I started to put this on your wall, and then it got huge, and I realized it might be better if I just send you a message. Then I realized I should just write it as an open letter and put it here instead.

Have a look at this chart.

The whole chart deck is worth reading, but this particular one is important, since you specifically mentioned how we're better off than India's middle class.

India beats us on the Gini coefficient, which is a simple statistical dispersion measure for wealth within a culture. So does Iran.

Do our poor people have it better off than theirs? Yes. But that chart isn't a measure of social mobility. It's a measure of wealth distribution. These poor nations are (despite human rights abuses and being used as third world trashheaps by multinationals for years) managing to keep what passes for their middle class healthier than we are keeping ours.

And it isn't getting EASIER to move upward in the USA, it's getting harder.

Yes, things in the US are good compared to the rest of the world. You're right about that.

See, I read the heritage study you linked to also, I've done my fair share of developing world travel, and I grew up in one of those households that the Heritage foundation would have hoped passed on filing out its survey--no AC, no dishwasher, no TV, no Dryer (yes, you can dry clothes effectively next to a woodburning stove in January, yes, it's a pain in the ass--the socks get all stiff).

And I've personally made the shift from poor to upper-middle-class, so I can speak firsthand about how hard it is, and about how I won the genetic lottery with my parents, and that without a billion lucky coincidences in my life, I would never have been able to do what I did.

The issue I have with the current conflict is tied up in that second graph. The one that shows how people like me will be increasingly rare in the future--not because there aren't people with the potential to shine, but because the culture we have built actively keeps them from having the liberty to move upwards even if they do things right (and insulates the rich from the risk of moving downwards, even if they do things wrong).

See, using the Heritage study to smother criticism is bullshit. We are moving towards a small landed gentry population and a huge group of serfs who have no hope of social mobility (even if those serfs have color TV). Asserting that we aren't allowed to try to correct a problem in our culture as long as other cultures have it worse? That's silly. In particular, it makes me think of a rant from Penny Arcade's Tycho about the problems with Diablo 3. (Be patient, I think you'll see the parallel).


"I should take care not attend the same potlucks as these people. The kind of family I have would eat them; I think that they would actually cook them and eat them, because these people have not done enough to distinguish themselves from food.

We need to think for a second about the extent to which this supposedly carefree fucking dialectic enables these precise abuses. No, actually; it is not okay that the definitive Game Developer can’t make their shit work. Is it as bad as the Foreclosure Crisis? I don’t know, probably not; but nobody is talking about that. There isn’t a list of things that we have to worry about in order. We can decide on a case by case basis whether or not something is bullshit, and then we can feel some way about it, and we don’t need to wait for a transmission from central command to know if we’ve paid in enough psychic penance to enjoy something."


See where I'm going with this?

We can decide on a country by country basis whether or not something is bullshit. And what's happening in the United States of America, right now? Closing the portals between poor and middle and upper classes so that fewer and fewer people can make the transition? Squeezing our middle class out of existence? That's bullshit.

There isn't a list of things we have to make sure all the world has before we can tend to the increasing inequality and abuses of the "poor" being dealt out in our homeland.

We have problems. Major, systemic abuses of the American way of life being perpetrated by a small upper-crust of the population so that they can get rich while extinguishing the middle class and stepping directly on the necks of the poor, and it is getting WORSE, especially via things like TARP.

Talking about how everybody has a color TV and typically can afford Medical care so they should just shut up is insulting to those of us who have been poor, and who have made the transition, and who had to slit metaphorical throats to do it, and who are fully aware that IT GETS HARDER TO DO EVERY DAY.

Not easier. Harder. It's harder to get poor of you're rich, and it's harder to get rich if you're poor.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats have an interest in fixing these problems. I'm not arguing against (or for) Romney here.

I'd just appreciate it if you toned down claims that since we are demonstrably better off than the third world, there's no cause to criticise the direction in which we are headed.

Just sayin'.

Monday, August 13, 2012