Monday, February 27, 2006

Why do stupid people try to debate?

Over at Ezra's, there's a little debate about poverty, in particular Johnson's Great Society and War on Poverty. Here's my debate with "Captain Toke":

Johnson took office in November 1963, so the closest point in the surveys (taken in March, unless indicated otherwise) is 1964. Overall poverty in 1964 was 19% and family poverty was 17.4%:

1964 189,710 36,055 19.0 177,653 30,912 17.4

By the time he left office in January 1969, for which the closest date is the March 1969 survey, poverty had declined considerably:

1969 199,517 24,147 12.1 184,891 19,175 10.4

That’s a 6.9% decline in the overall poverty rate and a 7% decline in the family poverty rate. Given Nixon’s gutting of several GS programs, it would seem that Johnson’s economic program was a massive success.

That the progressive policies of Kennedy and Johnson were beneficial to those at the bottom becomes even more apparent when going back further and comparing 1960, the last of the Eisenhower years (of course, today Ike would be a left-wing commie Democrat) with 1969:
1960 179,503 39,851 22.2 168,615 34,925 20.71969 199,517 24,147 12.1 184,891 19,175 10.4
That’s a 10.1% reduction in individual poverty and a 10.3% reduction in family poverty. Although Dick nixed many GS programs, he did counter with other measures. Interestingly, for the rest of the 1970’s, poverty rates remained low, even hitting their all-time low in 1973.

As to the Clinton factor, it’s not entirely accurate to use the 1993 data because anything that Clinton did would likely have not had immediate systemic effects by October, nine months into his presidency. More accurate would be to look at the end of his presidency. When he took office, it looked like this:
1992(9) 256,549 38,014 14.8 217,936 28,961 13.3

When he left office, it looked like this:

2000(12) 278,944 31,581 11.3 231,909 22,347 9.6

Incidentally, that family rate of poverty is the lowest ever recorded in the US.

Posted by: J Smith Feb 27, 2006 9:13:22 AM

The 'Great Society' policies weren't implimented until the mid sixties, so liberal policies weren't felt until after that.
"That the progressive policies of Kennedy and Johnson were beneficial to those at the bottom becomes even more apparent when going back further and comparing 1960"
"it’s not entirely accurate to use the 1993 data because anything that Clinton did would likely have not had immediate systemic effects by October, nine months into his presidency."
Talk about me conflating numbers! This clown is doing some serious contorting to try and back up his argument. He thinks it is unfair to credit Clinton with the 1993 poverty rates, but he wants to go back to 1960 when poverty began to fall, five years before 'Great Society' policies were implemented and he wants to credit the 'Great Society' policies.
Posted by:
Captain Toke Feb 27, 2006 10:42:46 AM

Captain Toke, if I may use your military title, you misread the comment. The data from 1960 is important to establish what the sum was prior to Kennedy and Johnson, who were more liberal/progressive than Eisenhower. Of course, as I pointed out, Ike was a commie in comparison to GWB. Thus, 1960 provides the baseline for analyzing the net effect of K-J, as my comment plainly states. 1969 obviously provides the end point. Thus, those two dates provide the data for analyzing the K-J effect as a totality. I make this clear, yet you fallaciously claim that I use 1960 as the baseline for assessing the Great Society or that I credit the reduction from 1959 to 1960 to the GS (yoiu are somewhat unclear as to which). Your claim is therefore based on a misreading or is an outright lie.

That is, liberal policies were in place from at least January 1961. You can easily verify this by reference to a history book, but Kennedy and Johnson took office around then and both were liberal Democrats. Great Society programs were not in place until 1964 or 1965. The GS was announced in my home state on May 22, 1964, at the University of Michigan, so it's unlikely that there were any GS programs in place prior to that. Note, however, that the War on Poverty was announced by Johnson in his first State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. Nonetheless, liberal Democratic policies had already been in place for 3 or 4 years prior to the beginning of the GS/WOP.

As to Clinton, who in his moderate politics reminded me most of Eisenhower, the endpoint of his presidency is the proper point of assessment, just as the point at which to begin the analysis is prior to his having taken office, i.e., 1992.

As an aside, this thread seems to ingore that there is more to fighting poverty than merely giving money and other aid directly to the poor. It is also in having a safety net that prevents people from falling into poverty -- unemployment insurance, pension guarantees, deposit insurance, social security, etc. It is also in creating and maintaining access to the means -- generally educational -- of lifting oneself out of poverty. Among the main programs in this regard are student aid, tuition subsidies, affirmative action, etc. It is in ensuring that we don't have a hereditary aristocracy of wealth that can turn economic power into political power and thwart upward mobility and aspirations -- this is done through estate taxes, progressive income taxes and capital gains taxes. It is in minimizing as much as possible the priveliges bestowed by wealth and nmaximizing the opportunities of those without wealth. It's in job training, encouraging unionization, etc. No wonder then that Republican administrations, which are relatively* more conservative than Democratic ones, somehow effect increases in the rate of poverty and Democratic ones lead to decreases in poverty.

*Relative is the key term. Eisenhower would be a liberal Democrat today and he'd get along well with Bernie Sanders. Nixon -- sure, he'd love the PATRIOT Act and the sheer unaccountability of this administration, but his domestic policies were often more lefty than any president other than Johnson over the past 50 years. Ditto Ford (who can forget Opertation Bootstrap?). Nonetheless, all were more conservative than their opponents. Clinton would have been far too conservative to have ever won a Democratic nomination between 1932 and 1972, but he was still more liberal than his opponents. This applies to a lesser extent to Carter, who was also a relatively conservative Democrat.

Posted by: J Smith Feb 27, 2006 11:23:08 AM

By the way, Cpt. Toke -- whose military service has apparently not taken him to Iraq -- I am not a clown, but I do play one on TV. Sadly, I flunked out of Mid-Michigan Clown College in 1993.

Posted by: J Smith Feb 27, 2006 11:26:50 AM

"By the way, Cpt. Toke -- whose military service has apparently not taken him to Iraq"
What does Iraq have to do with this?
Oh, you can't defend the GS so you change the subject. That is very liberal of you.
"That is, liberal policies were in place from at least January 1961."
Please provide a link. Because as far as I know, liberal social programs weren't effective until 1965 or 1966. If it is that easy to find, please provide the link.
But again, you want to credit Kennedy and Johnson for trends that began before they entered office.
The fact is that poverty went down 5% in the 5 years before the GS programs and poverty went down 5% in the 5 years after the GS programs and then it poverty rate basically leveled off. So the only thing GS programs did were encourage out of wedlock births and destroy the poor family.
Liberals should be proud.
Posted by:
Captain Toke Feb 27, 2006 11:41:11 AM

Dear Cpt. Toke, you are neither an officer nor a gentleman. As to Iraq, unless my knowledge of military ranks is grossly inadequate, I believe that "Captain" denotes a particular military rank, specifically one between Major and First Lieutenant (although it’s much higher in the Navy – between Rear Admiral and Commander). Now, given that we are at war, it is reasonable to assume that a member of the military may be stationed in a theater of war. But, quite frankly, I somehow doubt you're in the military . . . The Toke part -- now that I believe. Oh well, I suppose it’s fun to play dress-up, even if it is only in cyberspace.

On to the substance of your objections. Believe it or not, progressive policies were put in place by the Kennedy administration. This is something that can be easily verified by anyone with a library card. Since we don’t live in Randtopia™, you can get one for no charge from your local bibliothek Based on your math, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations reduced poverty by approximately 10% (note to the intellectually challenged: approximately means “roughly,” “in the vicinity of” or “close to” – I don’t want anyone to get confused). And yet you maintain that they, or at least Johnson, ultimately "destroy[ed] the poor family." Yes, being removed from poverty can certainly be destructive . . . (ever since I left poverty, my life has been one family-destroying success after another).

As to the numbers, I went back to 1960 to provide a baseline from which to compare the relative success of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. I did not claim that the 1960 numbers had any bearing on the GS/WOP – I made this abundantly clear. So clear, in fact, that I can only assume that you are a deliberate liar or have the reading comprehension level of a semi-retarded dyslexic. That is, you’re a liar or you can’t read. How very Conservative* of you. [See, I can be smarmy too!!!!]

Now, I’m gonna once again put some pesky numbers on the table (so as to not confuse Cap’n Munch, I am writing figuratively, as there is no actual table):

1964 189,710 36,055 19.0 177,653 30,912 17.4

1969 199,517 24,147 12.1 184,891 19,175 10.4

The baseline for comparing the GS/WOP is either at or just before its implementation. Thus, 1964 is the most appropriate year, as it was the year both programs were announced and thus preceded the effects of any of those programs. Again, the proper terminus is 1969, as that measure, taken in 3/69, is the closest to Johnson’s departure from office, which occurred on 1/20/69. Now, let me pause before I continue, dear Cap’n: DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF MY KEYBOARD? Based on this, there was a reduction in excess of one third in both overall and family poverty.

More important than the massive poverty reduction caused by the GS, readily discernible by anyone who (a) can read a chart and/or (b) is not a Murray/Rand acolyte, is that liberal and/or progressive policies reduce poverty and increase the middle class (defined in terms of income) and that conservative and right-wing policies do the opposite.

I agree poverty was already trending down at the dawn of the K-J** era. I would wager that the trend from the New Deal through the Great Society was downward. Now, so as not to be too challenging for the Cap’n’s already overtaxed intellect, I want to make it clear that the GS/WOP cannot take credit for the massive decline in poverty from 1932-1964. Funny, though, neither can conservatism or laissez faire or deregulation or . . . Now, there was a Republican president during that time, but Eisenhower falls into the now-extinct Teddy Roosevelt category of progressive Republicans – hardly a role model for today’s Bush Jugend. Although Ike initiated no anti-poverty programs of his own, the large federal spending by his administration certainly created a lot of well-paying jobs. Moreover, he did not roll back the New Deal.

Now, unless you, good Cap’n, (or anyone else) can come up with a criticism that is not based on a misreading or an outright lie, I think my point is has been firmly established. I do apologize that the format of this blog does not allow me to make my points in bright pastels or with crayons, but such is life. I made everything as digestible as possible, such that even a particularly low-wattage bulb can discern my argument’s contours. But, absent help from Elmo and friends, I can’t make it any simpler than I have. Ciao!

*Conservative in the sense of the post-WWII political movement, which is distinct from “conservative,” meaning favoring limited social and economic change.** I think Kennedy should have picked someone with a last name beginning with “Y.” Who better than Jack to be the KY Prez?
Posted by:
J Smith Feb 27, 2006 12:55:46 PM

Of course, debating with Cap'n Crunch is sort of like engaging in a duel against an unarmed quadraplegic. He is either very stupid or an adept liar, because his/her only recourse has been to simply lie about what I have wrote. Par for the course for the right wing.

Midwest vs. Great Lakes

I found some confusion in the comments here with regard to what constitues the "Midwest." The Midwest is a predominately farm region composed of states on the Great Plains, south of Canada, north of Texas, east of the Rockies and west of the Mississippi river. It is a largely rural, poor region with few significant cities. Moreover, it is also the most reliably conservative area of the nation -- other than Iowa & Missouri, a Democratic nominee has failed to capture any of these states since 1964. Hell, these states didn't even vote for Roosevelt or Truman after 1936.

The Midwest is really composed of all of the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas. I would add Oklahoma, although many would call it southern. Note that Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and northern Texas could also be considered to be thge midwest. Texas has too much of a self-contained identity. Although it is also arguably southern, it's just Texas, asscrack of the union. Colorado, Wyoming and Montana all have strong identities as Western states, so I would consider them Mountain West rather than Midwest, evn though the bulk of those states is composed of high plains.

The Midwest is rather distinct from the Great Lakes region, which is a mainly industrial region composed of states with a Great Lakes shoreline that is east of the Mississipi, west of the Appalachians, north of the Ohio River and south of Canada. The Great Lakes region is pretty much the Big Ten states, minus Iowa and PA -- Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. These are some of the bluest states in the nation; only Indiana is reliably red and Ohio generally votes with the winner, R or D.

We have some of the largest cities in the nation (Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul) and are the most heavily industrialized and unionized section of the country. We have some of the finest universities (Northwestern, Michigan, Wisconsin, Chicago, Minnesota), most of them fine public institutions. Do not confuse the Great Lakes region with the Midwest. It raises the dander of this Michigander.

As to coastal elitism, I really haven't experienced it from West Coasters -- they're a pretty laid back bunch. East Coasters, on the other hand . . . Many is the time on one of these sites when a fellow progressive has treated me and my brethren like some kind of Green Acres bumpkin because I'm from a "backwater midwestern" state -- even though metro Detroit has more people than most eastern cities. There is a certain elitism; why I cannot say, given that NYC is hardly some recreated Emerald City (although contrary to Mr. Baum's character, I still say that the Emerald City is better than Kansas, but I suppose that's my Great Lakes elitism).

At any rate, this analysis is rather clumsy because it is on a state level. Regions often go beyond states. I'd extend the Great Lakes region to portions of all states touching the lakes, including the Erie to Pittsburgh section of PA and the Buffalo to Rochester section of NY. In addition, the western portions are clearly Midwestern. As to Indiana, outside of he Gary-Ft. Wayne section, it seems to embody the worst crackerism of the south and the worst hickesque elements of the Midwest, with none of the charm of the former nor the pitiable economic rot of the latter. That is, it's the worst of all possible worlds.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Nutso Lefto Redux

Read this post by Digby. ("Dispatches From The Fever Swamp"). This is why snake oiled media twits like David Brooks characterize the left blogosphere as “nuts” – because they know it’s our best tool.

Now, I said read it! Don't make me use my piece.