The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

In Which @NYTimeskrugman Exposes His Own Structural Stupidity

Posted on | January 11, 2014 | 48 Comments

Yesterday I praised Kevin D. Williamson’s elegant account of poverty in Appalachia, but of course the liberal know-it-all Paul Krugman couldn’t resist adding his two cents of Nobel Prize ignorance:

My take on Williamson’s report . . . is that it basically says that William Julius Wilson was right. Wilson famously argued that the social troubles of urban blacks emerged, not because there was something inherently wrong with their culture, but because job opportunities in inner cities dried up. Sure enough, when the God-fearing (and definitely white) people of Appalachia face a loss of employment opportunity, their region turns into what Williamson calls the Great White Ghetto.
And this in turn says that the problem isn’t that we’re becoming a nation of takers; it’s the fact that we’re becoming a nation that doesn’t offer enough economic opportunity to the bottom half, or maybe even the bottom 80 percent, of its citizens.

Idiot. What is overlooked in Krugman’s reading of both Wilson and Williamson is this: Welfare tends to act as a glue that adheres recipients to the economic floor, in part because it encourages them to remain in areas after economic decline takes hold.

Historically, poor people have left impoverished areas to seek out jobs and opportunity elsewhere. Why leave home to seek opportunity, if you can collect a check for staying put and doing nothing?

The main problem with the welfare-dependent poor of Owsley County, Kentucky, is that they’re still in Owsley County, Kentucky. And the reason they’re there is because welfare pays them to stay there. Otherwise, they’d go somewhere else and find work.

This is why the distinction between cyclical unemployment and structural unemployment matters. If you’re a construction worker in Florida, for example, the recent recession has been terrible, but there is every reason to expect that eventually the housing market will recover, and there will be more work. So if you go on unemployment for a few months or accept Medicaid and food stamps, this is not necessarily the beginning of a cycle of permanent dependency.

On the other hand, if you’re a teenage girl in Owsley County, Kentucky, and you go on “the draw” after you get pregnant, it’s likely you’ll never get out of poverty, because there is just no prospect of economic growth in your community.

Kevin Williamson has a few choice words for Krugman, none of which are “fuck you.” But if you really want to understand this issue, ignore Krugman, and pay attention to the immortal Sam Kinison:

You want to help world hunger? Stop sending them food. Don’t send them another bite, send them U-Hauls. Send them a guy that says, “You know, we’ve been coming here giving you food for about 35 years now and we were driving through the desert, and we realized there wouldn’t BE world hunger if you people would live where the FOOD IS! YOU LIVE IN A DESERT!! UNDERSTAND THAT? YOU LIVE IN A FUCKING DESERT!! NOTHING GROWS HERE! NOTHING’S GONNA GROW HERE! Come here, you see this? This is sand. You know what it’s gonna be 100 years from now? IT’S GONNA BE SAND!! YOU LIVE IN A FUCKING DESERT! We have deserts in America, we just don’t live in them, assholes!”

Really, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Ethiopia, Detroit or Kentucky. If you’re someplace where the economy sucks, don’t go on welfare. Get the hell out of there and go where the jobs are.

 

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Comments

  • crosspatch

    “The main problem with the welfare-dependent poor of Owsley County, Kentucky, is that they’re still in Owsley County, Kentucky. And the reason they’re there is because welfare pays them to stay there. Otherwise, they’d go somewhere else and find work.”

    I have been saying that for ages and am glad to see someone else saying the same thing. Things like welfare and housing subsidies act to chain populations to areas where there are no jobs for them. Then you use a thing called “benefit cliffs” to keep them from ever improving themselves. A benefit cliff is when a small increase in earnings results in a much larger loss in benefits. For example, a person taking a $2/hour raise might lose a monthly housing subsidy worth a lot more.

    Here is one example using figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare:

    http://www.aei-ideas.org/2012/07/julias-mother-why-a-single-mom-is-better-off-on-welfare-than-taking-a-69000-a-year-job/

  • robertstacymccain

    This was why I was againt the efforts to stop foreclosures during the housing crisis. if somebody can’t afford to make their mortgage payment, it’s probably because they lost their job. Why on earth would we want to keep unemployed people in houses they can’t afford?

    No, get them the hell out of that expensive house, and let them go someplace where they can find a job and a place they can afford live.

  • RS

    Of course, Krugman fails to note that excessive government regulation can drive jobs away or, as in urban areas excessive taxation brought on by progressive policies.

  • DaveO

    Krugman, who Nobel prize was given for his histrionic attacks on Bush-43, not for actual economics, is wrong (surprise). Give a poor person an EBT card, and they will buy tattoos, pR0n, manicures and the like. Not for food.
    I wonder if there is truth in the anecdotes about luxury car dealers selling cars to welfare queens because the car payment is guaranteed by the always-steady welfare check.

  • RS

    Benefit Cliff: See also loss of Obamacare subsidies for increases in income.

  • DaveO
  • robertstacymccain

    The Future Once Happened Here, by Fred Siegel.

    The causes of urban decline are well-known, or at least easily knowable, if anyone really wants to know, which liberals apparently don’t.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    BINGO.

    I get really sad in these comment sections where I get to hang out with my imaginary friends, and I find out occasionally one of them is still unemployed.

    Then when someone asks, “Have you tried moving to where the jobs are?” the answer is “No” about 90% of the time.

    Moving when you don’t want to sucks. But staying in hell just because your In-Laws live close by, or your spouse’s benefits are too good to pass up, well, that’s not likely to improve unless you move.

    Some of the happiest people I met over the last decade were ones who did a “strategic walk-away” from the house where they were underwater on the mortgage.

  • crosspatch

    Here is how progressives work and it is really a very cruel mind game. First they pack a lot of unemployed people into an area where there are no jobs for them. They use things like welfare and housing benefits to make being jobless easier to live with. It is like a lotion. It eases the pain without actually fixing the problem. Then they keep it that way through other tricks. First they use the benefit cliffs I mentioned in my previous comment to effectively knock a few rungs out of the economic ladder above them. If they try to climb that ladder, the benefit cliffs cause them to be penalized for advancing. This prevents them from escaping economically.

    Then they play a very cynical trick of depriving them of education in order to capture the next generation but by doing it in a way that tricks them into believing they are being “helped”. Progressives pour the most money into the worst schools. This gives the impression to the people living there that the “progressive” “cares” about them and is “doing something” to address the problem. In reality it reinforces the problem by giving a direct financial incentives for schools to fail. In fact, the worse you perform, the more you are rewarded. If your school becomes successful, its funding will be slashed. This results in making sure the following generations can not escape or challenge the “progressive” in power. An uneducated person is more likely to do as they are told, particularly if they are rewarded with a check every month for doing it.

  • Jason Lee

    “a nation that doesn’t offer enough economic opportunity to the bottom half”

    This country offers plenty of economic opportunity, but government works very hard to destroy opportunity, and to denigrate those who create it. #Obamanomics

  • crosspatch

    Once their poor education is ensured, they “progressive” goes to work destroying the family and making sure the following generations lose all work skills and any family tradition of work ethic. They do this by incarcerating the males and making the females dependent on benefits. As there are no jobs for them, they stay at home collecting their benefits or possibly work at some very low paying job without any way to advance beyond the additional benefit cliffs created by the fact that she has children. These children grow up knowing only welfare. When you get to the third generation, any family culture of work ethic has been destroyed and you have a population that knows only dependence. You make sure there is an adequate flow of drugs into the area to keep the incarceration rate high for the males and everything is great. This works for about 50 years or so.

  • crosspatch

    But after 50 years the number that have still somehow managed to escape this cycle through things such as maybe military service or sports results in the exponential growth of numbers of people of this group growing up without knowing dependence. These populations are less likely to abort their children or go to jail and over time the numbers in the middle class begin to grow at a larger rate than the dependent ones. This group is also less likely to support the “progressive” policies and will more likely be aligned with the opposition to the “progressive”.

    Then it becomes necessary for the “progressive” to create a new dependent class if they wish to maintain their power. Maybe the importation of Mexico’s welfare rolls into the US and doing to the Latinos for about 50 years what they had done to the African-Americans will do. We’ll see.

  • Zohydro

    Isn’t this what many Mexicans are doing—going to where “the food” is?

    Relocating, migration, isn’t always so easy… I’d moved some years ago within the US… I’m not poor or dependent, but just getting a freaking valid driver’s licence in my new state took months! I was a US citizen in another US state but not in another, suddenly, it seemed—long story but essentially the then new “REAL ID” law was to blame…

    And, if one really wishes to actually migrate these days, where does one go? There’s no “New World” any more: no Australia, No Ellis Island, No Promised Land, no unclaimed territory on Earth whatsoever…

    And those folks in Owsley County, where in Hell could they really go?

  • crosspatch

    If we REALLY wanted to help people we would stop sending money to bad schools. We would make it illegal to provide additional public housing in places where the unemployment rate is above the state average, we would freeze housing subsidies at current levels and we would work to create programs where mayors of towns that need workers could get with towns that have excess workers and provide some relocation assistance. But the place with all the unemployed would refuse to do that because it would mean a loss of voters and that is basically all these people are is warehoused voters.

  • Zohydro

    Stupidest piece of drivel I’ve written all weekend! Nevermind…

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Also, a very high % of those facing foreclosure were on Democrat-inspired-and-forced-on-lenders “subprime” mortgages, meaning they weren’t technically good credit risks to buy the house in the first place.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Spot on analysis, Mr. McCain!

    Every time Krugman opens his mouth, he lessens the value of a Nobel Prize.

    White poverty in Appalachia was aided and abetted passively by welfare keeping people in places they would never find opportunity. Black urban poverty was actively institutionalized by “urban renewal” which proved almost completely harmful to urban populations.

    After WWII, the black middle class in Washington DC was vibrant. Businesses were growing, but of course the neighborhoods were the oldest and like the poor areas of most cities, more run down than others. But they were neighborhoods, and families could manage to buy run down houses and fix them up themselves over time, and do it so much cheaper that they were able to realize the dream of home ownership many years before.

    Enter urban renewal, tearing down whole neighborhoods and displacing thousands in favor of cookie-cutter “projects” which restricted entry to those on welfare and in most cases fatherless households. This not only destroyed communities, but ensured the destruction of the black family unit and perpetuated the dependency of the remaining residents.

    All courtesy your liberal do-gooder with vision!

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Of course they don’t want to know! Why, knowing would cause their Ideological house of cards to collapse.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Well said, per usual, K-Bob.

    However, I cannot endorse walking away from an obligation, and a mortgage is a contractual and moral one.

  • crosspatch

    Krugman has ONE job: Validate Democrat policy from an economics perspective. That’s it. That’s his only job. You will never see a Krugman piece that offers any serious criticism of Obama or general Democrat policy.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    If sensible people get to write the history of the 20th Century [and that will be a near-run thing], they will cite Urban Renewal as one of the most insidious and foolish programs ever perpetrated on our Society.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    ‘Busing to achieve racial desegregation’, as well.

  • http://blackmailersdontshoot.com/ ChandlersGhost

    Because inner-city black culture had nothing to do with said opportunities drying up. Krugman fits the working definition of an intellectual.

  • Steve Skubinna

    What is overlooked in Krugman’s reading of both Wilson and Williamson is this:

    You are in error. It’s that word “reading.” Krugman no longer reads anything. He doesn’t need to – he already knows all that he needs to know. Had he actually, you know, “read” Williamson’s piece then he would not have written such an ignorant and pointless rebuttal.

    People like Krugman don’t listen to what others say, they’re far too smart for that. All they need know is the topic under discussion and they will, regardless of what you have actually said, dismantle your entire position with a few carefully chosen words. Oh, and bonus points for throwing in the sneers at “God fearing” and “white.”

    Please tell us again how the right is riddled with racism and bigotry again?

  • Anon Y. Mous

    Everyone doesn’t need to move to improve the situation. In an area with dwindling opportunities, if a good percentage leave, then those remaining will have less competition for the opportunities that still remain.

  • scarymatt

    It’s possible his hackery helped his reputation before the committee, but before he became a partisan nutter, he was actually a good economist, and I think his prize was fairly earned based on his scholarship. Interestingly, his current partisan self likes to disagree with his earlier economist self. (including the econ textbook he wrote).

  • richard mcenroe

    They know. They just don’t want anyone peeking into their toolbox. Decline is a progressive goal not an obstacle.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    See Obama’s efforts in this regard in Illinois in the late 80′s and early 90′s. Extortion on the banks and mortgage lenders through threats of “community action” (read boycotts) …

  • Kirby McCain

    In 1993 Michael Douglas did ‘Falling Down.’ In one scene he encounters a black man outside a bank protesting because he didn’t qualify for a mortgage.

  • Quartermaster

    You can’t rebut something you have not read.

  • Quartermaster

    Pseudo-intellectual perhaps.

  • Quartermaster

    Urban Renewal was also called “Nigger and Old Folks Removal” around Nashville” by the local NAACP. My grandparents had an old house with a dirt basement and they were removed with the house torn down. The house was fully functional and well constructed, yet it was torn down. The two neighboring houses got the same treatment. It was even worse over on the black side of town.

    Shame that the NAACP doesn’t recognize what the Dimocraps have done to blacks and keeps supporting those slugs.

  • Steve Skubinna

    Sure you can. You argue with the made-up opponent in your head.

    And win!

  • PGlenn

    I agree that Urban Renewal was a disaster, but “progressives” and postwar liberals wreaked havoc in so many other ways, that it’s difficult to figure out how much damage came from Urban Renewal versus fifty other misbegotten programs and projects.

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  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    I’d certainly go with the moral and legal side, too.

    But remember, contracts include that language on purpose, to give you the option, and them a remedy (ownership) if you exercise it. It’s all negotiated up front, so as long as you comply with the terms, you aren’t stepping on moral boundaries.

    Now if the contract didn’t include language to handle a walk-away, you’d have to secure permission (in the form of a binding agreement), which would still clear things up, morally.

    Another example of handling things morally would be when one is required by government intervention to file bankruptcy (it happens, especially for anyone who decides to get involved with government loans or assistance programs like those scumbags at the SBA). The idea would be to file the bankruptcy, then go around to all of your non-governmental creditors and resume all prior obligations.

    A moral person would, anyway. Some folks wouldn’t, and they would become known to all the local bankers, so bad idea.

    But filing bankruptcy due to being ground up in governmental red tape is not an immoral thing, in my opinion.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Being an “intellectual” involves a great deal of “pseudo” and not much intellect.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    One of the first things they did to begin the destruction of Detroit involved building a freeway (The Chrysler and Lodge freeways), and erecting a park right where the heart of one of the most prosperous and independently successful black “cities” (it was a huge neighborhood with its own downtown, but was not incorporated as a city) in the world was located.

    It was one of the few places where Duke Ellington’s band could enter through the front door of a high-class hotel, and be treated as paying, honored guests.

    Now those same freeways are startlingly underused.

    The community was called Black Bottom and its downtown was called Paradise Valley.

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  • DaveO

    The Nobel committee was awarding prizes based upon opposition to Bush-43. It was the common thread from 2002-9.

  • http://blackmailersdontshoot.com/ ChandlersGhost

    Yep. By “intellectual” I mean “credentialed moron.”

  • Quartermaster

    Krugman is a credentialed moron. Alas, that’s typical of the “public intellectuals” the left lionizes.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Yep. I’d trust the economic advice of any random guy working in a trade before I’d listen to Krugman.

  • La Pucelle

    Keith Burgess-Jackson regularly comments on what a credentialed moron Krugman is.

    Of course, Zero Hedge, as regulars here already know, repeatedly point out that he’s not that great of an economist, either.

  • Adobe_Walls

    When the Doh Re Me is gone, it’s just gone.

  • Adobe_Walls

    Woodpile Report 352 – 14 Jan 2014
    Had an interesting take on Kevin’s piece. You might enjoy the writing if not the sentiment.

    http://www.woodpilereport.com/

  • http://www.journal14.com/ Dana

    My nephew is an EMT in Owsley County, and he has said, more than once, that the largest reason for ambulance calls is, you guessed it, drug overdoses!

    I’ve been through Owsley County and the surrounding areas, and they’re tough places to make a living. They’re mostly rural, with a few small towns, and the people have to simply make do with what they have. The land isn’t great for crops, because it’s mostly hill sides.

    One thing I did notice my last trip through (Thanksgiving weekend) is that there are a lot of houses with new metal roofs.

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