I was sent this in an email today:
Why do conservatives hate Americans?: Given the Right’s recent lurch toward Ayn Rand-style Objectivism, it seems that an intelligent journalist would put the following facts together:
1. 80% of Americans own only 7% of America’s wealth.
2. The new mainstream in conservatism maintains that the poor are only poor because of laziness and lack of initiative.
It’s not exactly a leap in logic to point out that mainstream conservatism now maintains that 80% of Americans are simply ungrateful, lazy bastards who need tough love to do better.
In that context, trying to get rid of Social Security and Medicare makes sense for them. But shouldn’t someone start asking, then, why conservatives have such contempt for the vast majority of Americans, and their work ethic? It’s not a hard question to ask. The politics of it may be controversial, but the logic isn’t.
The problem with the leap of logic is that both premises are flawed.
1. The statistic that 80% of Americans only control 7% of the wealth is based on studies that exclude much of the wealth of the “80%” including their cars and household items. Even more striking, these studies do not include “non-home wealth” (i.e. home equity) like a UCSC study did.
No wonder the figures looks so out of balance. They exclude the majority of wealth of the middle class, while including a majority of the wealth of the “rich”. The comparisons are apples and oranges, but that is what you do when you want to incite class warfare.
2. Conservatism does not claim that being poor only derives from laziness and lack of initiative. It does suggest that taking initiative and hard work are solutions to poverty, but that is not to say the inverse of those traits are the causes.
No, poverty in America is generally the result of poor personal choices such as dropping out of school, single parenthood, or drug/alcohol abuse. The best ways not to be poor are to avoid those decisions. Most of all get married; there are very few children in poverty who live with both biological parents and married men tend to have higher employment and higher income. Children from intact families are more likely to graduate high school, and less likely to have a teen pregnancy or abuse drugs or alcohol, and not continue a cycle of poverty.
Basically, our economic problems have more societal causes (the decrease of marriage and increase of out-of-wedlock birth) than they do economic causes.