Monday, February 1, 2010

Bills To Pay The Skills

In arguing against unspecified attempts to expand the social safety net during a recession -- it's for their own good, you see! -- Mickey links to this piece by Kaus heartthrob Heather MacDonald:

Championing Dependency
The poverty industry renews its attack on welfare reform.

Poverty industry! Even Mickey prefers to insinuate that evil politicians and dumb Money Liberals are profiting off of the very conditions they purport to eradicate -- not actively manufacturing poverty like it's some sort of consumer good. Oh, this is awesome.

(Wealthy Banker: "Shit, what I am doing in finance, when I could be raking in that sweet poverty cash? Poor people have tons of money!")

In that spirit, the author describes her foes thusly:

poverty advocates

I'm sure she meant "anti-poverty advocates" there. It's not like she actually believes that these advocates who have dedicated their lives to low-paying work on behalf of the least fortunate are purposefully working to keep them poor. Oh, wait ...

dependency-promoting bills

The Live Off Welfare Forever Act of 2009 was totally misunderstood.

Albany dependency brigades

Hey, the Albany dependency brigades fought valiantly at Antietam before falling into their current disreputable state.

Here's the article's thesis, in case you couldn't guess:

Powerful political forces are trying to make dependency acceptable again.

If by "powerful political forces" she means banking industry, and by "dependency" she means "depending on the federal government's bailout of AIG, cheap money from the Fed, and an implicit guarantee to step in in the case of failure", she'd make a ton of sense, and actually be speaking truth to power. The reality-- that she's using the phrase to describe anti-poverty advocates in the very same piece where she gamely tries to spin a 26.5% child poverty rate as a success -- is just ugly.

[I do hate to turn every criticism of Mickey & co.'s anti-anti-poverty idiocy into GOLDMAN SACHS GOLDMAN SACHS GOLDMAN SACHS ... but still, any use of the phrase "powerful political forces" that doesn't refer specifically to the banking industry is now, by definition, histrionic.]

The gem of the piece:

[T]he best way for an unskilled worker to enter the workforce is actually to start working, rather than spend years in often fruitless “education and training” programs.

Really? The best way to enter the workforce is to start working? Isn't that the only way?

Even assuming she meant "escape poverty" or "break the cycle of dependency" or some other such blather -- and ignoring that her "just go work" prescription is being offered at a time of 10% unemployment -- why put "education and training" in scare quotes? Are those dependency advocates in the Obama administration sending the unemployed to the University of Phoenix?

Are they going to business school?

Oh, and how precisely are unskilled workers supposed to get skilled without education and training? Mickey and his ilk are always deploying that vaguely insulting term to suggest that those people could have gone out and gotten some skills if they wanted to, and since they didn't they deserve their fate. [Hey, Mickey has a Harvard Law degree, and he's still fucking useless -- ed. Good point!] Yet every damn time someone proposes something that could conceivably skill-ify the downtrodden -- encouraging enrollment in a four-year college, say -- these same anti-anti-poverty-advocacy advocates declare that such efforts are "fruitless" and these slovenly types should just go work at Wal-Mart or something.

It's almost as though they possess a "fundamentally inegalitarian and elitist" belief that only certain people are capable of being skilled workers -- and it just so happens that those with "educational credentials and yuppie resumes" fit the bill ... oh, wait, Mickey's says it's feminists who think like that. My bad!

The Pro-Poverty-and-Dependency Lobby must have gotten to me, too!


Hey, remember that scene in Hoop Dreams when Arthur Agee's mother gets her certification to be a nurse's assistant and weeps openly at the school's graduation ceremony, knowing that she can now provide for her family?

That was when Mickey Kaus left the theater in disgust.