Monday, April 12, 2010


Victor Davis Hanson talks about the disconnect between rich and poor that he witnessed during a bicycle tour of California. It's instructive in what he sees, and also in what he doesn't.
I confess this week to have listened in on many conversations in Palo Alto and at Stanford, read local newspapers, and simply watched people. So I am as worried about the elite upscale yuppie as the poor illegal alien. The former have lost almost all connection with physical labor, the physical world, or the ordeal that civilization endures to elevate us from the savagery of nature.
I confess that I've noticed the same thing. Many of the upscale in our economy seems to have no idea what it takes to put in a flowerbed, or fix a lawnmower, or solder a joint. Worse, they have no motivation to learn.
Here follows some other unscientific observations. This is a funny recession. My grandfather’s stories of the Great Depression — 27 relatives in my current farmhouse and barn — were elemental: trying to find enough food to survive, and saving gasoline by shifting to neutral and gliding to stops or on the downhill.

The problem I saw this week was rampant obesity, across all age and class lines. If anything, the wealthier in Palo Alto/Stanford eat less (yes, I know the liberal critique that they have capital and education to shop for expensive healthier fruits and vegetables while the poor and neglected must turn to fast food, coke, and pop tarts). No matter — a lot of Americans are eating too much and moving too infrequently — and no one, at least if girth matters, is starving.
Even our poor are well-fed.
In the old days a poor house in rural Selma would have poor plumbing and no insulation; today’s apartment, in terms of hot water heater, oven, cook top, or air conditioner, is not much different than those found in the estates above Stanford.
This is a remarkable country we live in and the poorest of our citizens live in relative comfort. I'd be hard-pressed to find one student in the high school where I work that doesn't have a cell phone for lack of money. Thirty years ago you couldn't have a cell phone at any price, today they're everywhere.

I'm not complaining about the lack of true poverty in the United States. I think that we've done a remarkable job in allowing everyone to participate in the American Dream. However, as I complete my income tax preparation I'm amazed at the amount of my money the government thinks they are entitled to have. When a family making $50,000 might not have any tax liability at all, I'm wondering when we'll get around to changing the tax code.

It seems to me that if you can afford housing, a television and a cell phone, you really should be paying your fair share of the tax burden.


Melissa said...

I appreciated this piece- food for thought.

Old NFO said...

I have to agree with him...

J said...

About 35 years ago I spent a few months collecting insurance in the black sections of Alexandria. One place had four shotgun houses on one rectangular city lot, two houses faced the street and two houses faced the rears of the street-facing houses. In the center of the rectangle stood an outhouse. If nature called, I'd use that outhouse. Inside was a commode hooked to the sewer. There was even a roll of toilet paper and I often wondered who bought it. During my Delta ramblings about ten years ago, I found the same outhouse/commode/sewer accommodation in a small northeast Louisiana town. I've even seen groups of shotgun houses with one central hose bib for all.

Termite said...

Go talk to any doctors from India or Africa, who are currently practicing medicine in Cenla. They will tell you that America has the fattest "poor people" that they have ever seen.

Windy Wilson said...

I can't attribute this properly, but "Our grandfathers learned to do things for themselves because they had to. Our fathers did things for themselves because they wanted to. Our generation can't do anything for themselves and hasn't a clue why they might want to know."

Cliff Stoll, who wrote "The Cuckoo's Egg" said once that this emphasis on computers in schools is misplaced, as when we hire a dentist we want someone who can drill a tooth, not us the internet. Karl Hess, the libertarian who was speechwriter for Barry Goldwater once said that school is arranged as if everyone wants to become a Professor of English Literature. I think this is true even now, when Universities are very much trade schools.