On the perils of being willfully misinformed.

David Ryan

David Ryan is a boat builder and USCG licensed master captain. He is the owner of Sailing Montauk and skipper of Montauk''s charter sailing catamaran MON TIKI You can follow him on Twitter @CaptDavidRyan

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107 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Yeah i’ve heard that kind of story from conservative types. They never make any sense and stink of BS. If there is some truth in the stories, which I’ve rarely been able to get at, there are always a ton more facts that change the situation greatly. I did know a woman who turned down a job at McD’s because it would kill her gov benefits. Her gov benefits were health insurance and she had at least one if not two chronically ill kids. Without HI she couldn’t get care for her kids, if she took any job, at that time, she lost her HI.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

      That’s a grave example. We now have a record number on food stamps*. Getting them off will be no breeze.

      *Announcement of which was delayed until after the election, of course.


      • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        First off…i call BS…i’ve heard you among others say we have a record number of people on FS.

        Second, getting people off FS is about jobs. Jobs are slowly coming back, if you’ll note the unemp rate. Not fast enough but they are coming back. More tax cuts wouldn’t have helped.Report

        • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

          I don’t think so either. Greg, you have to start responding to what I actually write and actually think.

          That there exists a welfare trap shouldn’t be controversial, nor should those caught in it necessarily be condemned as being anything less than merely human.Report

          • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            I’m in an airport so i’m only going to be on for a few more minutes so i can’t get more into this although i will check back. Did you ever notice Tom how you never ever think people are responding to you and understand what you are saying. Not just me but just about every other poster hereabouts who you get in arguments with. I’ve noticed that. What is the only common element in your arguments with all sorts of people where nobody gets what you say?Report

            • Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

              He doesn’t know what the fish he’s talking about?

              Hey, I’m just throwing out an option here.Report

            • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

              Yes, Greg. Folks angrily reply without reading or thinking carefully. Nothing new.

              I write for those folks who are capable of entertaining a thought without accepting it. There are a few and they are a delight. You are sometimes one of them.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to greginak says:

              “Not just me but just about every other poster hereabouts who you get in arguments with.”

              Yes, well, being Very Angry At Wrong People On The Internet is a highly addictive activity. There’s nothing so refreshing as a good Two Minutes Hate.Report

          • JakeCollins in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Many people on foodstamps work–they just don’t earn enough.
            The fact that you think of these people as not quite human because they have a low-paying job tells me all I need to know about you.Report

            • I wrote the opposite, Jake. This is getting tiring.Report

              • DBrown in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Hey know all tVD – since it is hard to get people off because there are so few jobs out there and many people don’t have skills required for what jobs are available, how exactly are we to remove them? Of course it will be difficult – Jesus what an important bit of information to share; next you will tell us that food stamps are used to – let us wait for tVD’s brilliant insight – used to buy food.Report

      • bob in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Your trolling non-sequitor. Well, is that what you do here? Me, I have no problem with people who need food to be able to get it. I reckon there is some means test, OK. And horrors they must spend these food stamps on FOOD. Further I reckon they are not buying Grey Poupon, so the stamps/dollars get recycled in their purchases of US foodstuffs.

        Your avatar/icon shows you totally blinkered. I’ve lost five minutes of my life responding to your trolling non-sequitor, so you win.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to greginak says:

      I once had someone explain to me, unsolicited, his strategy for applying to jobs in order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits while avoiding actually being offered a job (declining a job offer disqualifies you, apparently).

      Speaking strictly in terms of income, most jobs are preferable to a welfare or unemployment check. But leisure has value, too. For many people, the value of an extra 40+ hours of leisure per week is greater than the value of the extra income that working would provide.Report

      • Mr. Harris in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        This argument gets thrown around alot but there isn’t much leisure in living a hand to mouth existence. The idea that there would be is pretty offensive considering all the research that’s been done on the subject of poverty and stress related ailments.Report

      • Matty in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I once had someone explain to me, unsolicited, his strategy for applying to jobs in order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits while avoiding actually being offered a job

        Was it this guy?Report

        • Turgid Jacobian in reply to Matty says:

          Yeah, once again, the desperate fear from conservatives that someone, somewhere, might possibly be getting over. Because of that fear, they appear to be quite willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Nice. Principled.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I knew a guy who did contract programming work. His MO was to take N jobs at a time (I observed N being at least three), do little or no work on N-1 of them, and collect N paychecks until he got fired from the others. Since all that went on his resume was the job he actually worked at, he kept this up for years. Any system can be gamed, if you’re crooked enough.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        But Dreher’s friend’s employees were all quitting. Which means they won’t be qualifying for unemployment benefits.Report

  2. Lyle says:

    One way that has been talked about this is to eliminate fiscal cliffs in welfare, but rather phase it down. In some cases makeing $1 more can result in a 1000% or higher effective marginal tax rate on that dollar. The limits could be changed to phase down at 39.6% for example.Report

    • zic in reply to Lyle says:

      Do you mean a tax rate that’s a progressive function, not fixed points with fixed rate increases?

      That’s an excellent notion, all the way through the tax structure, so that at no point would earning a slight bit more mean you pocket less.

      It would generate more revenue.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to zic says:

        Sign me up for whatever works.Report

      • Ramblin' Rod in reply to zic says:

        Well… yes and no. It has been noted that if you were to consider welfare type benefits as a kind of negative income tax, then the qualifications amount to a very high incremental rate on the lowest earners. For example, if you the cut-off for aid is $X, then earning that last dollar that puts you over the line can cost you much more than that extra dollar of income.

        Compare that to the actual income tax structure. At no point does earning a dollar more gross income actually net you less after taxes. You just get to keep less of that last dollar than the one immediately before it.Report

      • Patrick Bridges in reply to zic says:

        Hey, and the regular progressive tax code *actually does that*, because the rate increases are only on the dollars you earn above the threshold. The 36% rate only applies to dollars earned above the 36% threshold; the lower rate is still used for the money earned below that threshold. In terms of the straight federal income tax rates and such (ignoring income-limited deductions and credits), there is no point at which earning more makes you pocket less.

        If AFDC or the EITC has income cutoffs that break that, that should be fixed.Report

        • KatherineMW in reply to Patrick Bridges says:

          Thank you.

          I consistently find it hard to believe that so many people fail to understand this about the tax code. There is no point where earning one more dollar means your total take-home pay decreases.

          For example, raising taxes on income over $250,000 means that, if someone is making $300,000, only the top $50,000 of that has the higher tax rate applied to it. Lowering tax rates on lower income brackets lowers the taxes of everyone, not just low-income people.

          If any welfare/social assistance programs have strict cut-offs rather than graduated decreases as other income rises, that should changed.Report

          • zic in reply to KatherineMW says:

            I think at the federal level this is true; but I’m not sure that it holds at the state level on total tax burden; I could be wrong.

            But the idea of a curve, graduated instead of stepped, seems sensible.Report

            • Troublesome Frog in reply to zic says:

              It’s definitely true at the federal level, and I would be stunned to see any state do it any other way.

              The one place where it’s *not* true is when an increase causes you to a tax break. Then, you can end up losing money on the marginal dollar. But not with the bare progressive tax as it is.Report

              • Ramblin' Rod in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                I’ve had that happen to me. My wife inherited some oil/gas producing property interest in SW Kansas. That income is officially “investment” income. There’s some tax credit–the kiddy credit, IIRC–that you’re disqualified from if you have investment income over a fixed amount and we had income that crossed that barrier one year by just a couple hundred dollars. Cost us about $1500 in refundable credits.Report

              • Kim in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                I wouldn’t. Some states are real dicks about taxes. (and NJ/NY/Cali are so damn convoluted…) PA does a straight income tax — no need for turbotax, really.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to KatherineMW says:

            Here’s the kicker: A tax cut for the poor is a tax cut for the rich. Because we have a marginal system. If you were to cut taxes on the lowest-earning bracket, millionares will see their taxes cut.

            Of course, cutting tax rate of the first 25,000 dollars income by a point wouldn’t satisfy anyone making 250,000 a year — the difference between their incomes before and after would be a rounding error.

            Which is why we have a progressive tax system in the first place. Strangely, the very people who’d be quickest to complain a tax cut on that first 25 grand is meaningless to THEM are generally the first to line up behind a flat tax system.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to Morat20 says:

              Here’s the kicker: A tax cut for the poor is a tax cut for the rich.

              Well, sort of. When we’re already running a budget deficit, a tax cut for the poor means a bigger deficit, which ultimately means higher taxes for someone. In today’s political climate, that basically means higher taxes for the rich. So they get an insignificant tax cut now and a significant tax hike later.

              Furthermore, tax cuts for the poor often come in the form of credits that are phased out at higher incomes, so it’s not always the case that tax cuts for the poor translate to even temporary tax cuts for the rich.Report

              • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Don’t forget that entitlement taxes are phased out at higher income levels…Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

                God yes. FICA is a serious bite to my paycheck. And it caps at what, 120k? No more FICA after that.

                There’s good and bad things about that, arguments you can make that it’s a good idea…

                But to hear people complaining about the “47%” not paying income taxes and ignoring the giant bite FICA is taking out of their taxes like it doesn’t exist? It makes those complainers liars or fools.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Morat20 says:

                The discourse around who pays taxes is deeply confused and built around a false premise: The idea that there’s any real significance to making a gross payment to government.

                The real issue is net taxes. Who’s paying in more than they take out, and who’s taking out more than they pay in, taking into account lifecycle effects? It’s pretty much a given that if you’re paying nothing but FICA and state/local taxes for most or all of your life, you’re in the net recipient category, and I’m pretty sure that there’s a pretty big group of net recipients who pay some amount in federal income taxes most of their working-age years. 47% is, if anything, an understatement.Report

              • Patrick Bridges in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I’m not willing to concede *any* of the claims you make her; in fact, I am inclined to argue exactly the opposite.

                Payroll tax caps guarantee that almost everyone pays about the same share towards our biggest budget drivers, medicare and social security. I wouldn’t be at *all* surprised if the remainder of government spending, including infrastructure, education, defense, regulation, and other tax expenditures disproportionately benefits more well-off businesses and individuals. Simply put, they desperately need a well-regulated markets and sound currency, can’t survive without well-educated workforce, can’t function without roads and bridges to get their products to market, and are the ones with the assets that most police, fire, and defense spending goes to protect.

                Simply put, I would not be at *all* surprised if your conclusions were *exactly* the opposite of what they should be: People who pay just payroll and state/local taxes are roughly breaking even, and that middle-class income taxes subsidize government expenditures that primarily benefit the very wealthy.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Kim says:

                Social Security taxes cap out around $120k, but Medicare taxes have no cap. Because the tax is so skewed, Medicare is a huge giveaway to the lower and middle classes, who pay far less than the actuarial value of their future coverage.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Actually, it’s not just because the tax is skewed. That’s a factor, but another major factor is that Medicare gets over a third of its funding from general tax revenues.Report

      • Lyle in reply to zic says:

        Exactly starting with the welfare side in no case should earning an extra dollar cost you more than one dollar.Report

  3. George Turner says:

    Lot’s of people on government assistance work on a cash only basis, doing all sorts of odd jobs, both legal and illegal, since it doesn’t affect their reported income.Report

    • DBrown in reply to George Turner says:

      Wow! Really!? Another tVD here telling us all just critical information. Boy, you two are tearing this thread up with obvious and irrelevant non-insight.Report

    • Welcome to the shout-down, George. Take it as a compliment. ;-PReport

    • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

      Until I moved to my current home about a year and a half ago, I lived in a poor-to-very poor, minority majority neighborhood. I knew a lot of people who were receiving government assistance of some sort: mostly food stamps, but housing assistance and income assistance were also common. I knew some who did day labor jobs, but I doubt many of them saw that as a.) preferable to a real job that makes more money than they’d make with day labor + benefits, which still wouldn’t be a lot (if you doubt me, then why don’t you go down to Home Depot tomorrow at 6 in the morning, hop in the back of a pickup, and head out to whatever farm or construction site it takes you to work for 10-12 hours, with the possibility that you won’t get paid at all… not going to do it? I thought so), or b.) a supplement to their government assistance, rather than the other way around. I knew some who did temp work, but who couldn’t get steady work. This means a lot of uncertainty, living from week to week, and a great deal of financial stress, even some food insecurity. I can’t imagine this is the ideal life for anyone.

      I do not doubt that there are people who take advantage of the system, or who feel content where they are living on a few hundred dollars of food and lodgings a month, nor do I doubt that there are people who get paid in cash to avoid losing their benefits, or people who make money doing illegal things while on government assistance. But the vast majority of people I’ve known on it lived relatively difficult lives, much more difficult, I suspect, than the the lives of the vast majority of commenters here, including yours.

      You can always tell people who’ve never been poor by the way they talk about people choosing to live lives of poverty in order to avoid working.Report

      • zic in reply to Chris says:

        Thank you for this whole comment.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Chris says:

        Just wait. Tom’s going on food stamps. He thinks of it as “Going Galt” but apparently he has been “seriously considering it for some time”.

        At that point, he’ll have some first hand experience to report. I am quite curious as to how it turns out.

        Sadly, he hasn’t said when he’s gonna start, so it might be awhile as he wraps up some loose ends, finds a way to get fired (or finishes off his current clients – have no idea if he’s salaried, hourly, independent contractor, or what), quit, etc. And perhaps convince the Missus that going on Food Stamps is all one can do in the horrible wasteland of Obama’s second term.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

          So there *ARE* people we can hold in disdain for going on public support!

          Well now. Let’s start haggling.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Jaybird says:

            I think Diogenes is down to writing for Jaybird. Which is not a bad thing, mind you. 😉Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

            Jason and I agree on sports team owners with government-built stadia.Report

          • Jeff No-Last-Name in reply to Jaybird says:

            Anyone who’s doing it to prove a point, especially if they don’t understand the point they’re making.

            You don’t think that’s worthy of disdain?Report

            • So people who do it for primary reasons other than “they need the help” including, so far, “to make a point they don’t understand they’re making” are on the list.

              We all in agreement?Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                You’d make a good prosecutor.

                I don’t know why Tom became an issue here (I wasn’t even responding to him), and I seriously doubt his threat to go on food stamps is anything but an idle one (for one, they check your bank account, and he has Ben Stein’s money in his), but I’m pretty sure it’s OK to disdain people for doing something to be a douchebag, and that includes going on food stamps to be a douchebag.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

                When I was is college, some student loans were so heavily subsidized that you could make a profit by putting the money in the bank. I knew people who did this, and, yes, they were being douchebags. (Interestingly, they were all business majors.)Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                So “Douchebaggery” is on the list?Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                For me, Douchebaggery is the list. That is, if you do anything just to be a douchebag, your actions (and perhaps you as a person) are worthy of disdain. That extends to any act, not just using public assistance.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

                I think where we get bogged down on this is whether or not people on public assistance can receive ANY disdain. Sure. If you are on welfare AND you push old ladies into puddles, you are worthy of disdain, because pushing old ladies into puddles is a disdainful thing to do. Some folks err too far on the side of not viewing PA as disdainful as to excuse ANYTHING folks on it might do.

                If you’re a dbag, you’re a dbag and should be disdained. But receiving public assistance, in and of itself, is neither douchey nor disdainful. But you might be a dbag for other reasons, with those reasons perhaps being related to your status on PA, but likely not.

                Disclaimer: This comment should not be read as an assessment of anyone here. It is more about the lack of nuance we tend to use when determining who we praise and who we ridicule. Rose and I have spoken about a parallel situation that exists with folks with special needs: we should not ridicule or mock these folks for their needs but we should also not make them wholly immune from criticism for things they do unrelated to their needs.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                If the douchebag list is exhaustive, we just have to hammer out what merits inclusion and separate out the items that would most easily stray into the public assistance sphere.

                “This!”, we can say, “THIS IS DOUCHEBAGGERY!”

                Those who are not douchebags on assistance nor douchebags not on assistance (though, truly, are we not *ALL* on assistance?) can point at the douchebags and enact some sort of social stigma.

                Which, I’m sure we’d all agree, is an important act to engage in if douchebaggery is something we want less of.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:


                What point are you trying to make here?Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Kazzy, I believe he’s trying to lead someone (not sure who) down a path to where it is possible to disdain some people for being on public assistance for some reasons (or show that they’re hypocrites for not disdaining some people for being on public assistance for some reasons). At least, that appeared to be where he was going yesterday. Today he seems to have veered a bit off that path.

                Jay, yeah, here’s my suggestion: if you are living a comfortable life by American standards, and you decide that you want to give up that life, including the money you’ve saved up while living that life, in order to go on food stamps to make a point, you’re a douchebag and worthy of disdain, but stigma is going to be the least of your problems when you realize what life is like eating, paying rent, paying for a phone, etc., on a few hundred dollars a month in pretty much any place in the country. In fact, if you decide to stick with the public assistance, when you could live easier by working, and are doing so simply to make a point, then you’re still a douchebag, but more power to ya I say. You’ve gotta respect someone who sticks to their guns, even when their guns are really big douchebaggy ones.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Chris says:

                I think what Jaybird’s saying is that you’re making an ad hominem argument.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

                And I think you’re demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of what an ad hominem is.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                I think what DD is saying is that he doesn’t know what an ad hominem argument is.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                I think it’s more that we agree that there should be social stigma against taking things (like public assistance) when you can get by without taking things (like public assistance).

                However, there are distinctions where the first people we tend to think of when it comes to freeloading (Mike Schilling makes a good point about public stadiums) but it seems to me that the stigma against freeloading is a fairly important one for a society to have and to cultivate. Now, of course, it should not be used against people who *DO* need the help (and I don’t think that anyone is arguing (or has argued) that it should).

                But one dynamic that consistently shows up is the tension between “you shouldn’t judge people who are on assistance as being freeloaders” being held at the same time as, say, contempt for someone like Tom saying that he’s been thinking about just, for lack of a better term, “shrugging”.

                Personally, I think that Europe will be instructive on this topic as only Europe can be instructive on this topic.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Chris says:

                Well, Chris, maybe I didn’t understand. I’m surprised to learn that you criticise the hipsters-on-food-stamps, will-there-be-wifi-at-Occupy crowd. I wouldn’t have expected you to have that attitude.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Chris says:

                JB (and everyone else, for that matter), if you’ve never read Eric Frank Russell’s And Then there Were None, a short story about a society that combines libertarian anarchy and communitarianism, well, you should. (The discussion of freeloading brought it to mind.)Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                I have contempt for Tom pretending that he’s thought about it because he’s pretending, as though it were a political point. I find that annoying. If he were actually to do so, I’d have contempt for him for doing so, as I’ve said.

                Now, I’m wishy washy on the issue of social stigma here, because I don’t think wage labor should be a requirement simply because I’m capable of laboring for a wage (there are other ways to contribute to society, and even then, I’m not sure “contribute to society” is a particularly good criterion), and also because the boundaries for these things are fuzzy. We’d know Tom was going on public assistance to be a douchebag because he told us so. However, if Tom had simply gone on public assistance without making a point of it here, how would we know he was doing it to be a douchebag? How do we know someone’s capable of working? Mental illness, for example, isn’t always so easy to see, and since our health care system, and our mental health care system in particular, sucks to the extent that pretty much everyone below a certain income level has little or no access to it unless they have a major illness that results in forced institutionalization, it’s likely that no one would know about an underlying mental illness. But mental illnesses can make it difficult, if not impossible, to hold a job, right? I use this as only one example, to show that there are cases that are simply impossible to figure out. So we’d have to either be really, really stingy with our social stigma so that only people who are obviously… let’s say wage malingering, have it applied to them, or we need to just get rid of the stigma altogether with the knowledge that we’re going to let some free riders get away with it without shaming them.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                DD, I’m going to pretend you’re talking about unicorns that fart rainbows, and I’m just going to smile at you, OK? Because I prefer not to respond to your trolling.

                Mike, worst website ever.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:


                But that is what I’m trying to get at. It is not the what (“being on public assistance”) that should be stigmatized but the why and the how.

                If folks are on PA because, hey, it beats working than, yea, I think there should be some stigmatization. And I’m sure those folks exist. I think they’re in the minority but nonetheless very real. Extrapolating that to all folks on PA is wrong.

                Even beyond that, I think we get into some tricky territory. If I were to bring my eventual children to my school, they’d receive tuition assistance. This is made possible through higher tuitions for full-pay families and donations. But, with my skill set and abilities, I likely *could* attain and hold a job that would allow me to pay full freight for my kids. But I don’t. Because I don’t want the hours that come with that role or I like my current job too much or whatever number of reasons that don’t relate to an inability to do so. So, should I be derided if I accept TA for my kids? I mean, hey I *could* be working harder and making enough to not need it but I don’t want to.

                All in all, I’m not one for stigmatizing people unless their actions are grossly in violation of societal norms.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, if I re-read your comment, I see the kind of stigma I’m talking about.

                Hey, we can’t judge people who are on assistance because they don’t obviously need it… some people have mental illness, after all. So if we see someone who is on assistance that makes us get our hackles up, we should check ourselves before making accusations of malingering because maybe they’re mentally ill.

                This attitude (or one similar), if prevalent, would suffice for me.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Chris says:


                It is ugly, but I was glad to find that story online for free anywhere.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

            Oh goodness no. Tom’s threat to do so is worthy of disdain, because his expectations for what will happen are quite foolish. He’s worthy of disdain because he’s acting the fool, not for being on food stamps. (Which we all know he’s not going to do, even if he could somehow bugger up his situation enough to qualify).

            If you end up in the ER because you were in a car accident, I will have sympathy for you. If you end up in the ER because you were filming a Jack-ass style stunt, I will STILL have sympathy for you — perhaps a bit less, but I will still feel bad that you are hurt and worried about if you will recover.

            Once you’re no longer in danger of dying, that will not stop me from calling you a flaming moron for whatever Jack-ass stunt you did.

            Me calling you a moron for ending up in the hospital by being an idiot does not make me think people in the hospital are idiots, or that some subset of people in the hospital are worthy of being called idiots. Idiots are idiots wherever they may be, whether in the hospital or not.Report

        • zic in reply to Morat20 says:

          I’m actually anxious for the reports on the application process. It’s rather personally invasive. Stuff you think should be private. . . isn’t.Report

          • Matty in reply to zic says:

            Long ago I applied for housing benefit, one of the questions on the form was something like “Have you recently ended a marriage or a relationship that was like a marriage, if yes please give the reasons”.

            I know what they were getting at “are you getting any money from an ex-partner?” but the phrasing made it seem as if the personal part of personal relationships is government business.Report

      • Mr. Harris in reply to Chris says:

        I couldn’t have said this better myself. When people receiving public assistance are surveyed they overwhelmingly site working for a paycheck as preferable to receiving aid from the government. Certainly there are mothers or single parents who would rather care for their children than place them in substandard daycare for the opportunity to work at a low-paying job.Report

  4. Nob Akimoto says:

    I’m just soooo fucking tired of Dreher’s constant need to do his moralistic tut-tutting of poor people.

    Tired, tired and more tired of it.Report

    • Michelle in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Me too. Dreher’s over-the-top moralizing tends to drown out his more salient points. The same goes for his not-so-subtle moral disdain for gays and lesbians.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Michelle says:

        It’s also shiftless and lazy. If there’s a problem it MUST be caused by the moral sloth and/or worthlessness of the afflicted parties, not by anything deeper, or even god forbid, the puritanical strain of American political thought that Dreher so lovingly hyperbolizes with his written word.Report

  5. BlaiseP says:

    I love that 100 hour week schtick. I’ve employed students who were on unemployment, then TRA (a big hard disc drive factory laid off a bunch of people who went back to school) without endangering their benefits. It was trivial: I’d take them all to Costco and buy their food and pay their rent. You know, like the government’s trying to do with food stamps and other forms of assistance. I also bought them some dandy laptops and monitors and paid their Internet bills. And yes, they got some cash, not much, they were getting TRA or unemployment so they didn’t need very much. It was all above board: I called them interns.

    It’s been going on for two years now. Some of them are emerging from school. Curiously, they all have jobs now and are paying taxes. They’re taking over the consulting firm I started. They’re landing new clients. It’s a viable concern and I’m about to transfer ownership to them: it was never anything but an LLC corp anyway. Just change a bit of plumbing for the payout structure and it’s all done.

    Those kids are great. I got them before the business world taught them all sorts of bad habits and evil thinking. Furthermore, they’re on the lookout, recruiting their own local talent and yes, they’re calling those people interns, too.

    Dreher’s whiny friend is either an idiot or a liar. I started out consulting for a guy who paid my rent and filled my fridge and put a few bucks in my pocket while I went back to school. Heaven forbid Whiny Friend would give a shit about those people working for him. I can’t work 100 hours a week. That’s why I use interns. I’m starting to do the same thing here at the firm I’m at now, only this firm has a huge two year program to recruit just such talent and they’re bolting me into that structure, with praise and thanks, may I add in passing.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

      There’s another possible interpretation: he’s really bad at his job.

      I mean, I can arrange things so that I need to spend 100 hours a week at work, but I’d have to practically engineer them in the stupidest way possible.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        Thing is, if this guy’s in competition with other firms who do hire in illegal aliens, he’s screwed. This guy needs to compete on quality, not quantity.

        Furthermore, there’s no such thing as Unskilled Labour. Once they’re doing their jobs, they have a skill, even it it’s stoop labour picking strawberries. I routinely take Unskilled Persons, that is to say, kids who’ve never written a line of professional quality code in their lives — and make Skilled People out of them, in a few weeks, too.

        True, not all of them work out: work ethic and esprit de corps matter, too. Other companies hire people for their skills and end up firing them for their personalities. Me, I try to start out with good personalities. I know the professors who send them to me, and yeah, I do pay them bounties for good students, but it hasn’t been uniformly positive. Some people just aren’t team players and I consider it an essential characteristic.

        There’s a diminishing law of returns on how many hours anyone works. Me, I can’t go more than 60 anymore without making mistakes. I used to work a boatload of overtime until I learned how to manage expectations as a consultant.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP says:

          “Some people just aren’t team players and I consider it an essential characteristic.”

          hee. the opposite side of that coin: “He told me to do it some dumb-ass shit way, I told him it’d be a lot easier and work a lot better if I did it this other way, he told me to get the hell out of the building and never let me see his face again.”Report

  6. DRS says:

    You should know that Dreher edited his original post to remove the small businessman anecdote because many of his readers called shenanigans on it and pointed out some holes in the claim – all similar to comments here. Dreher admits it was a one-off anecdote and that it was perhaps improper to include it in a post about Douthat’s published column, and that many valid questions had been raised.

    So just FYI.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to DRS says:

      Which makes his post all that more objectionable…I’m personally just sick of his constant harping about the morality of poor people. Puritanical nonsense should’ve gone out of style with the Restoration.Report

      • Chris in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        What’s odd about Puritanical nonsense about poor people is that, whatever the comparison of hours worked, the hardest working people I’ve ever known have been poor people: guys living tree stumps all day, or harvesting tobacco, or hell, just working a menial factory job for 8 hours a day. These are jobs that break a person physically over the years. And it’s not uncommon for them to be seasonal, or to not pay a living wage, such that some government assistance is necessary. Curse them, the takers.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

          I worked for 4 hours in a fiberglass factory once. Worst job ever. Went home and itched all frickin’ night. I said, fuck it, I’m not starving and I don’t have a family to feed; I’ll keep looking for something not so shitty, even if it doesn’t pay as much.

          My current job can be mentally exhausting, which makes a bit of hard physical labor come as a great stress reliever. But that’s only because I’m not doing hard physical labor 40 or more hours a week.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to DRS says:

      I saw that. Something about some Economically Stagnant Area of the South and his buddy’s one of the few people employing unskilled workers. Jackass. What is this guy running, a plantation? He’d be employing Mexicans if it weren’t for the fact that those southern states Got Vurra Surus about the Dangers of Illegal Aliens and they all fled to other states and now this Fine Upstanding Employer Type has to actually employ Americans.Report

      • DRS in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Maybe it’s because I’m an outsider but it seems to me that the South never really got past the cheap labour stage of industrial development. Remove the slaves, remove the Mexican immigrants – and they’re in trouble. Was there never any pressure to mechanize the means of production? Or did it evolve just far enough that it still required masses of badly paid labour to work the machines?Report

        • Russell M in reply to DRS says:

          they never hopped on the mecha bandwagon because it is hard to yell at a robot and accuse it of stealing good american jobs. Oh you can do it for sure but the robot wont care. it will just get off shift and drink until it reboots.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to DRS says:

          Was there never any pressure to mechanize the means of production?

          Start with Jeffersonian yeoman farmer idealism (not bashing it, I love it as an ideal, too), build up a successful plantation economy tied to the political elite, and pretty soon agriculture dominates the political structure. One aspect of that was disproportionately high representation of rural areas in state legislatures (until Baker v. Carr, 1962, put the kibosh on that). Even up through the mid to late 20th century most southern states actively promoted agriculture and discouraged too much industrial development. It was hard for industries to get land re-zoned, for example, and southern towns didn’t always play the tax-break for industrial development game.

          That’s changed just in the last 2-3 decades, particularly as big corps realized that if they could get the permits and zoning, they’d have a union-free work force. Give the south another generation or so and they’ll be caught up industrially, would be my guess. I’d also guess that unionization will make some inroads, stemming further decline in unionization rates, but not sufficient to reverse the decline.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

            The South is fairly mechanised. You should see the sugar cane tractors out in the mud here in Louisiana. But lots of crops don’t subsume to the industrial model, peaches for instance. Chicken processing, another big one. Hogs. Cattle. Corn and soybeans can be done on an industrial basis, lots of that. But there’s no substitute for farm workers.

            The South’s economy will always have a substantial fraction dedicated to agriculture, simply because it has more growing days. You can heat a factory, you can’t heat a peach orchard. It is centralising, to a large degree: smaller farms can’t compete even as the price of food is rising. The last few years have seen serious droughts knock lots of small farmers out of the market.

            The South hasn’t changed because it could resort to the illegal aliens. The xenophobes whipped up a great deal of anti-Mexican sentiment. Now the farmers are whining about lack of “unskilled labor”. Lo siento, Bubba, those Mexicans you used to truck into your chicken plant ran away. They’re scared of y’all. Now they’re working at dairy farms in Wisconsin.

            Don’t look for much industrial development in the South. That was tried in the 80s and 90s. While it might be true that southern towns didn’t always play the tax-break for industrial development game, I made a tidy pile of shekels in the Atlanta area, especially Norcross and Peachtree City, doing assembly line integration for Japanese outfits drawn to those areas by exactly those sorts of tax breaks. Naturally, when the tax breaks ended, the factories literally unbolted the building from the cement slab and moved elsewhere. So much for that idea.Report

  7. Damon says:

    In general I’m a beleiver in most folks being rationale in the economic decisions, so this story, does ofc, seem a bit screwy, but, anectodeally, I met some folks who had a complete lack of understanding of the financial impact to various decisions on their life.

    Case in point: worked with a guy who had no car and was taking the bus becuase he got into an accident and coudn’t afford any insurance. This guy also smoked, and bought cigs from vending machines. I did the math on how much money he could save baesd upon his habit and the price he was paying. I then asked him if that was enough money to afford the car insurance. He was amazed.

    100Hrs in a week. I’ve done more, once. It was a bitch. It’s not sustainable over any length of time.Report

    • Kim in reply to Damon says:

      Yeah, me too, while programming.
      I loved the job, and it was crazy, and I didn’t get nearly as much accomplished as you’d think.

      The Computer game programmers pull that about once a year (for about a month). it’s a hell of a job.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to Damon says:

      They’ve done studies on it — two guys working 40 hours a week are a heck of a lot more productive than one guy working 80.

      40 is about as much as you can get out of a person, week in and week out, without just canning productivity. The human body and mind has limits.

      Which has NOT stopped managers from ignoring studies, science, basic biology, and trying to get by with 1 guy doing one and a half or two people’s jobs — despite the fact that it takes longer and costs more that way.

      They see “One salary < Two salaries" without ever realising they're paying that one salary more than twice as long per task.Report

      • Mo in reply to Morat20 says:

        The studies industrial scientists have done have figured that peak output (not productivity) is at 60 hours a week. Beyond that people make more mistakes and are so run down that output goes down. Henry Ford hit upon the 40 hour work week, not because he loved people, but because that was around where productivity peaked.Report

      • Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

        You saw the spike in productivity at the recession? How does that square with what you’re saying? It seems that fear is a decent motivator for people improving accuracy and working long hours.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim says:

          When you fire dead weight, you free up time.

          There’s lots of nice people in the world, but some of them seriously still have not figured out that the Printer Properties menu can be found by digging for 20 seconds with menu options that have been more or less in the same place since 1993.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

          *shrug*. For all I know, it was lowered demand meaning the fewer remaining employees weren’t worked quite as hard.

          I know one guy that wore three seperate hats at his job. When half our responsibilities went away (contract was updated) he was down to 2 hats. Half our department was laid off, because we only had half the work. This guy’s productivity went UP because he went from constantly working weekends and late nights to just the occasional weekend.

          You couldn’t cut him as long as the job was there, but he didn’t get more productive because half the group was laid off. He got more productive because a third of his responsibilities were removed and he had more time to work on the other 2/3rds and got more effective time off.

          Basically put, I don’t see a recession countering decades of well-researched data on labor — not to mention common sense as to human limitations. Frankly, half the idiotic stock market shenangians of the past 30 years could be chalked up to idiots working 80 to 120 hour weeks. 70 hours into your first week you’re not making good decisions. By the time you’ve tried a few weeks of 80 hour loads, you’d gonna make crazy stupid decisions upon crazy stupid decisions.Report

      • MikeSchilling in reply to Morat20 says:

        Even if you’re paying by the hour, “80 hours + benefits < 2 * (40 hours + benefits)"Report

  8. DensityDuck says:

    Just want to make sure we all are aware that the general attitude in this thread is “dodge taxes and welfare-eligibility laws, pay people cash under the table, whatever it takes to make this story be wrong”.Report