Sunday, February 15, 2009

NYU Sociologist Nonsense

From an article by an NYU sociologist man-feminist:

"It's bad out there. That we know. But amid the economic wreckage, there is a bright spot for women. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- enabling women and other workers to sue for wage discrimination -- was the first piece of legislation President Obama signed. And a parsing of the grim economic statistics shows that recent layoffs have disproportionately hit male-dominated industries. We have reached a milestone of sorts: Women may be poised to outnumber men in the labor force."

Let's take a deeper look at this article, shall we? Lots of hoopla about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and how it had righted some kind of cosmic wrong perpetrated against women in the workforce. This is a fiction, and it needs to be addressed. Lilly Ledbetter sued under a provision of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act in which there was a statute of limitation of sorts on how long after the acts occurred in which one can sue. Where did that limit come from? Well, it came from the Congress, who wrote the law. Ms. Ledbetter could have sued under a different provision of the EEOA and not had the ticking clock provision. But she and her incompetent lawyers insisted on suing under the article inappropriate to her case. She lost in virtually every venue including the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court did in fact speak to some of the negative impact to business should they overturn the law, but the bulk of their finding was that 1) congress wrote the law 2) congress thought about what they wrote before they passed it and 3) their job is to interpret the law, not write it (novel view, huh). They basically told Congress to change their law...this Congress did, and now we have the Lilly Ledbetter Act that all the world thinks is so important and wonderful.

Let's move on now to the rest of the article. Just what is it exactly this guy is trying to bring our attention to? Oh yeah---a widening gap in income between those at the top and those at the bottom. Right. But why again, is that meaningful or important? What does ills does this bring along with it? If the lot of those at the bottom is improving--and it is--then what difference does it make how those at the top are doing? The line that "the increasing pressures put on the marketplace by the rich -- bidding up the price of housing and education, for example -- means that most middle-class couples probably need two incomes also, even just to keep a roof over their heads" is classic class warfare. Middle income families don't need two incomes to put a roof over their heads...they need two incomes to put a roof over their heads with six burner stoves, hardwood floors and 2800 square feet, not to mention a garage to park their SUV with "Hope and Change" stickers on it. Oh and don't forget the Wii/Play station/ or whatever video game it is that was purchased to keep their precious children in the house, rather than outside running around and burning off their growing fat.

Rich people aren't bidding up the price of education...the price of education is being bid up by the ubiquitous sense that everyone has to go to college, and that it is the government's job to provide the money to do so. Increases in availability of college money causes college tuition to rise. Pure and simple.

"These are tall tasks, but if we don't do something to cushion the effects of the social sorting taking place across households, families will continue to face more and more stress." Stress? What stress? Poor people in this country used to be HUNGRY! Where is hunger as an issue? What percentage of the people in this country living below the poverty line do you suppose have a 1) refrigerator 2) multiple color TV's 3) a car or two 4) air conditioning 5) indoor plumbing 6) cable tv? The answers would astound you. The entrance of women large-scale into the workforce has raised our nation's standard of living, and this fellow wants us to address the stress? C'mon. I suppose this is what passes for social science at NYU these days.


Anonymous said...

A great and amusing commentary from you. Laughed out loud at your bumper sticker comment.

When we get to the point where the number of women do indeed surpass the number of men in the workplace, will the feminists be celebrating that they've finally achieved true equality or will there be another sort of screech from that quarter?

Anonymous said...

Sally - No matter the circumstances, dogs bark, birds chirp and feminists screech. I vote for the latter.

Anonymous said...

"Middle income families... need two incomes to put a roof over their heads with six burner stoves, hardwood floors and 2800 square feet..."

A friend of mine is now in the business of inspecting and renovating homes that have been foreclosed upon and has noted that some of the homes have suffered damage as a result of "repo party's" that the noble poor will hold on their last days in the house.

He has also noted though that many of the houses still contain many furnishings from the previous occupants because they couldn't afford to move them or had no place to move them too.

I asked him to start taking note of the number of the bedrooms that look like they had been shared by two children. I have seen too many sob stories on the tube detailing the plight of the "housing crisis victims" and it appears as though the concept of shared bedrooms for the kids no longer exists in the poor and middle class.

Fallen said...

Coming from an English background, I am always wary of incipient class warfare, but I will offer a couple of observations:

-From a historical perspective, the strength of any society lies in the middle class. Again, historically, policies and market forces that strengthen the middle class enhance the power and standing of the country in question (and the reverse is equally true).

-We all tend to wield the “market forces” argument in a selective manner. In this case, I suspect most of the folks visiting CW will say words to the effect “market forces drove the increasing disparity between high and low incomes, so that is good,” but we will disregard the fact that market forces are equally responsible for the increasing size of houses and the prevalence of six-burner stoves (meaning, “you get what you deserve when you loose you 2800sf house.”), turning it into a character argument. We then swing back to the market-forces-good argument to explain the collapse of the housing bubble and the meteoric rise in foreclosures.

Anyway, while the article is guilty of some wooly-headed cause-and-effect thinking, I do agree that an overall TREND of a widening income distribution gap is bad, and policies and market forces that squeeze income distribution into the great American bourgeois are good.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

James--please, make the argument. Explain to me WHY widening distribution of income is BAD, especially when the lot of those on the bottom increase in real terms?

Fallen said...

Bryan, the most obvious reason is that it produces class warfare.

Aside from that…

It is an article of faith that, as JFK said, “a rising tide floats all boats,” but there is plenty of (disputable) statistical evidence that the bottom two American income quintiles have lost earning power over the last decade, so the beginning frame of reference in your argument is not agreed to by many people in this debate.

But back to “why it is bad,” my main argument is historical. As an amateur historian, I tend to view all things through the lens of historical tends, and that tells me that a strong middle class is the basis of national power (I’m channeling Paul Kennedy here). Napoleon lamented being bested by a “nation of shopkeepers,” and our own rise to hegemonic power parallels the expansion of the middle class. As a counterpoint, Russia’s income has expanded exponentially, but they are virtually bereft of a strong middle class, and this shows up in a great many social pathologies -- not the least of which is the virtual death of rule-of-law and democracy. On the other hand, it seems likely that the expansion of China’s middle class will eventually lead to just the opposite.

I’m not arguing against Adam Smith, I am simply saying that government policy -- which is always a battle for income distribution – should tend to favor promotion of the middle class in the interests of the long term health of the nation.

It's nice to have a Monday off, no?

The Conservative Wahoo said...

James--a coupe of things. I'll assume your first comment was for comic value.

Second, "lost earning power" is an interesting concept, disputable is the right word (we've had ten years of historically low inflation to go along with low pressure on earnings). But let's for a moment, assume you're right. The bottom two quintiles in terms of what? In terms of people? Then I'd say sixty percent of the wage earners are unaccounted for, so this vaunted middle class you speak of doesn't seem to be covered in these groups. Are you talking about wealth/income taxes? Since nearly 38% of all employed people in the US have no tax liability at all, I'd say once again that the middle class isn't accounted for in your accounting.

So let's look instead at the middle class as I see it, and how our government falls all over itself---rightly in my opinion--to advance its interests.

1) child tax credits
2) home mortgage deductions
3) college tuition tax credits
4) generous student loan programs
5) IRA's
6) 401K's

James the list goes on and on. Our middle class has become the primary recipient of government largess I'd wager, if you added up the goodies they get from the tax code and compare it to what we pay out to the truly poor. That the rich keep getting richer is a sign of a fundamentally healthy system, as the middle class keep getting richer also!

I guess the bottom line in my rambling is that the middle class is well protected and strong in our society, and our poor are looked after to a degree not seen in many other industrialized nations.

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