199 Comments

A big part of why this is happening isn't just because the donor class is scared of class war (though I'm sure that's partially true), but the fact is that many educated, middle-class urban/suburban whites hate poor white people, especially Southerners. They are comfortable with race-based anti-poverty not because they're really opposed to poverty, but because they do not see minorities as the Enemy in the way that they see poor whites as the Enemy. To them, people like my family are detestable, without class or culture, etc. I remember forcing myself to lose my "country" accent when I went to college in the Big City because I kept getting weird looks or people being surprised I wasn't homophobic etc. This has only gotten worse in the post-Trump era.

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How do you reconcile this with Democrats constantly working to increase the already huge transfer to poor states, while cultural icons of the white working class call urban elites every name under the sun, say they hate America, aren’t real Americans etc

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I think when I hear upper middle class democrats complain about how white working class members call them “names under the sun,” “unpatriotic,” “how I’m not a real American.” Etc. I take it in a different, more reasonable light than when I hear upper class white people complain about lower class white people in the manner which Kade U is talking about.

The discourse Kade and Binya bring up are both real things, and both negative. But I’ve heard what Kade is talking about. And it is a reprehensible, hair raising thing to listen to. Especially from people who hold themselves in high regard for their lack of bigotry. I don’t know where this level of hatred came from, but it’s present. Now what to do about it is also a fuzzy question. There are likely dangers in a diverse society to some ultra unified self loving white population, but a dial down of this rhetoric would be pleasant imo.

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Can you give examples of the kinds of things you're talking about? I'm really struggling to understand this issue. I am a card-carrying member of the Coastal Liberal Elite, and I've never come across this kind of talk. I am having difficulty even imagining the kinds of things upper class white people would say about lower class white people that would be hair-raising.

Again, I am in a bubble! Acknowledged! So help me open up my eyes here.

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You hear it more explicitly about southerners than about poor whites. But it’s often the same thing. You hear it every time people say we should just let the south secede and let them die by their own stupid policies. Every time people say those people get the government they deserve. Every time they joke about hicks and inbreeding.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

I do not hear people saying "let them die." Again, maybe I just have a particularly enlightened social circle, but this is just not something I hear. I don't think I've heard jokes about inbreeding for the last 15 years or so.

"Let them secede" is wrong, but it is a wrong sentiment I have sometimes expressed myself in frustration. I do hear people refer to southerners as hicks and red-necks. Those are not nice things to say.

But my point is that it's not hair-raising. I live in New York City. Lots of people from other parts of the country think it's ok to shit on New York and New Yorkers. We're all rude, we're all corrupt, we're all in the Mafia (I have an Italian last name so I probably get that one more than most). It's unsafe, it's unclean. I don't like it when people say that! But I don't find it hair-raising. It's unkind and untrue. Is it detestable? I don't think so.

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I have heard the "let them die" refrain from tech workers and the only reason I find it alarming is that tech workers have more political power, and they think that they arrive at that position through logic.

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Have you really never come across that? I hear it constantly. People refer to white trash very easily, like doing so is a badge of honor. Constant sneering contempt for Trump voters, labeling them with every horrible attribute the speaker can think of (if you think that's OK, fine, but then you're the type of person Kade U and Quinn are talking about). I know someone who had to move to Nashville for work - Nashville! - who loudly proclaimed how much he hated the idea of moving to a place with those people. You know. All of this is considered very sophisticated "real" talk among my NYC colleagues. I'm sick to death of hearing it.

Kade U, for the record: this is far more of a city than a suburban thing. When I'm in NY (rather, telecommuting to NY, you know what I mean) it's de rigeur. I have a feeling I'm viewed suspiciously for NOT engaging in it. But I live in the 'burbs, and there isn't any more of it here than there is of people caterwauling about the socialist Joe Biden and his army of woke animals coming for something or other, and neither of them is close to universal. I agree with Quinn, though. It's way more intense and disturbing coming from the Left, since they are largely wealthier, more powerful, and crueler.

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There is a power dynamic that can make it more disturbing. There's also some weird moral hypocrisy, because so many left-talking points are so grounded in tolerance, acceptance, openness, understanding, etc. So it feels very weird to see the direct opposite of those ideas turned around when it occurs.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

As mentioned above, I think I have a different view of "detestable" and "hair-raising" than you do. I do hear broad, unfair, untrue generalizations about Trump voters and white Southerners, though not as commonly as you seem to. And when I hear them, I do push back. I encourage you to do so, as well, though especially in a professional setting, I get why that's hard to do. But while I find "all those people are racist" to be a wrong and regrettable sentiment, I find "all those people are pedophiles" to be truly detestable. It is this context that I think is missing from Kade's post. Assuming someone is a homophobe is bad. Actual homophobia is much worse.

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You're making a lot of sense, and I appreciate the excellent tone that you've kept through this discussion. It's rare from anyone on any topic, and it's impressive.

So I hate to say this. But if you're asking for me to push back against harmful generalizations, I need to push back against you with your comment. It seems to me that you're doing the "all those people are homophobes" thing right now.

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The worst bigotry you will ever hear is when wealthy liberals sneer at the educational record of quintessential red states like Alabama. They are in no doubt that the cause for this underperformance is genetic. All that cousin marryin' them good ole' boys like to get up to has resulted in banjo playing simpletons.

The 2020 film The Hunt isn't great, but the writers do capture some of the contempt I am referring to.

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>>The worst bigotry you will ever hear is when wealthy liberals sneer at the educational record of quintessential red states like Alabama.<<

That's the "worst bigotry"? Hmm.

I think it's fair to say that coastal white elites don't much care for and don't respect poorer whites, and those feelings are at the least perfectly matched coming back the other way.

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I don't think your example is all that common, but even if it is, I think that there are worse bigotries out there! Like, the kind that leads people to want to go out and murder other people. That is a worse bigotry.

No bigotry is good, and anyone who makes the kind of comments you describe is wrong and should feel ashamed. But it is not "the worst bigotry."

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And there's a pretty good hand-to-hand fight scene in it.

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Nashville is wonderful, and in need of an SB meetup. I’ll reserve one of those mobile bars that all the bachelorette parties use.

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The way I describe it is that coastal liberals sneer at those beneath them while often southern/midwestern conservatives snarl at those above them. The above and below being a cultural status thing more than income though.

I think in particular, people in NYC, LA, SF don't appreciate how much cultural dominance their cities have. It also means that people there assume the rest of the US should have similar views and are confused when they don't. Nor do people outside those places really appreciate that they are mostly just jealous and want the same power themselves.

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Does the sneer/snarl distinction matter? I think it's evocative but I wanted to see if i was reading too much into it.

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I was trying to describe it in a way that made sense to Joey based on descriptions I've used in the past with people in similar situations.

Its my impression that elites on the coasts aren't so much angry at "fly over country" but feel pity/contempt for them if they think about them at all. People in "fly over country" can't turn on the TV, movies, etc. without getting doused in coastal views and are angry about feeling culturally inferior.

This all paints with a broad brush about a general feeling more than any specific person.

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I’m in what I imagine a similar bubble. I won’t be leaving it anytime soon either. Here’s two examples I’ve heard recently. My friend who is a doctor complained about how giving medical advice to “white men from X place” is just a waste of time cause they “won’t listen.” Just like every stereotype under the sun, I’m sure this isn’t completely detached from lived experience and reality. But it raised my hairs that the practice of medicine would become so politicized.

Also recently a couple I know expressed deep fear of going on a road trip out of a “they’re definitely not used to seeing an interracial couple out there.” I’m not saying this comes out of a place of resentment. But as I’ve commented on previously in this forum: I love road trips. And I’ve seen interracial couples at every socioeconomic status and geographic part of American life. Their love is no different than anyone else’s. Maybe im even a bit overly optimistic about American society and its tolerance of interracial dating, but this seemed to be a comment in excess.

Furthermore, maybe this isn’t what you were looking for. And no. I don’t have a binder full of “Those inbred f- rednecks from the next town over are coming into our yoga studios with their filth!” Type of comments. I have a binder full of comments that echo bigotry in its more common, less overt form.

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Thanks for this, Quinn. I agree, that doctor's comment is bad. I understand frustration with feeling like your time is being wasted, but generalizing like that can only lead to bad outcomes.

I'd be very concerned if your friend finished with "so I'm not even going to bother trying, I won't be taking any more white men from X as patients." If it was just venting, well - still, not great.

I'm going to push back on your second example, though. That fear seems reasonable to me. Funny looks are one thing, but I don't know of any examples of people being strung up from a tree because they didn't drop their "country accent" when they went to college in the big city. If the couple you referenced said "most people in X part of the country will want to lynch us" that would be an unfair and troubling sentiment - but saying they don't feel comfortable traveling there? I dunno, that just doesn't bother me.

I guess this is where I'm coming from: I have heard unfair and untrue generalizations about Trump voters or white people from the south - "they're all racists, they hate gay people", etc. In my experience, even this type of talk is pretty uncommon, but maybe I have particularly enlightened friends/coworkers. Regardless, it is bad.

But is this hair-raising? I don't know. People shouldn't generalize, and unfairly calling someone racist is not a very nice thing to do, but I guess it doesn't strike me as detestable. On the other hand, Republican elected officials publicly say things that I find much more disturbing than what I hear city-dwelling liberals say in private. So when I see someone saying that city-dwelling liberals are the real haters, I have trouble with that.

Anyway, thanks again for responding - I appreciate the additional info.

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I often feel like we’re frightening people unnecessarily by making the outliers, the worst people, stand in for the norm, though. Being strung up at all is pretty unlikely. I think the fear may be doing more damage to people than the things that their afraid of.

Lots of ratings and clicks in making people afraid of one another.

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Thanks for the thoughtful response JoeySlice. I think some points of yours are well founded. Especially the part about “well look at what republican elected officials say.” That’s an important point to remember and my feelings are mostly the way they are because truth be told, I interact with few republicans day to day. I think therefore you tend to notice the “in-house” faults of your social circle more. And blanket calling people racist or closed minded is a very damning that shouldn’t be done lightly. This perhaps caused some hyperbolic commentary on my part.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

In regards to fears about traveling to a different place, I disagree that it's in any way reasonable. That kind of mentality will lead one to interpret every interaction in the most negative light possible. When in reality, the vast majority of people are decent and will even be helpful when called upon. With rare exception, at worst, they'll be indifferent, as they are just trying to get through their day like everyone else.

And to be clear, I would apply this equally to people afraid to go into a city. It was a couple of years after I had moved to a new city before a relative from a rural area stopped asking me if I had been robbed yet.

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This is a better description than mine. It is a constant background of offhand prejudice, made worse because it doesn't reflect reality and is never really questioned.

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I was in Seattle and I have an "ethnic Southern" name (in the same lane as Roscoe), and I was asked sincerely by a PhD student I was eating supper with if I "sold firearms." It was their first question.

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Did you get him a piece?

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It was Seattle! I 3D-printed HER a piece.

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I've definitely come across that while living in LA, and it's generally from clueless, overly partisan people who have no experience living in flyover country. Offhand comments where it's just assumed that small-town white people must be bad people

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Bette Midler's comments on West Virginia after Joe Manchin failed to do the bidding of California Democrats is a pretty good example.

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"Can you give examples of the kinds of things you're talking about?"

An example: A New Yorker, after returning from a business trip to a city in the south, commented about their accents, "They know how to speak the right way; they're just too lazy to do it."

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That's an obnoxious thing to say. I do not find it detestable, hair-raising, or hateful.

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Well, it ain't loving.

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You’re like Ryan Reynolds in Free Guy. If only you could get the glasses and watch MSNBC where they say hateful shit about non-liberal white people all day long. That would be clarifying.

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I was literally just watching John Stewart on YouTube. He was critical of Fox News Critical race theory coverage. Fair enough. Doocy (a douche for sure) was saying something. Stewart stops it to make fun of him. How does he do it? A hick accent with bad grammar. He’s making fun of poor white people as ignorant. The thing is nothing about Doocy is that. Sure he’s a douchebag but he is cosmopolitan. Why take that posture for your comedy? Because Stewart knows his audience is in on the joke that white working class people who watch Fox News are dumb.

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I have not seen Free Guy, so I can’t say I understand the reference. Ryan Reynolds was once named the “sexiest man alive” by “People” magazine, though, so I’ll take that comparison any day.

I also don’t watch MSNBC - I don’t watch cable news, in general - so I don’t have any basis to judge your assertion that they say hateful shit about non-white liberals all day. I’ll say that I am skeptical, but I would welcome evidence of your assertion.

I think you and I might define “hateful” differently, though. And I think this is my point. I am more than willing to concede that many coastal liberal elites are disrespectful towards Trump voters, Southerners, people who live in rural areas, etc. But in my mind, there is a sizable difference between disrespect and hate. And when I saw Kade‘s original comment and Quinn’s follow up, I was genuinely confused by the assertion that there is hateful, hair-raising, detestable comments being made by urban liberals on a regular basis. Some of the examples I’ve seen provided are unkind, disrespectful, rude. But I don’t think they are hateful, and I’m genuinely puzzled by why people perceive them to be.

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You’re right there are differences between being hateful and rude, unkind or disrespectful.

A 2018 poll asking what word you associate with the other party found that 61% of Dems associate bigotry of some form to Republicans. More than 50% said ignorance. For Republicans ( view of Dems) the top word was spiteful at just over 50%. Both sides had each other characterized as evil at about 22%.

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Is that really an accurate description of the last decade or so?

Yes, the GOP sucks from a policy standpoint, but the Democrats aren’t brilliant (SALT, turning daycare into a patronage gig, failing to tackle public education), and their cultural baggage is just damning.

I’d not be particularly inclined to tolerate or be around people who hand me money now and again but also tell me what a shit person I am and how much I suck on a regular basis, while living much better than me overall.

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*Their* cultural baggage?

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Yes, yes, whatever, buh-bye now.

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Wow actually writing buh-bye.

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Yep! Since you don't have anything useful to say, and it seems to be just snark, ad hominems, and whining all the way down, I needed something that could adequately express amusement, disdain, and irritation.

A southern "Fless your heart!" is too regional, as is my native northeastern "Fuck off!"

Now, for real, buh-bye now! 拜拜!さようなら! 再见!Aufwiedersehen!

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"cultural icons of the white working class"

I'm a bit clueless as to who you're referring to? There's a certain amount of prejudice and snobbishness running both ways between urban and rural people, especially at either end of the income poles, but outside of political chatter I don't see it expressed very often. Mostly people get along fine.

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but arent the poorest states in the south because of the large black population

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New Mexico, Kentucky and West Virginia are among the top 5 poorest states and have a lower than average percent of their population that is black. If Puerto Rico were to become a state it would be by far the poorest.

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The class thing is a real issue. However, as a city dweller, how much crap have we had to deal with about "Real Americans" with "Small town values," and so forth.

Manchin even did it to Sen. Warren when he said Massachusetts people couldn't understand physical labor and what it did to people's bodies. The assertion that is coin of the realm in rural America is that people in cities are all on "welfare."

(Of course the absurdity MA has its share of construction workers, AC repairmen, etc.)

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Anecdotally I find the worst “offenders” here to be well-educated white people who “got out” from a rural/small-town background. Some of it may be wanting to feel a sense of moral superiority while some it is legitimate (and perhaps deserved) disdain for people they grew up with when they lived in these areas. I view it almost as “who were the people you couldn’t stand the most when you were in high school and wanted to get away from”…okay, now they’re generalized into an out-group you don’t like.

I see this in the same way with upper-class elite disdain for police or even the military (especially enlisted members). Like most people, I was raised with a reverence for people who sacrifice themselves to uphold the law and protect the country. And then as a young adult I saw some of the biggest dipshits I went to high school with becoming cops or enlisting (and usually getting high and mighty on social media about it). And that pissed me off! I’ve gotten past these views by (1) getting older and less angsty and (2) actually knowing more people with these backgrounds who aren’t dipshits, but I can see why others in an upper-class educated bubble would foster these views.

Finally, there’s something to be said about the word “elite” itself and how it’s used these days. When I see the the Fox News crowd use it, I’m picturing a boogeyman of someone who grew up filthy rich in [NYC/LA/SF] and is riding on the coattails of others’ success…but a lot of the folks I know who I’d consider “elite” (who yes are mostly coastal) got to where they are by working their ass off and seeking out knowledge everywhere they went and “making their own luck”. And I can easily see how people in that crowd start to develop intolerant/disdainful views for poor white people. Doesn’t make it right, but I can see how it happens.

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I think it is more that race based economic redistribution is actually cheaper for upper class people.

As Matt has rightly noted, poor whites are a plurality of the poor. If you exclude poor whites from a program then you reduce the cost in increased taxes on the wealthy (or the opportunity cost in tax cuts for the wealthy if we aren't in austerity).

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Many of the people you’ve described are much interested in environmental/climate change issues than class warfare. It’s one of those love humanity hate human beings things.

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No, they are 100% interested in class warfare, it's just that a bunch of people with graduate degrees are not actually on the same side as the working class. Hence why you have student loan forgiveness as a leading leftist priority.

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The extent to which the American left engages in deserving/undeserving poor narratives is scandalous.

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But first, I'd just like to congratulate myself on having sat out yesterday's comments section.

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I hung a big "mission accomplished" banner in my living room

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I feel like any day that I don't shoot myself in the face is a good day.

And entitles me to a celebratory drink, or two.

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I’m thankful that comments were closed by the time I arrived. I did read a lot of them and it was quite a dumpster fire.

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If that was a dumpster fire, then I'd hate to see what we think of a mainstream comment thread, let alone an actual right-wing forum.

I'm really starting to question how much I need to worry about the woke attempt to set "guiderails" around acceptable discourse, and coming to the realization that the answer is "more than I thought". I saw two, maybe three folks who I thought were genuinely out of line at times and all but one of them was only marginally so.

If the guiderails are going to lead to even threads like that one getting shut down and people given the boot, then we've just outlawed 90% or more of discourse on the topic and told 75% of the population that their views on the matter are beyond the pale.

Good luck trying that in a democracy.

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Totally! Persuading people to change their mind involves engaging with them about their actual views. Most people conducted themselves well, even when they disagreed. I saw some open minds and some real desire to talk about what to do. It was probably reaching the point of diminishing returns though so I’m fine with the shutdown.

I get the internet is not real life, but I’m proud I went into the comments and mixed it up a bit on behalf of my family and community. I’m happy to at least TRY to talk with anyone anywhere about LGBTQ rights. And as one of the pretty small group of Americans who knows many people who have transitioned I hope to bring some compassion to the discussion, so trans people don’t have to do all that themselves.

I even talk to my family about it, which is way worse then strangers on the internet.

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"It was probably reaching the point of diminishing returns though so I’m fine with the shutdown.“

At the end of the day, this is a private forum operating on Matt's sufferance.

But I am very leery of ever saying "I'm fine with it" regarding stopping free discussion of almost any topic, short of outright calls for violence. Putting individuals in time-out, perhaps, but not a blanket "nope, we're done here", not coming from folks in positions of power (however small).

"I even talk to my family about it, which is way worse then strangers on the internet."

Oh God, yes.

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If you read the comments on David French's recent Lia Thomas column, it isn't too different from what was flying around yesterday. Nothing brings out the inner reactionary like trans issues.

Regarding the point on moderation: anonymized Internet commenting is a fundamentally different medium than most other kinds of speech. It's frictionless and often geared towards performance or personal psychological gratification, rather than persuasion. I'm skeptical that heavy moderation of spiraling comment boards can be extrapolated to reflect anything about the ability (or lack thereof) of progressives to engage with mainstream views.

That said, paywalled commentariats can hopefully be trusted to do a little more self-policing, since they are (theoretically) more invested in the long-term health and function of the community.

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"Nothing brings out the inner reactionary like trans issues."

Defining "reactionary" to encompass a broad part of the political spectrum and at least three-fourths of the population, including a great number of left-leaning people, is *precisely* the scope of the problem under discussion here!

If you don't like that most people hold these views, you're going to have to find a way to change their minds, and calling them reactionaries is not likely to be it.

But fine, fire away, it will surely contribute to the productive resolution of this issue, and couldn't possibly be used as a wedge that will harm other lefty priorities.

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While your concern is appreciated, you will have to trust me that I am in fact capable of modulating my rhetorical approach in different spheres of discourse.

There's a tension between your call for free and open debate, and the implicit claim that such debate should adhere to the standards of A/B-tested political communications. I'm somewhat sympathetic to Matt's argument that we should all be more mindful of our posting, but there is something a bit silly in crying out "Message discipline!" in an anonymized comment board filed with political junkies who love arguing.

More seriously: there's a lot to like about popularism as a political approach, and I think Shor and Yglesias get quite a bit right about the pragmatic harms of the ideological zeal of the far left in the political sphere. But too often, I've seen popularism used as an excuse to avoid individual moral introspection. The popularity of beliefs should certainly influence how we approach politics. But it's not an excuse to spare oneself an ethical audit. As history teaches us over and over, majority opinion is no guarantee of moral rectitude.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

While I trust that the commentariat *here* has some ability to control themselves elsewhere, that is very clearly not true of many others.

Moreover, as regards the actual, underlying morality of the situation at hand, I started out two years ago having blindly adopted most of the positions of the woke left and have been forced to systematically reconsider them over that time frame.

The conclusion I've reached, based on the information I've seen and the considered opinions I've been exposed to from those whose reasoning and commitment to truth I respect, is that the "gender-affirming treatment" considered the gold standard by the American activist community is not any such thing, that there are memetic and social pressure issues wrapped up in this, and that we're doing a grave disservice to questioning children by treating puberty blockers in particular the way we currently do. European nations have largely adopted more conservative and more evidence-based standards on the matter, which should be considered best practice and adopted here too, even though that is precisely the opposite of what the Twitter and activist spheres think is correct.

As for the broader "identity" issues involved, I posted this yesterday and will do so again:

"David R. Mar 23

Honestly, and this the one opinion I hold that is going to get me absolutely pilloried, if there were a pharmacological treatment for gender dysphoria I think it should be employed universally as a first-line treatment.

This isn't someone being attracted to "the wrong" gender, which is fundamentally a moral judgment, it's a condition that causes one to feel so utterly unable to live in one's own body that people need to resort to radical, poorly-developed, and often debilitating bodily modification simply to maintain the will to live, then face a lifetime of prejudice that is probably never going to go away the way it seems likely to for LGB folks.

If that could be solved with a "pill", IMO, it should be.

And if it could be, that would prove that it's just not an immutable identity characteristic, any more than depression is."

I and many others are as yet unconvinced that this is a question of identity and not a question of ill-understood medical and psychological conditions. If the best treatment available currently for people suffering severe gender dysmorphia is to bring their bodies in line with their own impression of what they should be, then so be it. These people are deserving of our sympathy and the best treatment available.

Does that make a male into a female? No.

Does it make a man into a woman? Answer unclear, to me at least, but perhaps.

I will and do, out of decency, make those transgender folks whom I encounter comfortable, but I am not convinced that there will not be better treatments for gender dysmorphia going forward, and if and when there are I will not brook or pay any attention to the argument that those treatments are wiping out an identity group, if they happen to make bodily modification as a treatment obsolete.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

You're being asked not to refer to people as "pathetic fringe groups" or tell them to fuck off. Stop acting like some champion of mainstream political expression. To coin a phrase, why don't you just comply?

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I've not referred to *anyone* as a pathetic fringe group and have no sympathy for David Abbott, who did. He was wrong to do so, and I find his ex post facto justification for it very unconvincing. We have words like "pitiable" and "put-upon" to encompass the meaning he claimed to be going for.

As for the other guy, yes, I should have restrained myself, but he could also stop with the drive-by, one-liner trolling. Milan will presumably wrestle the back end into submission, boot me for a week, and I'll ignore the troll and mind my manners going forward.

Neither of these has any particular bearing on the actual moral issue at hand, about which there is considerable debate, the vast majority of it outside the scope of what some here consider "acceptable."

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I agree with you. I love Slow Boring. Often it is the first slice of commentary-loaf I consume in the morning. What's tough, I find (not the first person to point this out) is that comments (our precious comments) that are intended to sound facetious come out sounding sardonic. I need to modulate that.

What's even tougher, is that the jesty/biting distinction is collapsed into stating incorrect information. I could flag down a moderator over what is a joke that is also technically wrong.

While people I think would forgive a misfired joke, they won't forgive making a mistake.

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In your defense, your avatar is of Lisa Simpson at her most sardonic looking.

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Sure, gratitude is one reaction. But why not claim credit for things you didn't do?

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Man, I skip a few days of reading the comments and look what happens.

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If you can't even talk about controversial topics how can you make any progress on them? It wasn't a dumpster-fire of name-calling or ad hominems except in a few very cases. No minds are changed when people just avoid a topic. I think ParkSlopetoPikeSt put it very well, below.

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I think there's a double-edge to this, where controversy drives outrage drives bad engagement and people entrench in their positions by opposition to people rather than ideas. Probably nothing has done more harm to my gut opinion of socialism than randos on twitter and reddit. So I do think if the quality of discourse gets too low, shutting it down is justified from a perspective of making progress

That said, I think much better from the perspective of productive discussion would just be banning Ken In MIA for being this comment section's bad faith georg

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I snuck a comment in... and I think I was pretty balanced. But I didn't read any of the other comments.

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> If activists sincerely can’t get themselves excited about a broad political push against poverty per se and see the moral force in that, then I think that just reflects poorly on them

Lol Matt. The activists do not care about poor people. Nobody cares about poor people, that's why this problem exists in the first place. The activists care about Twitter likes and clout within their social group.

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If you don't care about the poor that's your choice, but don't kid yourself into thinking that's universal. America has a welfare state in part because plenty of people care. Many Americans dedicate their careers in whole or in part as immigration lawyers, public defenders and so forth to helping the poor. Americans also donate hundreds of billions of dollars to charity each year.

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Speaking for myself, the reason I originally got involved in politics is that I found it profoundly immoral when I read in 2017 that the GOP wanted to cut taxes for the rich and pay for it by taking healthcare away from poor people.

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The point about Twitter activists is well taken, though.

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Using "Twitter activists" instead of EKG2's "the activists" is a subtle difference, but one I think should be noticed. It seems that in the age of Twitter Dominance, "activists" is being used to describe people who are heavily into social media, not people or organizations who are working "in the trenches." Someone who works for an organization like Habitat For Humanity, which is doing anti-poverty work, would not be called an activist.

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That is a fair point

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I'm sure they love The Poor. They just, you know, don't like "poor people."

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I'm surprised this even needs to be said.

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Poverty is a real and important problem in the U.S. But "Less than half the median income" sounds like the a measure of inequality, not of poverty, to me. If the median income in today's dollars were $250k/year, then people with income 45% of the median would not be living in poverty.

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

Sure they would. Poverty is relative. The King was still the King when he had to shit through a hole on the side of the building. A poor person is still poor even as he sits on a toilet in an air-conditioned ADA compliant bathroom.

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Doing my MPP research for me again! Thank you Matt!! That Garfinkle paper takes at least an hour out of my research time this weekend. Shame on me for every time I’ve grumbled about paying 8 bucks for one writer’s subscription.

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Keep at it! My MPP got me a government job and now I can afford like *five* substacks. Economic mobility!

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My MPP got me a state government job where I got pretty quickly dead ended because the the MPP wasn't part of the educational criteria for mid-level jobs there (but somehow a bachelor's degree in marketing was acceptable). Now I work in local government financial consulting and make way more so all's well that ends well.

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How does one find one's way into local government financial consulting? My wife has both local government and finance experience.

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I'm in the "Municipal Advisor" world. Our big money maker is working with various local governments to issue bonds and how to structure them, but we do a ton more work to help them with their finances (cash flow borrowing, utility rate studies, referendum guidance, development planning, creating tax abatement/tax increment districts, etc.). Honestly, I think if I had been in a lot of other states that I probably wouldn't have stumbled into this line of work. It's fairly niche and my home state happens to have some pretty permissive bond rules, so there are a lot of firms that do this sort of work here. We work in a bunch of other states where there just isn't the level of bond issuance (because again that's where most of the money is) to justify much more than a satellite office with a couple of people.

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Thanks!

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Not to contest the basic virtue of a child tax credit, but looking at Milan's chart and the eye-popping cost/benefit conclusion, surely the $900 billion of benefits represented by increased future earnings of today's children, health and longevity benefits to today's children and reduced crime aren't 'benefits per year' the way chart says, but the discounted present value of these benefits for a cohort of children over their lifetimes, assuming the CTC was paid for X years during their childhood. This is surely more than one year of benefits. By comparing the one-year cost against a lifetime of benefits you aren't capturing the true apples-to-apples cost and benefits by labeling them as costs and benefits 'per year'. Another minor point, the UAE, Norway and Switzerland all have higher median incomes than the US, according to my Google search.

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-Switzerland is richer than the US on average

-So is Norway, but they're a petrostate and have fewer people than metro Atlanta.

-UAE's figures don't include migrant workers or anything, so you have to take them with a grain of salt

but overall Matt's point about the US being richer than people realize seems to be true.

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Better by far to figure out what happened to it after 1970 and reverse it. Underperformance in Europe in the 2010’s doesn’t come anywhere near proving our current model a success.

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All else equal, running the economy hot works for the average person even if inflation is well above 2%.

But I’m much more concerned about how we lost the absolute magic that meant all else *wasn’t equal* between 1945 and 1975.

Get *that* back and we’re golden. High real growth and an enviable share of productivity growth to labor instead of capital.

I have my theories, but just theories, like everyone else.

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The abstract says:

Our estimates indicate that making that expansion permanent would cost $97 billion per year and generate social benefits with net present value of $982 billion per year.

So I think they did annualize the benefits. Maybe someone with more free time today can get the full paper and check how they did it?

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I did a quick skim of the paper and it seems coherent in a social sciencey way -- which is to say that it based its numbers on some fairly specific empirical studies which I'm assuming were competently done, and then has no compunctions about extrapolating the results to a nation of 330 million people extending into the indefinite future. Maybe true, but ymmv. My view is that social scientists should be careful about touting results promising a 10:1 ROI. Even for businesses buying an awesome piece of new equipment, those returns on investment are hard to get.

I get it that social scientists shouldn't *have* to worry about how the results of their research paper get used in the larger policy discourse, but sometimes they do . . . like right here and now.

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I haven't checked the paper either, but a couple of follow-up questions come to mind:

1. How do they count the net present value of the benefits? For instance, if the CTC program starts today (call it year 1) are they counting in their NPV calculation, all children currently qualifying for the CTC, or only those born this year?

2. Year 2: Is their NPV calculation including the NPV of the lifetime benefits captured in year 1, or are they excluded? If included, aren't they double-counting the lifetime NPV benefits of the CTC, each year they include an NPV for benefits included in a prior year?

3. If they're using an NPC calculation of lifetime benefits, shouldn't they also be using an NPV calculation of the costs for each cohort (i.e. the cost of the CTC from birth to age 18 or whatever the cutoff point is for the CTC)?

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Who is.ready to get the comments section locked again.

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im in hell so i can take any punishment

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I think Matt overlooks ( perhaps just to avoid complicating the article) the degree to which most of the nations which perform much better than us on these metrics also use other policy levers in support of stable and reasonably well-compensated employment for low-to-mid-skilled workers.

The Nordics and Germany all have effective measures to support manufacturing and mid-value-added employment, meaning their transfer states have an easier lift than would otherwise be the case.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

“This is a group that voted for Barack Obama twice before flipping to Donald Trump”

I feel like this is an important reason racial targeting has taken over. There is a collective sense that poor whites, in voting for Trump, surrendered any claim to assistance through racially-motivated voting.

I think that’s fed the current zeitgeist in two ways: it’s reduced the moral weight of poor whites and made explicit racial targeting emotionally satisfying.

(For the record, I had this same opinion despite its obvious tension with my belief that the sort of precarity faced by poor whites is bad for democracy.)

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I think an underrated aspect of this is that the democratic donor class / elites / etc don't see white poverty in their daily lives, so it's easy for them to discount its size and breadth.

The democratic power bases are in big coastal cities where race and poverty correlate fairly neatly, or they grew up in wealthy, white suburbs that surround a poorer, less white urban area. For them, wealth and whiteness go hand in hand. Rural poverty like Appalachia or California's central valley is merely an abstract idea, because the power base doesn't have any stakes there.

I honestly can't remember EVER hearing about white urban poverty in any part of the discourse. I'm sure most power brokers could tell you about poverty in west Baltimore (they watched The Wire!), but there's a zero percent chance they know Armistead Gardens or Pigtown or Brooklyn (in Baltimore, not NYC)., let alone largely white cities with a lot of poverty like Topeka or Huntington. I'm always amazed at the complete erasure of poor urban whites in any discourse about American cities.

Not only does this discount the experiences of millions of poor whites, but I don't see how its helpful to frame poverty only as an issue that affects non-whites. If anything, it feels like this plays into strengthening the current white nationalism strain in MAGA land.

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For a more concrete example, look at the sneering disdain tastemakers have for Insane Clown Posse, a group that is as close to an avatar for poor whites as popular culture allows. ICP is wildly popular in the white underclass for their depictions of their struggles, and we do nothing but ceaselessly mock them.

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I think there’s something to the fact that the kind of white men who end up progressives often have a kind of visceral fear of working class and poor whites that is hard to build empathy.

The long shadow of bullying and harassment makes it hard to feel any sense of common purpose with a lot of people. When I see Trump rallies I don’t feel political disagreement I feel personally, physically threatened and want distance and guns as much as votes.

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As a white man, who does consider himself progressive (though a lot of white progressives consider me a neo-neoliberal shill), I think it's really important to step outside your bubble socially. It's one of the reasons why in another thread, I advocated for my kids going to public and why I've done things like play on random beer league softball teams filled with restaurant cooks and construction workers and cops. It's really easy to think who are these absolute lunatics from afar but it's a totally different perspective to actually interact with them. Do they still have some loony beliefs? Absolutely but so does basically everyone I know.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

One of the reasons I’m rather more sanguine about the state of the Republican Party than most progressive, urban whites is that both work and family life put me in regular contact with hordes of Republican voters… precisely none of whom are anything like the stereotype of a violent, liberal-hating Trump rally attendee.

I’m concerned about the direction their politics is headed, but so, then, are many of them.

I don’t believe the notion that a broad section of the mushy middle is about to sign up to shoot the other side.

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I don't exactly disagree with this but I think it understates how much living life under threat really does warp everything about the world. Like when I went to teacher prep program they go out and find teachers who were fired for drinking wine in a bar, let alone something really risky like letting my students know that I'm bi. Like the fear of literally having my body bruised again was replaced with fear of being made homeless under morality clause firings.

I've pretty much spent my entire life being forced to be highly guarded about everything and expecting everyone to be perfectly capable and willing to hurt me.

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Letting the worst people in a community represent that community in our minds is the kind of thing that liberals frowned upon (um, profiling) before we went all in on identity politics. There are plenty of them, but they aren’t representative. And every individual is an individual.

I know that it can be hard to remember these things, truly, especially when tribalism is a profit center.

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I agree with this and also think it understates how much a kind of constant sense of threat really warps everything.

It's not at all that I think that every person I interact with is a secret bigot, but that I have to assume the worst until I know otherwise. Even where the physical threat is incredibly unlikely, there's all kinds of other ways people can make my life unpleasant where the threat is pretty constant.

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Your comment and this article make me nostalgic for the older style of universalist politics practiced by the likes of Paul Wellstone, with his "we all do better when we all do better" mantra. I remember staying up very late on election night 1990 listening to the returns come in and it was back and forth in his race with the plywood magnate Rudy Boschwitz until the wee hours when the results from the working class, rural Iron Range came in and put him over the top (where Democrats now struggle). He himself had been an activist and professor, but the type who spent a lot of time with actual farmers and workers. Not all his policies were good ideas, any more than all of King's ideas, but he had genuine credibility -- even my hard right uncle who never dreamed of voting for him respected him for what he was, because Wellstone liked and respected people like my uncle.

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Those were the days when an “activist” was more than an epithet of derision with a Twitter account.

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To put these poverty numbers in context, one should mention the easiest way to avoid poverty in the First World, follow the success sequence:

1. Finish high school.

2. Get a full-time job once you finish school.

3. Get married before you have children.

https://www.econlib.org/the-meaning-of-the-success-sequence/

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If you want to be upper middle class, I'd recommend this success sequence:

1. go to the best college you can attend for free (or close to free)

2. major in STEM, accounting, finance, or economics

3. get a job in a growing sun belt city like Dallas or Atlanta and try to buy a house there

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True - but upper middle class is overrated. As someone who went from bottom to the top, I've had the most fun at the bottom. The upper middle class works too damn hard. Nobody tells you that until your stuck in that rat race.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

Personally I agree that people should do this. I did, and it's working out great. As a general matter, I think that if you are someone of median work ethic and intelligence and you don't make any major negative life choices, you have a great chance of doing well in America. Probably better than anywhere else in the world.

But (IMO) Matt Bruenig offers some pretty compelling refutations of the success sequence stuff. https://www.peoplespolicyproject.org/2021/03/01/the-success-sequence-has-found-its-latest-mark/ Might be valuable context for someone who is new to the subject (not that I'm suggesting you are!).

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Bruenig has a pretty good takedown for this, which is that if you get divorced or lose your job, you’re recast as no longer having followed the sequence. The research did not really identify people who followed the steps; it identifies people who are currently in the desired state.

https://www.peoplespolicyproject.org/2021/03/01/the-success-sequence-has-found-its-latest-mark/

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I feel the same way about white people getting shot by the police. Black people getting shot by the police is a bigger problem, but way too many people of all colors get shot by the police and it would be ethically and coalitionally better to acknowledge this.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

“ I do suspect that the wealthy donor class genuinely does find King-style rhetoric about class struggle off-putting and prefers to think of things in narrow racial terms.” It’s always been the case that the wealthy, as a class, are economically right-wing and oppose significant redistributive measures towards a more equal society in the class sense, I.e. what used to be known as a left-wing policy. The left, where successful, never relied on these people as it’s base, but rather on labor unions, in coalition with other groups from the middle class and the poor. The wealthy, by and large, support neoliberals and conservatives. So long as the Democratic Party continues in its trajectory of becoming the new party of “the wealthy donor class” it will become structurally unable, and increasingly unwilling to address fundamental economic issues (healthcare, housing, taxation, cost of education etc) instead probably doubling down on the “woke” kool-aid which from a Marxist perspective is little more than a device to drive a wedge within the working class and keep them all down.

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Democrats are becoming the party of the college-educated coastal knowledge worker. If unions were as prominent today, we are the ones who would be members, and probably even richer for it. It’s just that we wound up in an alternate history where it’s diplomas and interviews instead of union cards and seniority that elevate certain workers above the rest.

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I drew a rebuke from Milan when I raised this point a few weeks ago so I will try to reframe it.

An anti poverty program should have carrots and sticks to encourage young people to focus on education and employment before starting families.

It’s not your fault if you were born poor, but if you repeat the mistakes of your parents then you do bear some responsibility for the poverty of your own children.

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Seems like a great way to reduce our only real long-term advantage vs China (our higher birth rate and healthier demographics)

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If we had to accept 20% lower fertility along with no childhood poverty I'm not so sure that would really be a bad thing, geopolitically speaking

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How would you craft your policy to implement the carrots and sticks that you think should be in the program?

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What if it was just something that opinion writers at the NYTs and other media outlets adopted into their worldview?

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I know most people here really dislike Sen. Manchin for essentially killing the monthly child allowance, but I have to ask, how many of you have actually been to West Virginia? I'm from Ohio and have been to WV quite a bit, and also honestly, southern Ohio is not *that* different from WV. Manchin knows his constituents; not just want they want but how they live, and I think he actually fears what will happen to them if they are given a permanent child allowance. He is concerned that with a child allowance a lot of young people will completely drop out of the workforce. Now don't get me wrong, I support a child allowance, because it is better than the alternatives (and I think Sen. Romney's plan for one is far and above the best one), but it took me a long to come support it, mainly because of the same concerns Manchin has. I don't think anyone, including Romney, has really thought about the unintended consequences of giving younger adults a lot of free money. Now, it is more likely that younger adults will drop out of the workforce in rural areas than in urban areas due to the cost of living (maybe this is a good reason to vary the child allowance by county), but the US has never really dealt with a large population of young unemployed people in a way that countries such as Spain or Greece have (note that things are not the best in those countries). Arthur Brooks is correct about earned success: it is a good thing for people to achieve. If a permanent child allowance is to become reality, we need to be ready to face all the consequences.

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Is anybody really going to drop out of the workforce simply because the government is giving them a couple hundred bucks per month? You can't live on that, even as an individual, let alone support a family.

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This seems like a line of reasoning that's trying to have it both ways. If the credit is meaningful enough to swing behavior, it could swing it in either positive ways, negative ways, or both. But if it's not enough money to matter, then it won't do much of anything positive or negative.

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This is assuming just one child though. If someone has 2 or more kids that's close to $1000/month or more under any child allowance plan I have seen. Combined with other cash payments such as SSID or food stamps, with the addition of an inherited house or vehicle (which is probably more common among rural poor than urban poor), and it could be feasible.

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Even if you have 2 or more kids, yes, you get more money, but you need more money because your expenses are up. Even if it is theoretically possible to drop out of the workforce and not have your kids starve to death, it will not be a comfortable life, and your standard of living will be higher remaining in the workforce.

Where incentives become a problem is when you have these arbitrary thresholds where if your income is $1 over the threshold, the incentive immediately disappears. Or, if you work, the incentive disappears. Universal payments avoid this problem, since taking a job that pays $X/month still increases your net income by $X/month. Unfortunately, universal payments are also much more expensive, which is why real-world anti-poverty programs unusally end up with these arbitrary thresholds.

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Plus a lot of people make money in various informal and sometimes illegal ways

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I'm likely not reading something properly here, but how does it follow that a child allowance would lead to youth dropping out of the workforce? I could see that for a UBI, and indeed that's one of my hesitations about a UBI. Is the idea that more young people will be incentivized to become parents earlier and then peace out from the workforce?

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

Not youth as in high school or college students, but younger adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. And possibly yes to your second question. Another concern is what will children learn when they see their parents stop working.

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I understand the mindset we're discussing here, but really SSDI is the route to that sort of a life; there's no way someone can manage to subsist on a few grand a year regardless of where they live.

I'm starting to wonder if SSDI doesn't just need to go away entirely in the name of shoring up the rest of the system.

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I’ve been to WV many times, it is a beautiful state.

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