Senate Income Inequality in the U.S.: Causes, Effects, Solutions

Discussion in 'Community' started by Jedi Merkurian, Mar 17, 2011.

  1. Souderwan Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    I'd be interested to see the actual studies and methodology being sited in that article, because it's not clear to me how the author is coming up with his data. Specifically, given that charitable giving isn't an itemized deduction among the poor, clearly the data for the amount of relative charitable giving isn't coming from IRS returns. So where is it coming from?

    Even it you did use IRS data, it isn't exactly the most reliable source given that all charitable contributions are self-reported and only a very small fraction of that data is verified through audits. I know I probably only report maybe half of my charitable giving--the stuff that actually produces receipts that I can have on hand in the future. Most of my charitable giving doesn't get deducted because I rarely think about it until tax time. On the other hand, many people may claim charitable giving that they didn't actually execute to try and cheat the system. Who knows?

    My point is that in reading the article, the readers seems to be expected to trust the conclusions without being presented any of the data. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make one wonder. Dr. Piff, for example, who is quoted in the article, contributed no data to the article, just a conclusion from his study that


    Not exactly an unbiased scientific observer. Nor is the author.

    *paraphrased for TOS
    Last edited by Souderwan, Mar 25, 2013
  2. wannasee Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2007
    star 4
    When I was little, I would spend up to 50% of my income on my friends, to buy them a cookie or a soda or a slice of pizza, or whatever.

    My point is, are the percentages what really matter?
    Last edited by wannasee, Mar 25, 2013
  3. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    No, I'm only suggesting the study is flawed on its conclusions. As reported by the article, at least, it pays lip service to correlation not meaning causation. It then goes on to harangue rich people for being selfish or self-centred, implying that is the reason for low charitable giving. If you want to make the argument "rich people give less just because they're mean and selfish", you have to eliminate other possibly causative factors first, one of which may well be "My giving is lower because I pay taxes to the government who is meant to handle that sort of thing."

    I am saying a study conducted on charitable giving in a country which doesn't have any sort of social safety net would be a stronger indication of the causes at work. If you there had rich people giving less, you would presumably eliminate the factor that the existence of the social safety net retards charitable giving. I'm wondering if such a study exists.

    It's also notable - whether it may be propaganda or not, but at least the methodology and results are a bit more transparent - the Bank of America's studies on the measures of charitable giving in wealthy households seem to contradict Piff's study. This might not be a settled question, but in either event I'd be cautious of duelling studies that don't narrow things down to single causes and then presume to draw conclusions about whole ranges of people from them.
    Ender Sai and Souderwan like this.
  4. Jedi Merkurian ST Thread Reaper and Rumor Naysayer

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 25, 2000
    star 6
    The Atlantic has posted an article commenting on a study on human cognitive function. The study concludes that the state of being impoverished is such a massive cognitive load on the poor (akin to an IQ loss of 13 points) that they have little brain space left to do things that might lift them out of poverty.

    Thoughts?

    Speaking personally, I find myself in agreement with the article. Working a job that only barely keeps your head above water can leave you mentally drained in ways that are hard to describe, maybe because of being mentally drained :p If true, it's certainly a reason to stop and think for a moment before waxing judgmental about perpetual poverty.
  5. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    I totally agreed with it. I think the bootstrappy types don't understand the effects of systematic poverty.
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  6. Ezio Skywalker Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 29, 2013
    star 4
    I'm late to this discussion, but is this where we talk about McDonald's employees demanding $15/hour?
  7. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    FIFY and yes.

    I've worked in restaurants, dealt with the heat of the kitchens, coming home smelling like a grease pit, and being treated like **** by customers who thought I was a loser and only worth the Republican version of minimum wage (and who incidentally had probably never done my job and never would because it was "beneath their dignity" or something)--so yes, I want them paid well.
    Last edited by anakinfansince1983, Sep 17, 2013
  8. Jedi Merkurian ST Thread Reaper and Rumor Naysayer

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 25, 2000
    star 6
    But here's a question though: while I agree that they're underpaid, are we (collectively) ready to say goodbye to "the dollar menu?" What I mean by that is we've become accustomed to fast food being ridiculously cheap. If minimum wage is increased, that will directly affect the cost of production, and I don't foresee any McDonald's execs taking a hit to their pay to compensate.
  9. Ezio Skywalker Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 29, 2013
    star 4
    I came upon a bunch of articles about this subject that speculate that raising wages really shouldn't increase the price of a big mac. Regardless, why is there no talk in politics about substituting the minimum wage with a living wage?
  10. darth-calvin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2002
    star 1
    That article has been a major topic of discussion where I work. It basically confirms what we've always known. Basically, its hard to plan for tomorrow when you are worried about surviving today. But the issues go beyond that. For many people, once they are adapted to that mindset it is difficult to break free. Financial windfalls (like tax returns) end being a much needed mental and emotional vacation for them and they spend frivolously only to end up in trouble later.
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  11. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    We're living in a time of record-high income disparity between rich and poor. It's a direct consequence of social welfare policies that ignore the poor and tax policies that privilege the rich. The failure to make our tax system more progressive, to provide state-funded college education, universal healthcare, including basic things like paid maternity leave, allowing unchecked immigration of unskilled labor and the failure to support a robust system for organized labor, the failure to make good on the early promise of civil rights and equal opportunity, have all eroded our society and killed the middle class, which was the real foundation of our 20th century peak as a nation.

    All these great studies in behavioral economics and the actual workings of markets have proven that classical economics as a basis for social morality is a great big bust, a terrible social experiment gone tragically awry where it has been most vigorously embraced without reasonable qualification.
  12. I Are The Internets Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 20, 2012
    star 7
    I don't think that fast food is that cheap. It's gone up a little bit more in the last 5 years.
  13. Jedi Merkurian ST Thread Reaper and Rumor Naysayer

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 25, 2000
    star 6
    Shouldnt and wont are entirely different concepts ;)

    As far as politics, I'm at a loss for an answer that's not horribly divisive, so I'll abstain.
  14. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 19, 2007
    star 6
    I'll field that one, since you've already partially answered the question. It is a divisive subject, and one that has difficulty finding support on both sides of the aisle. Logistically, it would require an incredible amount of cooperation and convincing to pull off, and that's completely leaving aside how fundamentally it would reshape the structure and expectations of an entire society. Change that major doesn't come easily.
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  15. Souderwan Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2005
    star 6
    Not to mention the fact that you're working under the misguided assumption that everything you think is, in fact, an accurate disagnosis. I suspect that when you have large groups of people who disagree on what the problem actually is, getting them to line up behind a solution is completely foolhardy.
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  16. darth-calvin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2002
    star 1
    A living wage also means different things to different people. Do you mean a living wage for one person, a single parent with x number of children, a married couple with a family?

    The current minimum wage, for a full time worker at 40 hrs per week, would have a single person above the Federal Poverty Guidelines. ($15,080 per year over $11,490.) But for a family of 2 they would be considered in poverty ($15,510).

    And what about the geographic location? A living wage where I am is a lot less than a living wage in a big city. Then you have different states following different "minimum" wages. I'm not sure how that works for national companies. Does a Walmart cashier in California get the same starting wage as one in Alabama?

    It is a great concept, but impossible to define across the country.

    Plus, I would like someone with a better knowledge of economics to explain how that would work without it resulting in the exact same problem. You want to make sure that single parent is making enough to live and pay for child care expenses - that's great, but those child care expenses are going up too because the provider also needs to meet the minimum wage. So does the gas station, and so on. Soon you're right back where you started.
  17. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    I would love to see the dollar menu go away. It causes a lot of health problems. Decrease obesity, and there's a benefit for everyone.
  18. The Loyal Imperial Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 19, 2007
    star 6
    To my knowledge, a living wage is traditionally considered to be sufficient to support a family of four on two full-time incomes.
  19. darth-calvin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2002
    star 1
    Then the minimum wage achieves that. $30K is roughly $6,500 over the poverty guideline. So apparently people need to quit whining :p
  20. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    I'm pretty sure people with kids qualify for WIC on an income of $30K.
  21. darth-calvin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2002
    star 1
    Depending on their family size, yes. But WIC doesn't use the Federal Poverty guidelines to determine eligibility - few programs actually do. Welfare is 130% of poverty, energy/fuel assistance and child care assistance are better than that (where I live) and go on a sliding scale for reimbursement. Free and reduced school lunches are sliding fee as well. Head Start, the program I work in, uses the absolute guidelines then allows for a certain percentage of families to be enrolled who are above that, if there are still openings available after serving the truly impoverished.

    I am equating livable wages to these official guidelines because that is what the government uses to define poverty. To be clear, I do not agree with this. But I think we need use the existing definitions for clarity. Someone on WIC might be "low-income" but not necessarily in "poverty" - in the government's eyes.
  22. Ezio Skywalker Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 29, 2013
    star 4
    My wife and I were on WIC when our firstborn was born. It was a very difficult experience and incredibly difficult to attain. The Health Department does an incredibly poor job of customer service. You have to make an appointment by phone, but their phone lines are always busy. Adding to that, they don't just keep you on hold. They have a recorded message that says, "All lines are busy. Try again later." And it hangs up on you. So you call and you call and you call until one day, you FINALLY get some angry employee on the phone. That employee schedules your appointment but doesn't tell you EXACTLY what you need to bring with you (even when you ask them, the details they provide are vague).

    Then the day comes when you make your way to the health department office...which always, always happens to be in the seediest part of town. I mean, you park your car and get the feeling that you're going to get mugged as soon as you step outside.

    Anyway, you walk in to a crowded waiting room full sneezing, crying children and stone silent women. Then you proceed to wait in that germ-infested hot zone for 2-3 hours (despite the fact that you actually showed up early for your appointment) until they finally call you. From there, this experience can play out in one of two ways. If you're lucky they then rudely tell your wife that she gained too much weight in pregnancy and needs to follow their eating restrictions/advice. They inspect the baby and reluctantly give you a couple weeks worth of grocery checks, and you leave with the knowledge that you're going to have to do this again in a couple weeks).

    If you're unlucky, when they call you from the waiting room after the 3 hour wait, they'll ask for papers they NEVER mentioned requiring over that elusive phone call within which you specifically asked them what papers they'll require. In this scenario, you are asked to make another appointment and thereby start again at square one with trying to lock onto that slippery phone call.


    We were not in poverty while were using WIC, but our household income was shot since my wife's employer doesn't offer paid maternity leave.


    For our second child, my wife just couldn't handle the stupid health department phone system ("all lines are busy, try again later" *disconnect*). After repeating this frustrating pattern for a couple days, we decided to forget about it. I had a second job by now and she cut her maternity leave short and went back to work 2.5 weeks after giving birth.

    At the same time, my cousin up in Canada was delivering her baby, and enjoying a year of paid maternity leave.
  23. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    The way new mothers are treated in this country is blatantly disgusting, especially if the company you work for is not family friendly. And companies are not required to be.

    I was on bed rest for nine weeks prior to having my first child (placenta abrupted at 29 weeks, doctors were able to monitor me until week 38 at which point he had to be delivered). I made it financially because my employer offers short-term disability and I had bought a supplemental disability policy before I got pregnant.



    Sent from my iPhone. Technology hipsters.
    Jedi Merkurian likes this.
  24. Ezio Skywalker Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 29, 2013
    star 4
    Her employer has been sued numerous times from ill-treated employees. They are currently facing an employee class action suit in another state. I imagine they'll settle out of court, as they've previously done.
  25. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    Wow.

    There's a real, very serious issue in this country with people and companies who have money being allowed to do whatever the **** they want because they can buy lawyers and buy politicians to ensure that the law benefits them, as well as getting around laws that don't. I don't know what the solution is other than a major change to the way elections are conducted in this country and how much it costs to run for office.

    I work for...*gasp*...wait for it...the government. I'm not wealthy but I have a decent enough income and benefits, but according to Fox News, I'm an evil lazy-ass and should be making minimum wage with no benefits because some companies in the private sector do that, and government employees can never be allowed better income and benefits than those in the private sector.

    Or, here's a thought...companies with numerous class-action lawsuits should be shut down. And we should take a cue from Canada and Australia--neither of whom have suffering economies--on how companies are allowed to treat employees, including (or especially) new mothers.
    Valairy Scot and Jedi Merkurian like this.