Our Social Darwinists Then and Now

William Graham Sumner was an American Sociologist who helped popularize social darwin theories
William Graham Sumner was an American Sociologist who helped popularize Social Darwin theories

by Claire Goldstene

Over the past few weeks, listening to Congressman Paul Ryan has had me thinking about the place of Social Darwinism in American politics.

Ryan, the 2012 vice-presidential candidate and potential 2016 presidential contender, has rather suddenly repudiated his years-long fondness for dividing America between the “makers” and the “takers.” As part of this campaign at reinvention, Ryan recently reproached Barack Obama for “practicing trickle-down economics” that aid the wealthy and exacerbate inequality. Simultaneously, Ryan ripped the President for pushing an “envy economics” that promotes resentment of the financially well-off. The contradiction in these accusations could hardly be more telling.

Despite his professed new-found concern for those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, Ryan has not turned any new leaf. The budget priorities he’s pushing in the new Congress — cuts to social programs for the poor and working class and tax breaks for the wealthy — embody his continued adherence to the Social Darwinist distinction between “makers” and “takers,” Ryan’s contemporary expression of the nineteenth-century distinction between the “fit” and the “unfit.”

The ideas that coalesced into Social Darwinism — as popularized in the United States by sociologist William Graham Sumner, businessman Andrew Carnegie, and Supreme Court justice Stephen J. Field — helped to justify the vast financial inequities that characterized the Gilded Age. It defended concentrations of economic power into corporate monopolies, and resisted efforts to alleviate immediate suffering and institute reforms that might mitigate some of industrialization’s more extreme consequences.

At that time, thousands of immigrants swelled the populations of cities, straining the inadequate urban infrastructure. Families and strangers crammed into small, dark tenements after working ten or twelve hours a day hunched over sewing machines or feeding blast furnaces. Meanwhile, a handful of other Americans accumulated enormous fortunes and resided in lavish mansions. In 1892, the average worker earned about $490 annually for a 59-hour work week while John D. Rockefeller collected $18 million in income that same year. In the name of laissez-faire, Social Darwinists applauded such disparities as the expected outcomes of a natural system of economic competition that identifies the biologically fit and benefits the social good by rewarding the most able, a system best left alone.

In Ryan’s current rendering of these ideas, “takers” receive government benefits, in the form of social programs like Social Security and Medicare, paid for from the tax revenue generated by the productive “makers.” Reminiscent of Sumner’s hardworking and law-abiding Forgotten Man, compelled by misguided humanitarians to aid society’s failures, Ryan’s “makers” are, in essence, robbed to support the less worthy “takers.” Mitt Romney, Ryan’s 2012 running mate, calculated that this latter group constituted 47 percent of Americans, those “who believe that the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.” Romney’s rhetoric takes legislative shape in Ryan’s budget proposals that lower taxes on top earners — the “makers” — and cut social programs for the “takers.”

Social Darwinists define the essence of life as an unceasing struggle for survival, at the center of which stands the inviolate individual. Any perceived intrusion, by government or others, into this natural process threatens the essential sorting of the worthy from the unworthy. Economic inequality, then, is simply the necessary consequence of a system designed to delineate the “fit” (the rich), upon whom the survival and improvement of the species depends, from the “unfit” (the poor). Hence, the consolidation of economic and political power in the hands of the wealthy — Ryan’s “makers” — rewards those whose financial accumulations mark their worthiness.

Such a view allowed Sumner to describe those unfortunates who commanded the sympathy of nineteenth-century social reformers as “the shiftless, the imprudent, the negligent, and the inefficient” and to bluntly declare that a “drunkard in the gutter is just where he ought to be, according to the fitness and tendency of things. Nature has set upon him the process of decline and dissolution by which she removes things which have survived their usefulness.” In other words, the drunkard should die.

Much more recently, in 2010, South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer remarked that recipients of government assistance are akin to stray animals. He went on to explain that his grandmother taught him not to feed strays because “you’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

This expresses the crux of the Social Darwinist argument, whether embodied in Sumner’s “drunkard in the gutter,” Romney’s “47 percent,” Bauer’s “stray animals,” or Ryan’s “takers” and “makers” — a biological imperative under the guise of economic policy. Those who do not demonstrate the requisite character traits that allow them to amass wealth should not survive, nor reproduce.

But we have today, unlike in William Graham Sumner’s time, a political landscape that requires a viable presidential candidate to reach a broader voting public. After all, Romney and Ryan lost in 2012 to Obama and Biden. Ryan’s noteworthy new rhetoric about reducing economic inequality may suggest something about both the historical and contemporary resistance to Social Darwinist ideas.

Claire Goldstene has taught United States history at the University of Maryland, the University of North Florida, and American University. She is the author of The Struggle for America’s Promise: Equal Opportunity at the Dawn of Corporate Capital (2014). Dr. Goldstene can be reached at claire.goldstene@yahoo.com.

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  1. Tia Will


    I thought terms like this were now taboo on the Vanguard.

    Context is everything. Ms. Goldstein is quoting the writings of others who have used these terms, not calling any one by these names. An analogy for you to consider. It is illegal to call out “fire” in a crowded theater when one knows there is no fire. It is not illegal to say to a companion “I heard there is an amazing fire in this movie:.

    Hope that helps.

  2. stoneinthestream

    It seems like a reversal of the actual meanings of the terms, doesn’t it?  Is the “maker” the one who physically creates the product?  Is the “taker” the one who becomes the middleman and does all the marketing?  (I apologize if I step on anyone’s toes by asking questions in a conversation that has apparently already tabooed terms.)

    At any rate, this whole “I make more money and therefore am better” idea seems to me to have a very long history.  This is how kings, and previous to them, god-kings, justified their power and position — it was their God-given right to rule over the hungry masses because they had been Chosen.  Social Darwinism applied in this way does not sound so far off from that belief structure.

    1. Barack Palin

      Or one could say the “maker” is the person out there busting their ass working 40, 50, 60 hours a week paying high taxes while the “taker” is sitting home watching TV on government assistance and living off of all the hard work of others.

        1. Topcat

          I know a lot of people who are very poor who work two minimum wage jobs at 70 to 80 hours a week and are barely scraping by.

          If they are working 70 hours per week at $9 per hour, let’s say they work 50 weeks per year (we’ll give them 2 weeks off), then they should be making $31,500 per year.  This is well above the 2014 poverty line guidelines published by HHS which are:

          One person – 11,670

          Two people – 15,730

          Three people – 19,790

          Yes, we know that living costs in California are higher than some other states, and housing costs in Davis are a bit higher than the surrounding communities.

          We also know that the minimum wage is going up to $10 per hour in 2016, so presumably these workers will do even better next year.

          If these workers are ambitious and motivated, they should be able to improve their skills and move themselves above minimum wage and advance to higher skilled and better paid positions.

        2. Davis Progressive

          i realize that $30,000 is well above poverty, but it would be classified as very low income in davis.  you’d be able to reside at new harmony for example, i believe.  also, a lot of people who end up working 70 hours, they end up breaking down physically pretty quick.  and some of them do not get minimum.  i know there was a reasonably big sting in napa a few years back where they found all of these people getting paid like $5 an hour.

        3. TrueBlueDevil

          DP – source, link?

          I did see a company that provides workers for the vineyards was just fined for not paying overtime, sloppy record keeping, no pay stubs, etc. approx $130,000?

        4. Topcat

          Topcat, they may also have a spouse that works 40 hours a week, a roommate that defrays costs, and transfer payments (social programs).

          Yes, that’s right.  I was trying to point out that David’s characterization of someone working 70 hour at $9 and “barely scaping by” seems a little farfetched.  There are almost certainly complicating factors unique to each individual. We would need to know each person’s circumstances to understand why they are having trouble getting by.

          Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying to imply that I think people should work 70 Hours per week on a long term basis.   I do not think that is a good way to live, nor is it healthy.  However; if someone is working to make a better life for themselves (perhaps saving money for a down payment on a house, or saving for education) it seems reasonable to work long hours for a while to achieve these goals.  Earlier in my working life, I put in long hours and did some unpleasant tasks in order to save and invest for my future.  I did not complain about low wages or being “exploited” because I knew that I was working towards a better future where I would control my own destiny.

      1. DavisBurns

        The problem is the wealthiest people avoid paying taxes.  Our country would be rich, our infrastructure would be repaired and our social services would be well funded if the corporations and the individuals in the top 1% (but recently Ive read it is the top 1/2%) just paid their fair share.  Unless you are a multibillionaire you should not identify with them–you are part of the rest of us.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          This is flat out false. Our taxes are highly progressive.

          “The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay more in federal income taxes than the bottom 90 percent. As you can see in the chart below, this is a stark change from the 1980s and early 1990s. But since the early 1980s, the share of taxes paid by the bottom 90 percent has steadily declined.”


          I believe the bottom 45% pay no federal income taxes, and part of this was due to George W Bush’s tax policies. Some think this is dangerous when almost 50% of Americans can vote to confiscate other peoples money while having no skin in the game.

        2. Barack Palin

          Bottom 20 percent
          Average income: $10,552.
          Average tax bill: -$284.
          Average tax rate: -2.7 percent.
          Share of federal tax burden: -0.4 percent.


          Middle 20 percent
          Average income: $46,562.
          Average tax bill: $6,436.
          Average tax rate: 13.8 percent.
          Share of federal tax burden: 8.6 percent.


          Top 20 percent
          Average income: $204,490.
          Average tax bill: $55,533.
          Average tax rate: 27.2 percent.
          Share of federal tax burden: 71.8 percent.


          Top 1 percent
          Average income: $1.4 million.
          Average tax bill: $514,144.
          Average tax rate: 35.5 percent.
          Share of federal tax burden: 30.2 percent.



      2. Tia Will

        Or we could get beyond sound bite negative terms and caricatures and recognize that most people are not walking stereotypes. Everyone who stays at home is not “watching TV” on government assistance ( which by the way is exactly what those on the right seem to be promoting when they say its ok for WalMart to pay below a living wage, because after all “aren’t there government programs to pick up the slack ?”) Many people who are at home are caring for the children of those who are out working. But we don’t happen to consider that a real job even though it is work, if they happen to be related. Also many who are at home are there because they are truly disabled.

        It is equally true that some of those at the top of the earning scale truly earned their money, but not all. Some make their money by exploiting the actual labor of others or by receiving disproportionately far more than their efforts are worth. Also claims that the upper middle class are “suffering” or “struggling” are based on an artificially high standard of living. I am unapologetic that I do not consider the inability to buy a mini mansion, or take yearly trips abroad, or buy a new luxury car every year, or perhaps send a kid to Cal instead of Harvard is really a “struggle” when some kids are having to take a trip to the food band to eat.

        Anyone, on either side, who is not willing to look at the relative meaning of “struggle” or who will only engage in sound bites and stereotypes is not addressing this issue honestly.

  3. Frankly

    A highly partisan, but well done article.  I love it!  Great job David!

    There are a lot of problems with this side of the argument though.  And it speaks to Paul Ryan and other modern, economically-savvy Republican leaders as the progressives and the old Democrat progressives rather stuck in a set of irrational historical arguments and being easily identifiable as the true wagers of class warfare.

    Fist, it is not the Gilded Age.  There are no more Robber Barons.  We have copious labor laws, labor unions and anti-trust laws.

    There was no federal income tax back then.  There was no corporate tax back then.  There was no social security.  There was no welfare.  There was no SNAP.  There was no means-tested-government-pay-for-everything-you-might-need-poor-victim-of-economic-circumstances.

    Today, the family income level of the top 10% is $150,000 per year.  The family income level of the top 5% is $190,000 per year.

    These are the people that Paul Ryan is supporting.  They are not Robber Barons.  They are regular working people… people that have generally had to work their way up starting at a minimum wage job.  They are the American middleclass and they are struggling big time these days (depending on where they live).

    We don’t really have many families that are struggling to survive on minimum wage.  This is largely a lie.  We have some (mostly recent immigrants that should consider going back to their home country because it is more expensive to live in the US).  But the first move toward honesty in the debate would require the inclusion of the value of means-tested benefits already provided.  For example, we just had the largest single tax increase in the history of mankind called Obamacare to help insure those 50 million uninsured (but less than 20 million have actually been insured which is what Obamacare opponents said would happen).  But the benefits are there. So now they have free or near-free healthcare to add to the means-tested list of government redistribution handouts.  Why is that not added to the list of other benefits to calculate the TRUE hourly rate equivalent?

    Without the inclusion of the value of the myriad of existing benefits, those that keep making this case that the “rich” need to be taxed more should be ignored.   They should be ignored simply because there is the proof that the value of the next tax increase will just be ignored by them.  There is proof that the people demanding the poor need more are stuck on a social justice crusade that has no accounting, no honesty and no end in sight.  It will never be enough until we reach that unattainable utopia of complete economic and social equality where we have completely run out of other people’s money and the system collapses as it has always collapsed when it attempts to go that way.

    There is a political class war being waged, but it is not against the takers.  The takers have been given more and more and more and more.  The takers have been given too much.  The war is against those workers in the American economy that have had the audacity to strive and struggle and make it to the middle class… the thing that all should be doing.  These people are the target of the social justice crusader today, not any Robber Baron.  If you are a successful 40-60 hour per week professional, they want more of your earned pay and more of your wealth.  And the real target they are eying is your 401k.   You worked your ass off and saved for your own retirement rather than winning the government employee lottery of a defined benefit pension… and now they want a piece of that too.

    Ryan has it right.

    1. Topcat

      But the first move toward honesty in the debate would require the inclusion of the value of means-tested benefits already provided.

      Yes, the value of the means tested benefits does need to be included.  My personal example is a close relative who is a single mother living on SSI disability.  While her cash payments from SSI come to slightly less than $12,000 per year, she gets a myriad of other benefits which give her a comfortable lifestyle.  She gets deeply subsidized housing.  She gets SNAP benefits.  She gets WIC coupons for free food.  She gets free healthcare through Medical. She gets disabled rates on public transit and she could use Para transit although she does not because she has a car.

      I tend to favor the concept of “a hand up, not a handout” to help the most disadvantaged people in society.  Rather than taking away opportunities and making people dependent, I would like to see more done to encourage people to become productive, get educated, and make good life decisions.  Perhaps I’m naïve about this, but that’s the direction I would like to see our political dialog going.

      1. sisterhood

        You’re not naive. I agree! Side note, your relative will only receive WIC until her youngest turns five. I’m not so sure about SNAP. Does she have to show she is trying to find employment?  (Unless she is deemed 100% disabled, which is unlikely.)

        1. Topcat

          Does she have to show she is trying to find employment?  (Unless she is deemed 100% disabled, which is unlikely.)

          She is mentally ill and is considered 100% disabled although she is actually capable of doing a lot of things.  She does not have to look for employment and she has absolutely no interest in finding employment.  She is enjoying a comfortable lifestyle. Her child is 3 1/2, so she’ll get WIC benefits for another 1.5 years.

    2. sisterhood

      “…saved for your own retirement rather than winning the government employee lottery of a defined benefit pension…”

      Sigh. Once again, you fail to realize I contributed my wages to my retirement. My wages, just like when you withold your own wages for taxes & get some of them back in a tax refund. It always makes me smile to read comments from the folks who did not save as much as I did as a state worker, then complain because I retired without debt at the age of 56.  You could retire, too, if you saved as much, or if you worked for the state. I helped many people in my jobs: veterans, people who were injured on the job, tax payers, and thousands of women, infants and children. I am very proud of the WORK I did. I did not win any lotteries. I worked very hard, and you are jealous. Think I’ll go out by the pool for a while, in my home that is paid off, sip some iced tea and think how fortunate I am to be retired, and spending my CA retirement in another state.  I would like to see all of you haters get by for even one week if all the city, state, county, and federal workers stopped working, and PERS stopped using its investment money.

        1. hpierce

          I get it, Don, but look how many times “maker” and “taker” have been used in this piece and the following posts.  When she said “haters”, and using Tia’s “context” comment in mind, I cringed slightly when I saw the use of the word “hater”, but I saw it in the context of Frankly’s takers/makers comments, I’d have given it a pass, unless you were also gently admonishing the “taker/maker” commenters, in the same manner.

  4. sisterhood

    How many people do you know who work 70 or 80 hours a week at $9 an hour and live a healthy lifestyle? Why should anyone work that many hours in America? It is unnecessary. My own dad worked three jobs. He was a cop and had to work two additional part time jobs to support a stay at home wife with four children, sending three of us to college without any student loans. But he was often exhausted and seemed to lash out the worst at my brother. He was sleep deprived.  I don’t think it’s a balanced life, to work 70 or 80 hours a week, unless you really love your job.

    1. Frankly

      A long time ago I developed a radar for people having a problem being stuck in the past.  Read again what you wrote.  You are making arguments for the present by reliving your experience from the past.  Name a cop that has to work 60-70 hours today and is an economic victim.

      I work 60-hours per week.  Many successful professionals do the same.  So I am supposed to accept increased taxes on my earnings because I make more working those extra hours?  Do that and I will stop working those extra hours and join the takers.  And my business will slow and shrink and I will have to lay off people… so we have even more takers.

      That is the problem with socialism… it makes takers out of makers.  It punishes success and rewards failure.  It eventually runs out of other people’s money and then the entire system collapses.

      Equality in outcomes in unattainable.  The best we can do is work toward providing copious opportunity.

      People working $9 per hour to support a family, first let’s be honest that there are not too many of them except recent immigrants who are uneducated and only hear because they can make $9 per hour, but if not that then they have other problems that need addressing.

      It is really disturbing to me to read/hear this victim-making of hard work.  Is leisure time a right?  I think not.

        1. Frankly

          My initial point was the fact that we never seem to acknowledge the actual present progress and you double down on a story about the past.  David did the same thing.

          I have no doubt that there are families struggling to make enough income, but there are copious safety nets.  How many safety nets do we really need?

      1. Barack Palin

        I fully agree Frankly, take away the insentive for the “makers” to work and the whole thing goes to Hell including for those who choose to be “takers”.

        1. hpierce

          Great reference, Don.  Thank you!  I’ve been looking at it for the last 25 minutes or so, and a number of things “struck” me.  The BLS report is limited to “hourly” workers, not “salaried”.  I know of a few cases where employers classify their employees as “salaried” or “independent contractors”, just to avoid any ‘minimum wage’ worries.  If you still get a physical newspaper, the delivery person is deemed an “independent contractor”, and their income/hr worked is far below minimum wage.  More and more, I’ve seen these “independent contractors” going from school-aged kids, to supplement their allowance, to folk in cars who are adults.

          Another consideration about minimum wages.  Newspapers traditionally have paid kids a pittance to deliver papers.  It worked.  Kids with spare time, supplementing their allowance.  They are not generally “in poverty”.  For retired folk, looking to supplement their pension/retirement savings, etc., who are actually living quite well but seek to live ‘more largely’, less than $9/hr to keep active and make the difference between a trip to a State Park, and travelling the US, might be shut out if the minimum wage is increased, or hours reduced.

          “minimum wage” is not, IMHO a one-size-fits all.  There used to be a “training wage” for people who weren’t necessarily needing to fully support themselves or a family, but wanted to check out career options, learn a trade, get “spending money”. Unions generally oppose that.

          For a teenage “burger flipper”, looking to be busy, augment their allowance, in a household that has a total income of $150k (yeah, there are a lot of them), am not thinking $15/hour is a necessary thing.  For a “burger-flipper” with no other income, supporting a spouse and multiple kids, it’s crucial.

          But, if the two “burger-flippers” are equally productive, why would they be getting different wages?  Corporate “charity”?  Should we exclude young people from the labor market, labor experience, just because they don’t desperately need the income?  Should we just expect them to “volunteer” their time?

          Then there are the disabled/handicapped/challenged.  Some employers are doing a good thing by hiring those with “disabilities”.  Those individuals are may well not be as efficient or “flexible” as others.  If the minimum wage is increased on a “blanket” basis, will an employer have to “re-think” their ‘good thing’?

          Have no answers, but reading the report generated a bunch more questions.  Suggest that anyone serious about he issue (rather than knee-jerk reactions to minimum wage, one way or the other), take some time to read and cogitate upon it.

        2. Frankly

          I am very happy that I got responses on this “leisure time is a right”.  The fog is starting to lift.  The liberals are actually pushing labor behind the victim firewall… making actual work to be a form of unfairness and oppression.  I should have known when Nancy Pelosi commented that the 500K or so jobs lost from Obama care would be no problem because people would not be job-locked and could quit.

          This is astounding.  Really astounding.

          Where the hell do liberals think we will get the money to support a society of non-working people enjoying all that leisure time?  Why can’t they simply look across at Europe and note the drastic consequences of this?  No wonder there is not enough outrage about all the public sector employees retiring in their 50s with six figure incomes.  That is the utopia that liberals are striving for.  Did I say “astounding?”

          I think this point about leisure time being a right is very important.  It clearly delineates a worldview at odds with American principles.

          I think it is wrong… very, very wrong.  Maybe it won’t bother anyone reading this, but I think less of people that retire early or that chose to work less time than they otherwise could for no good reason other than they want to have leisure time.  Lazy and entitled are a couple of words that come to mind.

          1. Don Shor

            I don’t know anyone who thinks leisure time is a right. That’s a straw man. But it is certainly desirable that people be able to retire with reasonable income and enjoy their senior years. You find that “astounding” and “at odds with American principles”? That’s been a goal of our society for generations. And a significant sector of our economy relies on people pursuing leisure activities.

            pushing labor behind the victim firewall

            This particular bit of rhetoric of yours is getting overused to the point that it has no meaning any more.

          2. David Greenwald

            To clarify, the only point I made regarding leisure time is that I believe studies show people are more productive and healthy if they have leisure time – I didn’t define how much time that was or what leisure entailed. Also, you never responded to the point made, you’ve only disparaged the notion in the abstract. Do you disagree that people are more productive if they have down time? Do you disagree that people are healthier if they have down time?

        3. Frankly

          To clarify, the only point I made regarding leisure time is that I believe studies show people are more productive and healthy if they have leisure time – I didn’t define how much time that was or what leisure entailed. Also, you never responded to the point made, you’ve only disparaged the notion in the abstract. Do you disagree that people are more productive if they have down time? Do you disagree that people are healthier if they have down time.

          Work 40 hours per week, get 2 weeks of paid vacation and 10 paid holidays work until you are 65 or 67, have a home mortgage paid off by that time, have a 401k that provides you enough income to live comfortably, but not lavishly, until you pass at 83 or 85.

          This is the average story of life that we should expect and demand.  Any leisure time outside that does not deserve respect, IMO.

        4. KSmith


          I don’t see where anyone was advocating that leisure time be some kind of unlimited right. Don’s right–you’re setting up a straw man here that was never introduced.

          I mentioned leisure time as a right insofar as I feel it is heavily related to mental and physical health, and I think healthcare should be a basic human right.

          I also qualified my statement by saying that people are not entitled to leisure time that is funded by them not working at all. My comments were in the context of the previous comments about people working 50-70 hours a week to make a basic living, which should not be an expectation.

          Some of the attitude of commenters here appears to be that people need to work until the point of dropping if they are unable to get a higher-paying job.

          I keep expecting people to spout off: Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?

      2. KSmith

        “Is leisure time a right? I think not.”

        Of course one’s position on this is going to depend on where s/he falls on the political spectrum, but I (and others on this blog have argued similarly) am of the position that there are certain things that are human rights, including: enough food to sustain health, clean drinking water, education, and medical care/health.

        As others have argued on the Vanguard, there’s no reason why in a nation that is as prosperous as we are that we cannot make these things “rights.”

        And lesiure time is certainly an important aspect of a healthy mind and body. Here’s just one link that speaks to studies on the health and productivity effects of not having enough leisure time: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-working-6-days-a-week-is-bad-for-you-2013-11.

        Now, that being said I’m not advocating that people are entitled to have total leisure time off of the work of others, but rather that there shouldn’t be the expectation that working 50+ hours per week is something that everyone needs to do because leisure time is not a right.

        1. David Greenwald

          Even if leisure time is not a “right” enough studies have shown people are more productive, happy and healthy when they are able to have the necessary work-life balance that it would seem to be in society’s best interest.

          1. Don Shor

            There are also whole industries (like mine) that rely on people having a reasonable amount of leisure time.

        2. KSmith

          Good points, David and Don.

          I was also reading an article earlier that mentioned something about the loss of X full-time jobs for every X # of jobs that have their FTE working 50+ hours per week, so maybe there could be more jobs to go around if more people took their time off.

      3. wdf1

        Frankly:  That is the problem with socialism… it makes takers out of makers.  It punishes success and rewards failure.  It eventually runs out of other people’s money and then the entire system collapses.

        I have problems with the general framework of conventional discussion of “social Darwinism”  and its implied connection to evolution of species.  It is usually cast as individuals prevailing against other individuals in economic competition, and their success is measured, more or less, by their incomes as the fruits of their effort.  That is one way to look at things, but it tends to excuse any consideration for how humans as a species survived against other hominids and primates to dominate the Earth the way we do.  We did it because we can work well together in social structures.

        Bees and ants did not succeed as species because individuals within those species had personal initiative and woke up early every morning and worked late.  Bees and ants have succeeded because individuals within those species work very well with each other.

        I hear these rants about socialism from you like I ought to flee whenever I encounter it (socialism), and yet when you look at socialist countries, such as those in Northern Europe, they seem to be doing quite well, producing SAABS, Volvos, ABBA, Nokias and Minecraft.  When are they going to collapse?

        1. Frankly

          Bees and ants kill those of their community that don’t work.  Your attraction to collectivism is frankly (because I am) quite frightening.  But you are in good historical company. Some are wired to keep trying the same in an endless cycle of failure.

          Those countries you mention are more committed to free markets and enterprise and economic growth and people working than are American liberals.  American liberals are more like the Greek.

        2. wdf1

          Frankly:  Your attraction to collectivism is frankly (because I am) quite frightening.

          Humans help each other and at some level care for each other out of human decency.  It is a natural impulse, and it seems to be something inadequately accounted for in your favored Randian philosophy.  We learn how to work with each other and make a contribution to society.  That’s what I’m talking about.  If that’s the collectivism you abhore, then I find that quite frightening.

        3. Frankly

          Did you note all those non-working dead ants and bees!?

          I don’t think this debate is really too difficult to understand.  There is a system that is democratic free market capitalism.  It is an imperfect system but it the best of all system, all of which are imperfect.  DFMC rewards value in the marketplace.  Those that like it have figured out how to get rewarded by it.  Those that have not figured out how to be rewarded by it, or that have figured it out but would rather do something else or would rather see other things rewarded… don’t like it.  They don’t like the profile of the winners and losers.  These “don’t like it people” tend to be liberals who tend to see the world through an equality filter.

          But let’s turn to another system… education.

          Liberals tend to protect the status quo of education.

          And guess what?  Liberals tend to do better in school.  They are better rewarded in academic pursuits.

          So the debate is not too difficult to understand.  Conservatives tend to like the system of capitalism because they have skills and abilities that are rewarded.   Liberals like the education system because there they have skills and abilities that are rewarded.  And both want the other reformed to be more fair.

          The difference is that changing the DFMC system to be what liberals demand would be devastating (lots of dead ants and bees), but changing the education system would actually help more people be better rewarded in the DFMC system.

          But liberals are resistant to that.  And apparently it has to do with this demand that people should not have to work so hard after school.  They should be given more leisure time.

        4. wdf1

          Frankly:  Liberals tend to protect the status quo of education. etc.

          First, you have a really bad habit of generalizing, labeling and judging based on your generalizations and labeling rather than focusing on addressing actual policy.  If your New Year’s resolution was to be less partisan, then I think you have already abandoned it.

          The problem with your view of education (one that embraces standardized testing, seemingly just because teachers unions don’t like) is that it is content centered.  It treats education as if you are downloading information into a child’s head.  It creates bad incentives that don’t align with reality.  There’s a lot more involved with education than curricular content.

          There is social and intellectual capital (even a certain amount of material capital) that is acquired from outside of the school environment, which interacts with and reinforces the school environment.  Some parents are aware of this and some aren’t. Regularly, lower income parents without much educational background do not or cannot provide this to their kids.  Examples of developing social/intellectual capital include reading regularly to your kids, interacting with them about homework and school, meeting teachers, school staff and parents of classmates, counselling your kids about how to deal with school, visiting museums, libraries, and concerts, discussing with and preparing your kids for realistic futures, developing good lifetime habits in them, introducing your kids to neighbors, talking with your kids about news and current events at an age-appropriate level.  These are examples of things that are unaddressed in your discussions about education policy.

          Vouchers and choice charter schools are not policies that show evidence of addressing these issues.  Very telling evidence of some of these issues was a study done of the reasons why parents chose the schools that they did in New Orleans.  A surprising result was how much non-academic factors played a role in the decision.  The initial premise of such a system was that test scores (pre-Katrina) were terrible, and that it probably indicated bad teaching and an overall bad education system.  So you give parents choice, they will choose based on test scores and academic profile, and then test scores will go up.  That premise misses what I describe above — the social and intellectual capital that is developed outside of school.  And other resources that I have raised before, such as access to good healthcare, diet, and home.

          When I introduced this study on the Vanguard before, Rich Rifkin blamed the parents for making poor choices.  But I think many of these parents are aware of their shortcomings and are actually making the best choice that they can for their kids.  And they prefer neighborhood schools that don’t necessarily demonstrate stellar academics as measured by standardized test scores.  But those are the kinds of schools (especially in poor neighborhoods) that have been deemed as failures and have been shut down in favor of reform initiatives that don’t actually focus on what the parents want.

      4. Tia Will


        I think that in terms of current wages, your point about not looking to the past is relevant. So let’s look at the present. Information below from 2/2015

        Based on the most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS)– a report published by the U.S. Department of Labor– farm workers work 42 hours per week and earn $7.25 per hour on average, but this “average” varies greatly. For example, workers who have worked for the same employer for multiple years earn more than other workers. Those who have been with an employer for a year or less earn an average of $6.76 per hour, and those who have been with the same employer for at least 6 years earn an average of $8.05 per hour.

        Annually, the average income of crop workers is between $10,000 to $12,499 for individuals and $15,000 to $17,499 for a family. To give you an idea, the federal poverty line is $10,830 for an individual or $22,050 for a family of four (in 2009).

        Thus, according to NAWS, 30% of all farm workers had total family incomes below the poverty line.”

        You and others frequently imply that the income of the upper and middle class goes to subsidize the “indolent” lifestyles of those in the bottom economic tier. I would like to offer a different perspective on “subsidization”. I think that the subsidization is often the other way around. It is the work done by those working for poverty wages that subsidizes the relative luxury in which you and I live. It is what means that we have low prices for our fresh produce. It is what means that we pay less for our clothing, electronics and any number of other goods that we consume, but have no idea of the discrepancy between what the actual producers are paid and what we pay, and where that money goes.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          The numbers don’t make sense for a “family”, because if both the husband and wife work 42 hours per week, that’s $22,000 to $25,000 on a yearly basis, if they work a full year, as many are seasonal workers. We also aren’t told if they are provided housing or food by their employers.

          You are the first person I have seen who has used the word “indolent”, and I haven’t read anyone saying anyone is lazy, either, so this sounds like a another purposeful exaggeration. What people have written is that we have illegal immigrants undercutting the wages of legal Americans and immigrants, cutting in line before those trying to come here legally, and and related costs.

          I personally know people who have tried to immigrate here legally from Central America and Europe, have tried for years, have spent money and hired lawyers, and got nowhere. How is that fair?

          Also, your false characterization of illegal immigrants as poorly paid farm workers is tired and a stereotype. Many work in the blue collar trades, and others in the pink collar trades, many of which used to be middle class jobs. (I’m all for providing better conditions for farm workers.)

          You are right, the price of a fast-food burger would probably go up if 30 million illegal residents weren’t here, and if more parents didn’t spoiled their kids and made them get a job in the real world.

  5. sisterhood

    “…first let’s be honest that there are not too many of them except recent immigrants who are uneducated…”

    Oh how I wish some minimum wage non-recent immigrants (geez, once again, let’s drag immigration into the topic)  would reply to this. Ludicrous. You really seem to live in a little bubble.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        I don’t know about Sac, but in the Bay Area the going rate in some places is $11-15 per hour. Plus the guys I have chatted with said they often get lunch, tips, and they are given old TVs, furniture, tools, etc. when homeowners upgrade their belongings.

      2. Topcat

        …why are our borders being flooded with illegal immigrants looking for those jobs?

        Because the hourly rate for unskilled labor in Mexico and Central America is in the $2 per hour range.

        1. Barack Palin

          My wife and I clean our own house but we treat ourselves to a once a year total deep house cleaning.  I always end up paying $20 to $25 an hour per maid paid in cash that you know isn’t reported.

        2. Topcat

          My wife and I clean our own house but we treat ourselves to a once a year total deep house cleaning.  I always end up paying $20 to $25 an hour per maid paid in cash that you know isn’t reported.

          If you paid the household employee more than $1,900 in 2014, then you are supposed to file a W2 with the IRS. If you paid them less than that, no paperwork required.

    1. Frankly

      Perhaps surprisingly, not very many people earn minimum wage, and they make up a smaller share of the workforce than they used to. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, last year 1.532 million hourly workers earned the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour; nearly 1.8 million more earned less than that because they fell under one of several exemptions (tipped employees, full-time students, certain disabled workers and others), for a total of 3.3 million hourly workers at or below the federal minimum.

      That group represents 4.3% of the nation’s 75.9 million hourly-paid workers and 2.6% of all wage and salary workers. In 1979, when the BLS began regularly studying minimum-wage workers, they represented 13.4% of hourly workers and 7.9% of all wage and salary workers. (Bear in mind that the 3.3 million figure doesn’t include salaried workers, although BLS says relatively few salaried workers are paid at what would translate into below-minimum hourly rates. Also, 23 states, as well as the District of Columbia, have higher minimum wages than the federal standard; people who earned the state minimum wage in those jurisdictions aren’t included in the 3.3 million total.)

      People at or below the federal minimum are:

      Disproportionately young: 50.4% are ages 16 to 24; 24% are teenagers (ages 16 to 19).

      Mostly (77%) white; nearly half are white women.

      Largely part-time workers (64% of the total).

      The data are clear.  The majority of minimum wage earners are either young people starting their careers, or second wage earners in a family headed by a breadwinner.  Almost 2/3 of them are part-time… probably to support school schedules and family obligations.

      Out of the remaining if we were to subtract the number of recent immigrants, many illegal, making minimum wage, we would have a very small group.  And those legal families get copious safety net benefits… and in CA even the illegal ones get access to a lot of free stuff.

      Let’s be honest about what this is all about in Davis.  We have a university with a growing number of millionaire employees and everyone has extremely costly Rolls Royce benefits.   And the university has jacked up tuition and other costs to fund these things.  The no-growers have caused housing costs to be orders of magnitude higher than any other surrounding community.  So college students are having a terribly hard time.  And then when they graduate with mountains of debt to pay for all those goodies that the selfish adults demand, they can’t find a job because those same selfish adults decide it is more important to save brown fields and dung beetles than it is to support business growth.

      So then the demand for a new “tax” called a minimum wage hike.

      1. Topcat

        The data are clear.  The majority of minimum wage earners are either young people starting their careers, or second wage earners in a family headed by a breadwinner.  Almost 2/3 of them are part-time… probably to support school schedules and family obligations.

        There’s another group that you forgot to mention; retired people who are working a part time minimum wage job just to get out of the house and meet people and to feel useful and engaged, Whatever money they make is incidental to their retirement income.

        I know several people in this category.

      2. hpierce

        ” or second wage earners in a family headed by a breadwinner”… wow… missed that category, or are you assuming those are the “white women”?

        “Almost 2/3 of them are part-time… probably to support school schedules and family obligations.”  wow, again… huge assumption, given many/most employers of hourly labor are keeping hours down to make sure they don’t have to partake in the ACA you”hate[word removed by moderator]” so much.

  6. TrueBlueDevil

    David fails to mention that the policies of Barack Obama have dramatically accelerated the movement of income gains going to the top 1%. I believe 92% of the gains in income have gone to the top 1% under his leadership (roughly 60% under Bush, and 45% under Clinton).

    I believe we have one of the highest business tax rates in the world, which drives capital and jobs elsewhere.

    Obama has enacted by manipulation the largest new social program in generations on a foundation of known lies (you will save $2,500 a year, you can keep your doctor, etc.) and the primary new enrollees joined an existing program (Medicaid). The record-level “stimulus” was largely a bust, we’ve added $7 trillion to the deficit (surpassing big spender Bush Jr.), and we still have had the slowest economic recovery since WWII.

    It seems clear that his policies have failed, so I can understand the need to change the conversation. Expect more discussions about gender and race issues to drum up the base.

    1. Don Shor

      Obama has enacted by manipulation the largest new social program in generations

      The Affordable Care Act is a success.

      It seems clear that his policies have failed

      I understand that a dwindling number of conservatives still believe this.

          1. Don Shor

            Some guy named Mike writes a blog. Very convincing.
            Millions of Americans now have health insurance who couldn’t get it before, or who couldn’t afford it before. It has reduced the numbers of uninsured significantly, especially in states which accepted the Medicaid expansion. The cost curve is bending downward.
            To those of us who could not get insurance, it is, without question, a success. It is established now and repealing it would adversely affect millions of citizens.

          2. David Greenwald

            I know the Affordable Care Act was a godsend for my family during a time when we didn’t have insurance otherwise.

          1. Don Shor

            But “we” didn’t. What “we” could have done is immaterial now, and that certainly wasn’t a proposal that ever gained any traction during the long process of negotiations and compromise that led to the ACA. Medicaid is basically single payer. You’re ok with that?

        1. Barack Palin

          Obamacare is going to cost much more than we were ever let on and the cost of obtaining enrollees is way over the top.  Sure you have more people on healthcare but was the ridiculous cost per person worth it?  Just because more people are now insured does not make it a success.

        2. Frankly

          It will cost the federal government – taxpayers, that is – $50,000 for every person who gets health insurance under the Obamacare law, the Congressional Budget Office revealed on Monday.
          The number comes from figures buried in a 15-page section of the nonpartisan organization’s new ten-year budget outlook.
          The best-case scenario described by the CBO would result in ‘between 24 million and 27 million’ fewer Americans being uninsured in 2025, compared to the year before the Affordable Care Act took effect.
          Pulling that off will cost Uncle Sam about $1.35 trillion – or $50,000 per head.
          The numbers are daunting: It will take $1.993 trillion, a number that looks like $1,993,000,000,000, to provide insurance subsidies to poor and middle-class Americans, and to pay for a massive expansion of Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) costs.
          Offsetting that massive outlay will be $643 billion in new taxes, penalties and fees related to the Obamacare law.
          That revenue includes quickly escalating penalties – or ‘taxes,’ as the U.S. Supreme Court described them – on people who resist Washington’s command to buy medical insurance.
          It also includes income from a controversial medical device tax, which some Republicans predict will be eliminated in the next two years.
          If they’re right, Obamacare’s per-person cost would be even higher.

          $50k per covered person and Don demands that it is a success.  At what cost would he consider it to not be a success?

          1. Don Shor

            50K subsidy per person over a 15-year period works out to about $270/month, if I understand how the number was derived. How much does your health insurance cost? I was not under the impression that providing subsidies to achieve health care for the uninsured would be without a cost, were you? Single-payer would probably have been cheaper, but that was definitely off the table. So a market-based plan was developed. And that market-based plan involves partially subsidizing the purchase of private insurance for those who can only partially afford what they need, and directly providing it via Medicaid for those who cannot afford it due to low income.
            The Affordable Care Act is absolutely a success. At what cost would you consider it to be a success? $100 a month subsidy? $50? My guess is there is no cost you would accept for providing health coverage to others. But assuming I’m wrong, assuming that you do believe that health care is a right, what cost do you think would be reasonable to pay per person to get health coverage and health care for the uninsured?
            Conservatives don’t think health care is a right. They think it’s fine for millions of people to not have ready access to health care.

        3. Frankly

          What’s up with the reply button disappearing for some of the taxonomy in this topic?

          At what cost would you consider it to be a success? $100 a month subsidy? $50? My guess is there is no cost you would accept for providing health coverage to others.

          The problem is that there are hidden costs in the escalation of healthcare costs and the reduction of options for families paying for their own healthcare insurance…except for the unions and other Democrat friends that Obama exempted.  Obamacare caused my company HSA plan to increase 30% this last year and we had to drop it.  HSA plans are the anathema to the dreams of marking forward to complete government-run healthcare.

          Nobody that I know wants people to go without access to adequate healthcare.  But Obamacare is far from a success.  From cost overruns, executive orders to delay and change, lies, impacts, cost… it has been a complex mess and it is still a complex mess… a mega expensive mess.

          Basically everything opponents claimed would be wrong with the legislation that Nancy Pelosi had to vote to pass in order to read it… has come true and is coming true.


          1. Don Shor

            Basically everything opponents claimed would be wrong with the legislation that Nancy Pelosi had to vote to pass in order to read it… has come true and is coming true.

            Basically, that is false. Death spiral, young people won’t sign up, people will sign up but not pay, the infamous ‘death panels’, impact on the deficit…. Interesting that Republicans keep proposing things that would reduce the solvency of the ACA, like repealing certain taxes that help fund it, and changing the work hour requirements. You’d almost think the GOP wants to make it less financially solvent, or something.
            The ACA is here, it’s working. It is unfortunate that your HSA fell by the wayside. Do you now provide health insurance some other way, or do your employees go through the exchanges?
            What is your obsession with Nancy Pelosi? I really don’t get it.

        4. Barack Palin

          Don Shor

          50K subsidy per person over a 15-year period works out to about $270/month

          No Don, as I understand it the $50,000 per person figure comes from the cost to just sign up new enrollees.  It has nothing to do with the actual cost of the insurance itself or any 15 year period.

        5. TrueBlueDevil

          Don, there was little compromise or negotiation with the GOP. Obama and the Democrats controlled the process, locked them out, bought votes, used the backdoor reconciliation method to get it passed, and got the bare minimum votes to get it passed.

          Moderate Democrat Max Baucus called it a “huge train wreck”.

          New York Times: “In a wide-ranging conversation on the health overhaul in his Capitol Hill office last week, before Wednesday’s news of his impending nomination, Mr. Baucus said he had a “flash of anger” over its bungled rollout. He also said that the law did not do enough to control costs and that Kathleen Sebelius, Mr. Obama’s health secretary, and her top aides delivered only “platitudes” when he asked them for specifics on how they would carry out the health overhaul.”

          “The more I asked,” he said, “the more concerned I became.” …”

          “…He continues to fret that the health care law had no Republican support in either the Senate or the House. “It is my belief that for major legislation to be durable, sustainable, it has to be bipartisan,” Mr. Baucus said. “I mean, one party can’t jam legislation down the other party’s throat. It leaves a bitter taste.” ”


          That was what was actually done. The Chicago Way.

          1. Don Shor

            There was no bipartisan proposal that would make it. If we waited for the GOP to compromise, we’d have the status quo ante. That is unacceptable. The reality is that the GOP, especially the conservative wing, sees no federal role in health care. Most Republicans didn’t even think there was a problem that needed legislation.

          1. Matt Williams

            TBD, the most direct and efficient way to accomplish your stated goal of a “more free market in healthcare” and eliminating the current reality of “the consumer is removed from pricing and decision making in the morass of paperwork” is to eliminate the insurance component of healthcare. Is that what you want?

        6. TrueBlueDevil

          Matt, I haven’t made that jump. We need more information, we need pricing, published pricing, and we need competition.

          Part of this is places like California mandating numerous items be covered in a health insurance plan, thereby driving up the costs and eliminating the free market choices. I believe one state requires their health plans to cover hair transplants! I know plenty of people who are willing to pay for their own flu shot, pay for their own basic checkup, but want coverage if they get hit by a bus, get cancer, or have a heart attack. Our car insurance doesn’t cover the oil change, new tires, or a tuneup!

          1. Matt Williams

            TBD, your reply illuminates very clearly my point. This is not a healthcare problem, but an insurance problem.

            With that said, your comments also point out how insane it is to cut up the healthcare insurance market into 50 discrete state specific segments and then further subdivide all those segments into hundreds of separate offerings. The result is a spreading of the actuarial risk associated with healthcare delivery over foolishly small risk pools.

            The problem that you also have is that each and every different insurance carrier negotiates a contracted price with each different healthcare provider. Any “published pricing” would have as many as a hundred separate prices for an individual service. How would the consumer know which of those prices apply to him/her? There is plenty of competition between/amongst the various insurance companies for the business of the healthcare providers. There is also plenty of competition between/amongst the various healthcare providers for the business of the insurance companies. What would more competition between/amongst those corporate entities accomplish? We saw just how competitive that market place is recently when Sutter Health and blue Shield took the level of competition they were practicing to such lengths that 280,000 Northern California patients were told that they had to get new doctors (see http://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article8573540.html).

            The fact of the matter is that the healthcare insurance system that you have used over the years is completely broken. It passed “terminal” a long time ago. It is fiscally unsustainable. We (as a society) have promised ourselves more than we can afford.

        7. TrueBlueDevil

          Matt, what do you propose?

          “Any “published pricing” would have as many as a hundred separate prices for an individual service. How would the consumer know which of those prices apply to him/her?”

          We’ll figure it out, we’re smart.

          “There is plenty of competition between/amongst the various …”

          How many do we have in California, the 8th largest economy in the world? Blue Shield, Kaiser, Sutter Health, …

          You are correct we expect too much. I heard a woman on the radio complaining about her cancer treatment costs of $600 per month from a disease that would have killed her 10 years ago.

          1. Matt Williams

            Partial List of Heathcare Insurance Companies

            Roseville Insurance
            American Family Insurance
            American National Insurance Company
            Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
            Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
            Celtic Insurance Company, subsidiary of Centene Corporation
            Centene Corporation
            Coventry Health Care
            Golden Rule Insurance Company
            Group Health Cooperative
            Health Net
            Independence Blue Cross
            Kaiser Permanente
            LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon
            Medical Mutual of Ohio
            Molina Healthcare
            Premera Blue Cross
            Principal Financial Group
            The Regence Group
            Shelter Insurance
            Thrivent Financial for Lutherans
            UnitedHealth Group
            Universal American Corporation
            WellCare Health Plans

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        Obama says: “The average family will save $2,500.”

        Reality: The average family had costs go up by $2,500.

        Obama says: “You can keep your doctor.”

        Reality: Not true for many.

        Obama says: “We want to create a new system to get people insured.”

        Reality: Most who have new coverage got it through Medicaid.

        Kicker: With the rising states costs for Medicaid, the ACA will inadvertently compete and therefor rob dollars from state education budgets.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          Obama said the ACA would cost us $900 Billion over 10 years, a shell game if ever.
          CBO: Obamacare to cost $2 trillion over the next decade

          “President Obama’s healthcare law will spend about $2 trillion over the next decade on expanding insurance coverage but still leave 31 million Americans uninsured, according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday.”



          1. David Greenwald

            You may want to not read right sources, the CBO’s report actually states that Obamacare will cost 20% percent less than initial projections.

            “CBO and JCT currently estimate that the ACA’s coverage provisions will result in net costs to the federal government of $76 billion in 2015 and $1,350 billion over the 2016–2025 period. Compared with the projection from last April, which spanned the 2015–2024 period, the current projection represents a downward revision in the net costs of those provisions of $101 billion over those 10 years, or a reduction of about 7 percent. And compared with the projection made by CBO and JCT in March 2010, just before the ACA was enacted,

              the current estimate represents a downward revision in the net costs of those provisions of $139 billion—or 20 percent— for the five-year period ending in 2019, the last year of the 10-year budget window used in that original estimate


        2. TrueBlueDevil

          In case a youngster is reading this blog, the Olde Gray Lady – the Olde York Times – is a liberal bastion.

          One of many examples were the numerous articles the Times wrote promoting Air America / liberal talk radio.

          Last I read they had one marginally conservative writer.

          1. David Greenwald

            The helpful part is they cite their sources, so you can check on it. The article you posted was at odds with the CBO’s own analysis.

    2. Tia Will


      I believe we have one of the highest business tax rates in the world, which drives capital and jobs elsewhere.”

      The only reason that anything “drives capital and jobs elsewhere” is greed. But those on the right somehow want to paint taxes or the government as “responsible” for a business owners decision to move his company overseas so that he can exploit the cheaper labor their enabling him to earn much more. But this action is defined as good business sense rather than what it really is, the desire for more profit, or in other words “greed”. So much for the value of helping the middle class by supplying more jobs !

      If we truly believe that large business owners have earned their profits by taking chances, then why are we so willing to subsidize large industries ( farming) or bail them out ( automobile manufacturers or bankers). If they know that they will be rescued if their “chance taking” doesn’t pay off, what are they risking. It seems to me that we are all too willing to subsidize the rich, but very unwilling to subsidize those who are actually in need of help.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        You have some utopian thinking that doesn’t mesh with the real world. Not much evil “profit” in North Korea, Cuba, or the former East Germany, but a lot of hungry people and children. Quite the irony. As Gordon Gecko said in Wall Street, some argue that “greed is good”. The profit motive does drive innovation, efficiency, and yes, along with overdone regulations and an advanced economy, it no longer makes sense for American workers to produce hub caps.

        Capitalism and democracy combine to give people the highest living standards throughout the world.

        But both sides of the isle can go too far, look at Warren Buffet getting favors from Obama to block the Keystone Pipeline so that he can continue to be “greedy” and ship oil in a more expensive and costly manner; or the “greed” of Bill Clinton going around the world collecting tens of millions of dollars from foreign entities while his wife is Secretary of State (conflict of interest); or Hillary Clinton claiming that they were “flat broke” after she had signed a deal for millions to write a book, and took White House furniture away for their own personal use (theft?).

        Not many life saving drugs or new medical procedures have come from Zimbabwe, Cuba, or North Korea. Am I correct?

        CEOs are responsible to their shareholders, to little old ladies with 401Ks and pensions, to get the best return on their dollar. The market rewards efficiency and innovation. Besides, the rich can’t take their money with them! An elderly woman funded the new UC Davis Nursing School with a $100 Million donation, it wasn’t three Communists from Berkeley.

        I think there are too many bailouts. And how are we “subsidizing the rich” when they are allowed to keep more of their own money?

        You wrote: “…but [we are] very unwilling to subsidize those who are actually in need of help.” Are you serious? We have a generous social safety net which includes subsidized housing, energy, food, medical care, schooling, child care, early education, birth control, and more. These all exploded under President Obama, and includes significant transfer payments to millions of illegal immigrants. Obama produced a $900 Billion “stimulus” and has added $7 Trillion in debt, and you characterize our efforts as “very unwilling to subsidize”?

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          Against historic levels? Yes. Against creating more dependency? Yes.

          I’m all for helping the truly needy, but creating policies which are counterproductive and rob the spirit and motivation of citizens isn’t wise.

  7. MrsW

     “…they can’t find a job because those same selfish adults decide it is more important to save brown fields and dung beetles than it is to support business growth.”

    You lost me here.  Cleaning up brown fields and saving dung beetles are private sector and nonprofit businesses.  They support people and their families.  Cleaning up business’ messes is big business.  In the case of brown fields, unusable land–usually in a prime location–is returned to the economy.  In any number of cases, property loss can be reduced or eliminated by being smarter about our interactions with our environment.  Take a look at bird strikes, i.e. collisions between airplanes and birds.   “[Bird strikes] cause annual damages that have been estimated at 400 million within the United States of America and up to 1.2 billion to commercial aircraft worldwide.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_strike.

    “…we would have a very small group”

    I also want to comment on the use of percentages in this context.  I’m struggling to see the trend described; I don’t see dilution as a trend.  In 1979 there were 225 million people in the United States.  Today there are 319+ million people in the United States.  The percentages cited reflect millions of people, both in 1979 and now: 49% who are not young, 33% who are not white women; 36% who are not part time.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      I believe the implication is that numerous burdensome government regulations and taxes drive up the costs of goods and services. I saw a report where our average product cost includes 23% due to government regulations. I’m all for safety, I’m all for doing the best, but when we go over the top, there can be unneeded costs with minimal benefits.

    2. Frankly

      I was talking about overbearing environmental regulations and the fear of vanishing open space and sprawl as constraining business starts and growth.

      The point about 77% white, about half kids and young people and about half females is that this isn’t a problem with under-privileged as much as it is a population of workers that have unique minimum-wage circumstances… either they are not the primary breadwinner, or they are starting their career.

      What percentage of people working minimum wage do you think are the breadwinners and stuck making that wage?  My guess is maybe 15-20% of those working for minimum wage.  The next question is what do you do about that?  If you raise minimum wage to help them, you hurt many of the others that also need that job because there will be fewer of them.

      1. MrsW

         If you raise minimum wage to help them, you hurt many of the others that also need that job because there will be fewer of them.

        Relieving suffering is a worthwhile endeavor and unintended consequences are worth talking about.  How can we find “the breadwinners” and better support them? That would be a good discussion.  Another one would be how can we turn some of the women into primary breadwinners?  Many families don’t have the person in the family with the aptitude to earn the most in this economy, engaged in the work force at the right level.

        Nevertheless, I think the author’s point is that we should be critical of Social Darwinist logic is right on.  Hard work and persistence should be the way people get ahead, but in this Country good luck is a huge factor in where you land in the wealth distribution.  Inherited capital and parents who own California property, for example, are not earned.

      2. Topcat

        What percentage of people working minimum wage do you think are the breadwinners and stuck making that wage?  My guess is maybe 15-20% of those working for minimum wage.  The next question is what do you do about that?

        A good start would be to look at the EITC. This is a program to address this problem.  It also seems to have broad bipartisan support and less adverse consequences than raising the minimum wage.

  8. Frankly

    I love listening to Davis Ramsey even though I have a bit of problem with his anti-debt bit.

    When he talks to his listeners he asks them how much they make and then tries to understand their living expenses, and often says “you need to make more money”.  And in the case where the caller is already working 40 or more hours, he says “you need to earn a higher wage.”

    That is the end of conversation.  Simple analysis.  You don’t make enough money, go figure out how to make enough.  If you are stuck in a job not making enough, then figure out how to gain the skills needed to move up and make more.  It is nobody else’s responsibility to fix that problem except in the case where there are disabilities.

  9. hpierce

    I believe the ACA was a good thing.  I have a child who was termed out of my medical/dental coverage, and due to a disability that usually only shows up in early adulthood (after being ‘termed out’), when the child was diagnosed, they were not “coverable” by insurance, particularly because the disability means it is unlikely that they could find employment “with a pre-existing condition” that would cover them.

    My issue,  is that Barack Obama had to have the ACA introduced, and approved by both Houses of Congress.  535 elected representatives, last time I checked.  To equate Barack Obama with ACA is disengenious (sp), or possibly racist.  To equate ACA with democrats, Clintons, Ted Kennedy, MIGHT be fairer game.


    1. TrueBlueDevil

      A Democratic icon said you need 70 votes in Congress to pass major legislation. It may have been Tip O’Neil. ObamaCare, as many know it by – or The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) – only got 60 votes in the Senate. It then went through a special process called reconciliation, and was not subject to filibuster. Calling the term “Obamacare” or the affiliation racist lacks foundation.

      The GOP could keep the good portions of the ACA – like coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. There are some good parts of the legislation, but leave it to the GOP / and or politics to promise us we will continue to have a sub optimal system.

      1. Don Shor

        The GOP has never proposed a plan that comes close to covering the numbers covered under the ACA. You can’t keep coverage for pre-existing conditions without also enacting the individual mandate, or the health coverage for those with pre-existing conditions becomes unaffordable. You have to broaden the risk pool to effectively and affordably cover the uninsured who have pre-existing conditions.
        I think you actually know that, so I assume you’re being disingenuous when you say “the GOP could keep the good portions of the ACA.”
        Moreover, a significant and controlling portion of the Republican party opposes replacing the ACA with anything at all. So “repeal and replace” would never happen.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          I personally have three items I would prioritize in order to bring down costs.

          1. Allow more competition; reduce required procedures / coverage so that more health insurance companies could compete.

          2. Publish pricing. I had a minor medical test a few years back, and when I called my doctor’s office to ask what the test would cost, they didn’t know. How is that possible? I need to know the price, and if I can get it cheaper in Woodland, or Dixon, or on Saturday, or if I pay cash.

          3. Dramatically expand the number of medical schools spots to increase the supply of doctors.

          BTW, Don, last I read the biggest “win” of the ACA was expanding Medicare, a program that already existed and is also in the red.

  10. tribeUSA

    Re: social Darwinism,

    The human tribe is in the very nice position of being able to define how they want to evolve. Other species don’t have it so good!

    There are some valid aspects to the ‘fitness’ argument of the social Darwinists, but within a narrow context, and are eclipsed by other factors in human evolution.

    The financial winners in our society often do make contributions to society that are above the average; but I would contend that they are not as many-fold above the average as their incomes would suggest; there is a leveraging action  that catapults marginal superiority in productivity or efficiency or skill into huge differentials in earnings. Within our competitive society, which we have essentially made into a race, these marginal increases in productivity are extremely important to competitiveness; and our system is also designed and is being refined to ever more extreme levels of competition; which of course benefits most those at the top of the pyramid. The wealthiest indeed may or may not have made much of a contribution to society; their wealth is chiefly based on their abilities to harness the skills and talents of others and to manuever themselves into positions of authority (a people-skills thing). Looking at contributions to material well-being, there are some CEOs and financiers who have contributed a considerable share; but we all owe most of our materially good standard of living to scientists, engineers, and inventors; only a small percentage of whom ever became wealthy. What is rewarded in capitalism is speed–who can be first to exploit the findings of talented scientists and inventors and other discoverers–and though speed has some value, the reward for a marginal edge in speed is most often way out of proportion to the overall benefit to society.

    We the human tribe are in a wonderful position to be able to guide our evolution on our own collective terms–we have made it a race; but can we conceive of a social order where there is still fundamental incentive for people to contribute to work for society, but it need not be a race? I would agree that there is a fundamental biological imperative (more strong in males, in my experience) to get an edge on the other guy; but for most people I know as adults this imperative is fulfilled by doing the best job they can at their work! I don’t think most people need to be prodded by making things a race; there may be a marginal increase in productivity in the short run, but in the long run the negative elements of such a race inevitably lead to reduced productivity not only of individuals but of the whole system, not to mention a considerable amount of misery.



    1. Frankly

      What is rewarded in capitalism is speed

      Not really.  That is only an ingredient.  What is rewarded is value in the marketplace.  Those that make and sell something valuable are rewarded commensurate with that value from the marketplace.  The rub is that different people value different things.  But there is no other system that works as well as the market to set value.  Those fixated on equality that want to send greater reward to the artist that doesn’t create much value in the marketplace are destined to create a crappier system with designs primarily from the few decision-making elite.

      The market rewards value.  Those that recoil against capitalism are generally those frustrated that their skills or products are not valued more highly.

      Now I do think that we have developed a larger population of professional gamblers that just trade paper to extract the monetary value of margins.  Some add value selling their investment expertise.  But others are just gamblers not really adding much value.  I would be fine with capital gains tax increases for the fees earned by these gamblers.

      1. Tia Will

        The market rewards value.  Those that recoil against capitalism are generally those frustrated that their skills or products are not valued more highly.”

        The market also rewards much that is not of value. I have cited cases from medicine previously. Two examples.

        1)A piece of plastic with smaller pieces of plastic imbedded in it identified as a breast cancer detection model will sell for anywhere from 50 – several hundred dollars. The same hunk of plastic at a novelty store might go for somewhere in the vicinity of five to ten dollars. Estimated from about 5 years ago when I was seeking to buy these models for our office.

        2) A common practice of pharmaceutical companies. A drug that they have come up with is about to be eligible for generic production. The drug company decides to tweak their preparation by a minimal dosage adjustment, give it a new name, and claim that it has exceptional properties ( which are properties of all of this class of medication – just more cleverly advertised) which they then market directly to the consumers, charge more for and watch their profits soar as people demand the new, better drug.

        And this kind of nonsense we justify as just part of the “free market”. These “improvements are not being paid for by the doctors, or the hospitals, or the pharmaceutical companies, or the insurers….. they are coming out of your pocket and you don’t even know it since as TBD pointed out, we have no idea of the cost of what we are buying let alone the actual cost of its production or its actual value. Where TBDs analysis goes astray is the assumption that the free market will accurately reflect value. This will never be true if people do not understand the true worth …..or lack thereof…..of what they are buying as is usually the case in medicine.



        1. TrueBlueDevil

          And the consumer can educate themselves that the previous drug is just as good, and I’m sure honest doctors and pharmacists will also help.

          But when they make money off of one drug, they are re-couping the losses for 19 drugs that failed, and for reduced profits in other countries. We spur much of the innovation and inventions.

          What your analysis lacks is why take risk without profit? How many new drugs or inventions have come out of Greece, Spain, France, or Cuba the past 30 years? Or even the UK (in medicine)? Not much.

          I’ve heard stories of new medical inventions which would save us time, money, be less intrusive and safer, which have been halted and won’t go to clinical trail because of Obamacare, its regulations, and costs (new taxes). The funding is drying up, costs too high and uncertainty of how things will be implemented.

  11. Tia Will


    I believe that this a wonderful, clear and concise summary of how we are behaving as a society, and how as intelligent human beings, we have the ability to rise above and define for ourselves a better, more humane way of being. The choice is ours, not just a product of our hormones or genes. We have the ability to choose to collaborate as well as to compete. We have simply chosen to glorify the latter at the cost of the former.

  12. sisterhood

    Re: leisure time, there are countless studies supporting the concept of work/life balance. Working 70 – 80 hours a week, over long periods of time, is not healthy, period. When I worked for SCIF we reminded employers that mandatory overtime, on a regular basis, not an occasional emergency, causes more work related accidents; iIt’s proven with statistics. I remember my neighbor worked very long hours. One night he actually fell asleep at the wheel, fortunately he hit a parked car and only the vehicles were damaged. It simply isn’t healthy to work long hours. Yet one reader was touting the level of income of someone who worked 70 – 80 hours at minimum wage. I say again- most people working minimum wage jobs don’t want to work 70 – 80 hours just to make ends meet. But some readers think they should.

    Re: paying people in cash, then complaining they might not claim it, why not simply pay them with a check? Then you have a money trail.

    Tia and TribeUSA, your remarks here are very well written.

    hpierce, thank you. I agree, if the word “hater” is off limits, then others should stop using the word “taker”. It is equally offensive. I’ll substitute the word pessimist, or the phrase verbal bully, if appropriate, in the future.

  13. Barack Palin

    Re: paying people in cash, then complaining they might not claim it, why not simply pay them with a check? Then you have a money trail.

    Ha ha, even though you don’t read my posts…wink…wink…I’ll explain why I brought up paying in cash and the workers not claiming it.  It was to show that when I pay a maid $20 to $25 an hour in cash you know it will never be claimed on their taxes so in essence those maids are making $30 to $40 an hour in taxable income.  Not bad, hardly $9/hour.  Otherwise I could care less if they claim it or not.

    if the word “hater” is off limits, then others should stop using the word “taker”

    “Hater” is a derogatory term which is off limits on the Vanguard.  This article is about “takers” and “makers” and those terms are used frequently in the text of the piece.  So since “makers” and “takers” are on topic they should be allowed in the comments too.

    Glad to be of some assistance.

    1. Topcat

      I’ll explain why I brought up paying in cash and the workers not claiming it.  It was to show that when I pay a maid $20 to $25 an hour in cash you know it will never be claimed on their taxes so in essence those maids are making $30 to $40 an hour in taxable income.  Not bad, hardly $9/hour.  Otherwise I could care less if they claim it or not.

      You bring up an interesting topic; namely the underground economy.  There is a lot of economic activity that goes on like this with no reporting of income.  Some examples:

      * Unreported tip income for waiters/waitresses, taxi drivers and others who can collect tips.

      * People who sell lots of things on Ebay and Craigslist

      * Drug dealers

      * Prostitutes

      * Casual day laborers

      1. Barack Palin

        You are so right Topcat.  I see that many of these types of jobs are listed in the minimum salary category but they hardly make the minimum.  A waiter that’s serving let’s say four tables is not only making the minimum wage during that hour, he/she is also collecting the tips from those four tables and that could propel their wages easily to $30-$0-$50 and more an hour.  And once again all those tips are probably not being claimed so their taxable income would actually be even higher.

      2. TrueBlueDevil

        I read recently some stats which showed that the population of Los Angeles has grown, but business receipts have dropped the past 10-15 years. This was my first thought.

        Ever watch those home remodel / house flipper shows? They gut and replace the whole kitchen, 1-2 bathrooms, paint the full interior and exterior, landscape, etc., and the prices are often alarmingly low. Sure, it’s TV. But you see the guys working there, all Latino, one boss, working 10-12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week. Think they get overtime? Think they get worker’s comp?

        Compare those prices to what is done when they travel to Seattle or Canada. Two, three, four times the cost.

        The kicker is on top of these lower paid workers being a drain on the system, when they retire someday they will have little paid into the Social Security system. Who do you think will fill the gap? Government (us).

      3. Tia Will

        Otherwise I could care less if they claim it or not.”

        Well, the poster does not seem to see it as a problem to participate in this underground market place, but has on a number of occasions implied that others should not break the law by entering the country illegally. I am confused about how people should not enter illegally but it is ok to pay them in cash so that they do not have to report their income ?  Maybe someone would like to clarify this seeming discrepancy for me.

  14. Tia Will


    I’m all for helping the truly needy, but creating policies which are counterproductive and rob the spirit and motivation of citizens isn’t wise.”

    This makes the assumption that helping people will rob their spirit and motivation. I would like to point out from personal experience that having a  governmentally provided roof over my head, food to eat, and my first job as part of a disadvantaged youth program after my father’s death did nothing to rob my spirit or my motivation.

    So who gets to decide who are the “truly needy”. I would say that this extends to anyone who does not have enough to eat or a  place to live. I would probably place much more belief in the good will of those who are against social programs if they did not immediately undercut their statements with tired generalizations about robbing people of spirit and motivation when what is being done is feeding and housing children who I think we can all agree are innocent.


    1. TrueBlueDevil

      When Gavin Newsome was the Mayor of San Francisco, he implemented something called “Care, Not Cash”. By asking for basic information and proof, I believe they cut out 50% of the people using one service that was flat out fraud. One woman rode the Greyhound bus from Sacramento to The City every month to get her “benefits check”, but it Was a San Francisco program!

      I met young men who prefer to sit at home, surf the net, smoke pot, and collect welfare payments over working an honest job. They exist.

      PS In regards to recent post where you railed against American “greed”, when is the last time someone in Greece, North Korea, France, or Cuba gave $100 million to start a new nursing or medical school? (See UC Davis.) Fact is, our “greed” and “profits” allow us to help the poor, the sick, and innovate for the whole medical world.

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