Poverty: Temporary or Permanent?

Poverty is an issue Leftists badger the Right about incessantly. Poor people provide a convenient excuse for government control over your wallet. They need food, shelter, transportation, healthcare, and so on, and why shouldn’t these things be guaranteed by a friendly government? Why rely on the charity of individuals to do this, when it is possible that private charity will miss some people, that some of the poor will slip through the cracks and suffer? Only government can make this a mandate. Let us raise taxes, they say, or reduce funding for the warmongering military, to help our poor people! As one Leftist detractor explained, let’s do it for national pride, compassion, and empathy!

The buzzwords sound great, of course. But they are empty platitudes. You cannot eat compassion, nor will empathy put a roof over your head or supply you with good, inexpensive healthcare. And as we give government our money to do these things for us (or, rather, as it is taken from us), be advised that the bureaucrats and politicians will take their slice of the action. They are the middlemen, and naturally a middleman wants his share of the spoils.

Government inefficiencies aside, many of those who are supported by government anti-poverty programs are, essentially, lifers. They are mired in permanent poverty, never to escape. What percentage, exactly? Well, it’s difficult to tell. But those receiving government benefits in the 37-48 month category (the longest period I could find concrete stats for) stands at around 43% of those on government assistance.

In browsing around these statistics this morning, I came across a Huffington Post article that was using essentially the same data (they differed by a couple percentage points here and there, but were clearly using a similar source). Their conclusion was that a majority of people used welfare benefits of varying types for only short periods of time. This was technically true (after all, 43% is a minority). But nonetheless, we are not far from that magic 50% marker.

In any event, for our purposes 43% of welfare recipients will do. These are people who are essentially in a state of permanent poverty. There are probably some who are too proud to take government benefits for long, too, or who do not qualify for one reason or another. So the actual number of those in permanent poverty is probably somewhat higher than that number would indicate.

Thing is most of us, myself included, have probably experienced some form of temporary poverty. For me, this came during the dot-com bust in 2001, when getting work as a web developer was essentially impossible. This happened to a lot of my friends in the industry, too. Those were tough times for folks in my line of work. I took a job as a Costco stocker for a time. Some friends took various odd jobs, or moved back in with family.

When talking to friends, family, and some of my readers here at The Declination, I can safely say that most of us have experienced temporary poverty. When I was born, my father was broke and just barely struggling to keep the lights on and food on the table. But that, too, was temporary. My wife’s family came from Cuba with nothing but the clothes on their backs, all that Castro permitted them to take with them. But their poverty was temporary, also. My wife’s grandfather quickly landed a job (all physical labor, but that was enough) and he managed to claw his way out of poverty. Her father managed to prosper, working his way up from a minimum wage pharmacy worker job to part-owner in a lucrative pharmacy business.

What is the difference between those who fall into poverty, for whatever reason, and those who stay there?

There is a mindset I’ve seen with people who are stuck in permanent poverty. A family friend, who for sake of anonymity I will call Harry, exemplifies the permanent poverty situation quite well. Harry was a general contractor, and had a set of skills that ought to have made him permanently well off. But when he’d land a good contract, and score some hefty profit, he would quickly burn through money. Harry’s house would be filled with toys, from a new lifted F-150, to boats, RVs, motorcycles, whatever. And then, a year or two later, after going through several lean months, the possessions would disappear one at a time, sold or repossessed by the bank.

Feeling sorry for Harry, my father helped him score a job worth a substantial amount of money. Half was to be paid upfront, the remainder upon completion of the job. But Harry spent the advance too quickly, burning through it at the bars and the strip clubs, and found he did not have enough money leftover to buy all the supplies needed to finish the work. The broken contract cost him his contractor’s license, and he found himself out of work. Things continued to go downhill after that, and he spent several months in jail on some unrelated charge.

Harry has since been released, and is back working in construction, but now as a regular laborer. His lucrative career as a general contractor is gone forever. And even still, after all this, he quickly spends his money on booze, women, and toys, and finds himself in financial pickles. So far as I know, Harry has never taken a dime of welfare money, but he is still stuck in permanent poverty. And all the help my father and I could give him was for naught.

The thing is, you could give Harry a million dollars, and it would soon vanish. Just as you could give some folks on welfare piles of money, and in the long run it would do them no good. The money would not improve their lot, but if taken out of your paycheck, it could worsen your lot. That isn’t to say money can’t help a poor man at all. Those who are in temporary poverty may very well be helped by a timely infusion of cash, or some food, shelter, or otherwise.

Differentiating between the temporarily impoverished and the permanently impoverished is a mission we’ve largely outsourced to the government, and I consider that a mistake. The government is ill-equipped to do this. Some of the temporarily impoverished may be turned away, and many of the permanently impoverished may supplied with money and/or benefits that are, essentially, wasted. Take this story, confirmed by Snopes, of a man using his girlfriend’s EBT card to buy steak and lobster. He then resold the food for cash, 50% of the value of the original food. He was caught and arrested for fraud; for reselling the food and using someone else’s benefits. But this sort of thing goes on all the time. And sometimes the EBT benefits are sold more directly. And let us not forget the FEMA cards after Katrina, often being used for strip clubs and booze, not unlike what Harry did with his profits. Some got caught. I suspect many more got away with it.

The point is, some of these folks have a mindset that mires them in permanent poverty. Even given the food, they will sell the food at a discount and use it for something else. Given the welfare cash to pay bills, they will spend the money on something else. Give them millions, and they will soon be broke again. Such aid only truly improves the lot of the temporarily impoverished. And even then, I’ve never taken such benefits, even when temporarily impoverished, and neither have most folks I know. Most of the time, we can get out of temporary poverty with some bootstrapping and some assistance from family and friends.

How do you change the mindset of the permanently impoverished? I don’t know. What I do know is that if the purpose of government welfare spending is to lift them out of this state, it’s not going to work. It may help the temporarily impoverished, though I’d argue we could do that more efficiently via private means. But the permanently poor are going to stay that way, short of changing their mindset. I’ve spoken at length on the possibility that pain is a good teacher; that maybe making people too comfortable in poverty (the regularity and guarantee of government assistance) may work against learning the habits and mindset necessary to escape poverty. But Harry’s example is also instructive, he’s had every incentive in the world to change his behavior, and he never did. Some people may be beyond our help. It’s an unpleasant thing to contemplate, but it may nonetheless be true.

The question is, if some people are beyond our help, if lifting them out of poverty is beyond our means, what is our responsibility to them? Do we owe the government an ever-increasing slice of our earnings to fail to help them? Where does our obligation end? To those in power, of course, middlemen taking their slice of the action, the answer is that the obligation never ends, and is an essentially unlimited mandate.

Victim Culture: The Celebration of Failure

When I was a child, I had dreams like any other, impossible goals and obnoxious ambitions. There was a time when I wished I were the Emperor of the Earth. Never let it be said that I think small. Then there were times I wished I could invent a time machine and travel back to the days of Christ to solve the deeper mysteries of Christianity. Childhood dreams are like that. There is no sense to them, but they had a magnificence, a purity our smaller and more realistic adult ambitions sometimes lack. Did you ever want to be an astronaut or an Olympic swimmer? Did you see yourself writing the next great Science Fiction novel or directing a Hollywood blockbuster?

One thing I did not want to be growing up, however, was a victim. At least, not at first. But when I left private school, near to being kicked out for atrocious behavior (I was not a terribly pleasant child), and wound up in public school, that’s what they taught. In seventh grade I got into a fight with this kid, a bully who I had been having trouble with for months. He threw the first punch, and everybody saw him do it. But when I stood, poised with a textbook over my head, prepared to smash it into the insolent little shit’s face, it was me who got the phone call home and barely avoided suspension.

Why? Because I didn’t look like the victim, irrespective of whether or not I actually was. Somehow, his tearful face made him the victim, and me the oppressor. Ironically, this turned me into an actual victim, for before this I had adhered to my father’s maxim of punch the bully in the nose and he’ll probably go away. After this, I learned that self defense was punished. The rest of middle school and much of high school was spent being the butt monkey of every bully and meathead jock around. I was a laughing stock, but at least I wasn’t being threatened with suspension or expulsion anymore.

It wasn’t long before I noticed this behavior everywhere. One thing I was good at was distance running, and I remember a day in which I was on fire. I can’t remember if it was sixth or seventh grade, but I blew through the mile in under 6 minutes, which was a pretty notable achievement for that age. I was more than a minute faster than the next guy behind me. But the PE teacher didn’t even care, or bother to notice the achievement. He was busy congratulating and urging on lazy kids for actually bothering to jog instead of walk.

We interrupt this regularly-scheduled victimhood article to inform you that Brianna Wu, transsexual, is a victim even though somebody handed her $200,000.

We interrupt this regularly-scheduled victimhood article to inform you that Brianna Wu, transsexual, is a victim even though somebody handed her $200,000 out of the blue.

This was a talent that was wasted. I look back on this with sadness, because I was truly gifted in Cross Country and distance running. I could have gone somewhere with that ability, but the Cross Country coach spent his time focusing on the girl’s team, because that was the way the political winds were blowing in the public school system, and my motivation waned over the years, until I walked away from it completely.

You might think that I’m blaming other people for my failings (the very thing I’m speaking against). I’m not. I blame myself for succumbing to this idiocy. Hell, there was a time in which I took Marx seriously and a time when I believed the Keynesians has the right of things. Now, if I had that time machine I dreamed of as a child, I would go back to my younger self and tell him to ignore the administrators telling him not to fight back, or the coaches who spent their time working with people who didn’t even want to run. I would find my own motivation, as I have today, and go to the gym on my own accord. But I’m in my thirties now, and dreams of running in the Olympics, or even competing in college are long dead. It should be noted that I intend to tell my son this when he is old enough to understand, it would be well if he could learn from my failings.

A middle schooler is more susceptible to these things. Children can be influenced in this manner more than adults can. If you tell a child that he is a victim, day in and day out, sooner or later he will start to believe it. And if you penalize a kid for achievement, or fail to acknowledge it at all, sooner or later, he’ll probably just give up. I owe it to my father, a good and strong man, that I ever conquered this problem at all, even later in life. Most everyone else in my childhood spent their time extolling that victimhood (i.e. getting punched in the face) was morally superior to fighting, or that people who jogged 10 minute miles were to be commended while people who ran 5 minute miles were to be ignored.

This is an inversion of all good sense. Like much of Progressive Leftism, the celebration of Victimhood defies rational explanation. In many ways, it even defies emotional explanation, for a childhood full of bullies you cannot strike back is one which is emotionally painful.

We celebrate failure. We extol being a victim, which is, in essence, the glorification of losing control over one’s life.

Take rape. A lot of Leftists define rape very broadly, so that anybody (except a while male, of course) can be raped. Drunk sex that you later regret? Rape. Catcalling? Rape. Looking at somebody? Stare rape. Then there are lunatics who genuinely believe that pornography is, somehow, rape. The culture of Victimhood almost celebrates the practice, while those of a Right wing extraction have a different take on the matter:

No, she didn't. And if this woman shoots a potential rapist, we on the Right consider that an ACHIEVEMENT worth celebrating.

No, she didn’t. And if this woman shoots a rapist, we on the Right consider that an ACHIEVEMENT worth celebrating.

Have you ever read a story about a disabled person overcoming their handicap? These used to be celebrated, too. The man who lost the use of his legs, but through the help of family and strength of will, manages to walk again is heartwarming because it is an achievement. In essence, the person who defeats their own handicaps is saying “I refuse to be a victim.” Achievement is not always absolute in the sense of a 5 minute mile. It can also be found in the person who has cerebral palsy running a marathon.

Some of those stories still make it out, now and again, for the Social Justice Warriors cannot suppress them as much as they would like (for such stories dismantle the victim narrative), without giving up the fact that they are concerned with power not with people. But consider the female marathon winner who didn’t even make the press, because some other woman running half as fast, decided to “free bleed” her period blood all over her track suit in some vague protest of patriarchal supremacy. Everyone knows who the bleeder was, nobody cares about the woman who achieved victory.

Because, somehow, the bleeder was a victim. Of something. I suppose there was some sort of conspiracy of old White men that decided women shouldn’t bleed all over their clothing. Similarly, men and women both are expected not to shit themselves. Perhaps we shall see the Social Justice Warriors cheering the end of toilet oppression, soon. Go ahead, since you’re a victim of some nebulous and undefinable conspiracy, I’m sure it’s fine if you take a dump in the middle of the street. Then we can go back to being the infantile, uncivilized imbeciles they seem to worship.

There was an article I read this morning asking the following question: “Why Spend Money on Space Exploration When We Have So Many Problems Here on Earth?” Mr. Garan tells us that technology transfer is the greatest reason to support space travel, for NASA often pioneers technologies that will later trickle down into the consumer market. To be fair, the answer is a good one, but in a nation which once left footprints on the moon, it omits a far greater reason: achievement.

The thing is worth doing on its own, irrespective of the material benefits. In other words, Mr. Garan has to justify why funds that could be given to poor people, or to the “marginalized” people of color, or even the Syrian refugees, should instead be spent on space exploration. The achievement of, say, going to Mars or inventing Faster-than-light travel doesn’t even enter into his calculations.

Why does a high jumper flop over a bar at the Olympics? Does this have some material benefit to the poor starving people of wherever? No, it’s about achievement. It’s about celebrating humanity and defeating our own self-imposed limitations.

But the wheels of victimhood culture have gone so far off the wagon that, rather than training to be great athletes, or learning to be geniuses and leaders, people are instead choosing to cut off body parts so that they, too, may experience the joy of being a disabled victim. Individuals like Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King are pretending to be Black, because in their twisted minds, doing so means becoming a powerless victim (isn’t that a form of patronizing racism?).

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are tearing up Europe, including places like Greece, which don’t even have the money to pay for them. These “victims” are mostly young males looking to hop on to the welfare gravy train of the European Union, while the continent is simultaneously experiencing a period of austerity measures for the same.

Patents please, so that we may establish that you were a victim for at least six generations.

Patents please, so that we may establish that you were a victim for at least six generations. Else you will not be allowed to debate, for you are a racist, sexist, homophobe, transphobe, you hate kittens, etc…

Social Justice Warriors often introduce their victim credentials in the same manner a nobleman might list his titles, or in which a PhD might list his degree(s). Hi, I’m Jane Doe, a transsexual, mixed-race, adipostive genderqueer woman of color. My pronouns are Fe Fi Fo and Fum. Patents, please, is their cry.  And, like the noblemen of old, they are dismissive of the plebs with no titles (those evil straight white males). Furthermore, the titles they give to themselves, they will deny to you if they can. I’m just a white guy, or more charitably, a guy of white and Middle-Eastern descent. SJWs generally describe Anita Sarkeesian, who is of Armenian extraction, as Middle-Eastern because it boosts her victim score. This is, of course, politically useful in a culture that celebrates victimhood. They are usually reluctant to extend the same courtesy to me for the same, and will do so only grudgingly.

In the meantime, the footprints on the moon have not been matched for more than 40 years. Today, I have no doubt that there are children sitting in school as I type this, people who could someday be great engineers or marathon runners, or even defeat the limitations of their station in life, but who will be discouraged instead. For, when everybody gets a trophy it is effectively the same as when nobody gets a trophy.

And if there is no reward for greatness, why even bother at all? After all, the celebration of failure has always been easier.

Mortgage Debt is Hell

Putting this story to pen is difficult. Yet it is an accurate reflection of our times, the financial disaster that led America to this point and the Kafkan nightmare that awaits anyone who does anything off the beaten path. To preface, this is a story of a mortgage gone bad, of insurance disasters, greedy tenants, government mismanagement, propaganda, and personal irresponsibility. That last part is important to remember for anyone suffering similar circumstances. The individual is as accountable as the other actors. In this case, the individual is me.

When I was 26 years old, I worked a decent job, making about $36k a year. In those days, that was good money for a 26 year old. Real Estate was a good racket then, too. Few considered what would happen a few short years later. Traditional wisdom said to buy a home, stop throwing away your money on rent, get married and start a family. It was the American Dream.

But $36k was not going to put me in the high end of the property market, even if it was good for my age. My family owned a property in a working class (lower-middle) neighborhood since the late 70s and I wound up purchasing a home just down the street from it. There was a bit of redneck vibe to the area, but it was within tolerable limits and, in any event, I thought better the rednecks than the gang-bangers. It was a modest home in an estate sale, priced to move quick, and I picked it up for about $15k under value at $110k.

You cannot imagine the pride I had at that moment. Sure, the house was built in the 70s, and it showed in places, like the weird Formica counter tops they favored in those days, and it was small at a mere 1050 square feet, but it was mine. Most of my friends lived with their parents and I felt responsible and successful in my own meager way. Nobody helped me with the down payment, as was common for the few people I knew back then who did own a home.

For a time, things were good. Sweat equity built up over time as I remodeled the bathroom, painted the interior, rewired much of the home, and exchanged the old carpet for some inexpensive laminate floors.

Then 2008 happened. The home had been worth a comfortable $125k in January of that year. By the end of the year, equivalent homes were selling for less than $60k. Here I was, sitting on nearly a $100,000 of debt, and I had no assets to cover the deficiency. To say it scared me shitless is an understatement. Yet the payments remained as they were before, and there was no immediate danger. Indeed, I soon wound up making $50k/year. Relaxation came with the knowledge that the market would recover.

Danger signs were already lurking, however. Good, working class folks lost their homes in rapid succession as the Great Recession took its toll on construction workers, pensioners, and seniors living off 401ks that had dropped in value. Crime grew rapidly as Section 8 slum lords took over the foreclosed properties. Crack dealers moved into one notable house, full of garbage and broken windows. My future wife had a car vandalized when she came over one night. A few months later, my home was broken into. Fortunately, the things stolen were replaceable.

By 2010, it was clear that I could no longer stay in the neighborhood. My life was in danger. Gone were the rednecks whom I would smoke stogies with. Residents were now considerably darker, both in race and outlook. And they did not like the hangers-on who remained. The neighborhood belonged to them and they knew it. Whitey was neither desired nor permitted to stay in peace. Neither, however, could I rid myself of the troublesome property. The value had dropped to a mere $50k. So I decided to rent the home out.

The rent didn’t even cover the mortgage. Each month I lost $300. Tenants willing to live in such a neighborhood were invariably troublesome. The woman I found to rent the home was the least-terrible of a decidedly short list of malcontents, bad debtors, and bargain hunters. She paid, but was always late by at least a week and would only send the money if I harassed her three or four times for the check. Once or twice a year, the check would bounce and the process would have to be repeated. Demands to pay in cash or money order would typically only be heeded for a month or two before, despite anything I said, I would receive a check in the mail. But I let her stay because I feared the alternatives would be worse.

Poverty is often seen as a sort of noble state in the Bible, but those poor were more like the working class folks that were losing their jobs and their homes. The new poor that followed them into the neighborhood were of the loathsome variety, living on odd jobs, drug dealing, and welfare monies. There was nothing noble about them. Humility was not natural for them, nor was responsibility or even intelligence. My tenant repeatedly did the most idiotic things and, invariably, I wound up having to pay for those mistakes.

Once, she failed to change or clean the air filter for over six months. In my home state of Florida, this is among the dumbest things a person can do, or fail to do. The air conditioner seized and she was on the phone with me screaming at me to fix it immediately. Naturally, the technician found a filter caked solid with dirt, grime and lint. She would repeat this error twice again during her tenancy.

Another time she decided to store cereal and other foodstuffs in the garage. Rats found their way in and devoured the rotting food (never leave food in the humidity of Florida). Then they made their permanent home in the attic, tearing holes in the duct work. Over $1,500 was needed to repair the ducts, vacuum out the old insulation and blow in new insulation.

Many more stories like these exist, but they are not even the most infuriating factor. For, each time I got her voicemail, it would end with a catchphrase that this woman appended to everything. “God bless!” She would say with false enthusiasm, similar to the same phrase scrawled on the cardboard signs of street beggars everywhere. The analogy was fitting.

Still, my losses were limited to $300 a month, and if I was living in a room I rented from a friend for cheap to make up for the loss, well, that’s what I had to do. Yes, my tenant lived better than I did, driving a fancy new car, watching premium cable on a new big screen in the living room of the house she was slowly destroying. And I counted myself fortunate, for other homes were systematically gutted at a much faster rate. Scrap dealers roamed the streets buying up wiring and metals ripped from abandoned homes by scavengers and crackheads looking to score money for their next fix.

At this point, I knew I was in trouble. Values would never recover and the best I could hope for was continuing in my accidental role as a slumlord long enough to get the balance down on the loan. I figured that losing $60,000 plus $300/month for however long it took me to get there would be terrible for me, but I would suffer it anyway. After all, this was my responsibility.

But Fate was not done with me just yet. In the years after Hurricane Katrina made a mess of New Orleans, FEMA had been searching for more money. Government agencies are wont to do that anyway, but in this case, FEMA was really strapped for cash. By and large, most homes in New Orleans did not have flood insurance, yet FEMA paid for their reconstruction anyway. FEMA trailers were everywhere, FEMA debit cards, used often as not for such essentials as lap dances and new Air Jordans, were handed out like candy.

FEMA came to Florida for money in 2013. Many homes in the state, said FEMA, were being subsidized on their flood policies. The fact that Florida paid quadruple the amount in premiums as it received back in claims since the FEMA flood program began might have been a wrinkle in that argument. But not for our intrepid, cash-hungry FEMA agents.

The home I bought once cost $1500 annually for home owners insurance. About $1100 of that was the normal Hurricane and Homeowners policy. The remaining $400 was the flood policy. To make a long story short, the actuarial numbers were perfectly reflective of about $1100/year for insuring the home. In 2013, $7500/year was demanded just for the flood policy. Furthermore, the hurricane policy went up to over $2000/year. Citizens Insurance was not allowed to do that, according to Florida Law, but they found a loophole anyway. So much for state-run insurance companies being cheap. Then Citizens Insurance demanded I replace the roof, the HVAC unit (limping along under the mistreatment of my tenant) and the breaker box or they would refuse to insure the home at all.

Yes. I was going to have to pay nearly $10,000 a year and over $20,000 in improvements to insure a ghetto property worth $50,000. But soon it wasn’t even worth that anymore. It turns out even slumlords don’t want to buy properties that have insurance costs that high. Soon, foreclosures were going for $35,000. One went for $15,000. Democrats celebrated the “rich” finally paying their “fair share” for flood insurance. Never mind the million dollar waterfront properties with lower premiums than mine. Republicans made some mouth noises about government corruption but did very little. Par for the course with them.

There was no end in sight for me, now. It would take the full 30 year term to be rid of the property and in the meantime the terms of my mortgage would require me to pay $10,000 a year in insurance. I was on the edge of ruin. I called an attorney and attempted to negotiate with the bank.

After a year and a half of attempting to short sale the property it became clear that nobody wanted it. I did a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure with the bank and handed them the keys.

Oh, and the tenant? As soon as she figured out the property was going into foreclosure proceedings, she stopped paying. For six months she held up various attempts to evict her with threats of lawsuits and legal wrangling (in one case, she threatened to sue me for the rat problem she caused). My attorney finally gave up and advised me to bribe her to get out.

She demanded $2,500 for this service and then had the nerve to say “cash only, I don’t want you bouncing checks on me.” Naturally, the house was trashed when she finally left. Garbage bags were everywhere and spray paint was on the walls. The fridge was filled to the brim with rotten food.

She lectured me as she left saying “it’s all your fault that I gotta find some place to live.” I had to physically restrain my wife from beating her face in. It was like being the security guard at a live televising of the Jerry Springer show. As a result of the attorney fees and the bribe, I was flat broke and my wife, son and I had been living on ramen noodles and picking up coupons for cheaper formula from the neighbors. My wife, the hot-blooded Latina that she is, could no longer countenance the blatant disrespect. Nonetheless, if my reflexes had been a whit slower than they were, I probably would have had to bail her out of jail.

Now the IRS thinks I’ve made over $70,000 in untaxed income this year. Because it was rented out for so long, it does not qualify as a primary residence and so the “cancellation of debt” is “ordinary income” as if somebody just handed me a suitcase full of money. Navigating the complex tax codes to exclude this have required the services of a CPA and even he says we’re not going to be able to exclude all of it. Why? Because the IRS insolvency test pretty much guarantees an audit, and the burden of proof for all valuations is on me, so I have to “take the safe route” on every deduction and fair market valuation unless I want a garnished pay check. In simple terms, the IRS will say I have tens of thousands in assets when I have basically nothing.

I’ll have a tax bill next year somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000, in all likelihood. So the ramen noodles and coupon-cutting will continue for the foreseeable future. But I’ll make it anyway.

And my friends who lived with their parents until their 30s? Many of them still do. Maybe they were wiser than I.

What’s clear to me after all this, is that responsibility is punished and irresponsibility cheered on. I could not evict the tenant because she had “medical problems” and the courts would sympathize with her, especially if she made wild claims about rat infestations she blamed on me. She drives a new car while I’m going to have to sell mine and go pick up some piece of crap with 4 wheels and 200k+ miles on it. God knows my base model F150 isn’t a luxury vehicle, but it is newer and has value. I’ll need the money. Section 8 gang bangers live for free while I’ve had to pay more than the entire purchase price of the home, over the years, just to be rid of it and get exactly nothing.

Am I bitter? Yeah, I’m bitter. And angry. Government, banking, irresponsible people and ghetto trash ruined me. They ruined my old working-class neighbors too, some of whom were the most hard working, decent people I’ve ever met. I wonder about them sometimes, where they are today and how they ultimately fared. One man I knew only as “Chief” had a fondness for cigars and whiskey, and he would come over if he spotted me sitting on the front porch. He was in his 70s, but thought nothing of sipping whiskey with us younger folks. He’d commend me. “You’re doing it right, son.” He’d tell me. “Working hard.” Then he’d hand me a stogie and we’d smoke on the front porch with a few other neighbors talking about America-that-was. American flags used to wave lazily in the breeze in front of houses that are now filled to the brim with drug dealers and their addicts.

That America is just a memory for me now. But one thing is clear and inescapable. This was my fault too.

I should have seen it coming. We all should have. The whole country, our entire civilization is cracking around us and good people do nothing. That’s on me as much as anyone else. If only I could slap some sense into that idealistic 26 year old thinking he had it all figured out. But I can’t. This cynical, curmudgeonly bastard is all that’s left of him.

Tonight I’ll smoke my last cigar, for the humidor has been emptying slowly for months, and face another year of living on the cheap, barely hanging on to the Middle class, watching everyone else enjoy the fruits of my labor. I don’t envy them though, because the bill collectors will come for them too, someday. They will come for all of us.

Airplanes and Risk

I posted this little gem as a reply over at Bastion of Liberty, but it bears repeating.

Yesterday, heading back to work from lunch at a Tex-Mex chain, a friend of mine expressed incredulity at the notion that people still fly little single-engined Cessnas around. The things have a terrible safety record. Two of them crashed around here in the last few months.

I responded that the Wright Brothers took their leap into powered flight on a haphazardly constructed, untested airframe constructed from used bicycle parts.

Risk, today, has become a dirty word, a thing to be avoided at all cost. Nearly 50% of people in America are on some form of government assistance, because they cannot dream of standing on their own. They cannot imagine life without a safety net. It’s too risky. They might not make it on their own. The plane could crash down.

But all that dead weight is, itself, a risk. It is a much greater risk than that of mere individual failure.

If you haven’t already, give Nassiim Nicholas Taleb’s book, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, a try. I found it remarkably insightful about matters of risk.

Equalism is Reductionism

Equalism is reductionism. Kurt Vonnegut knew that when he first penned Harrison Bergeron. Reductionism is the final elimination of standards, the degradation of entertainment, art and culture. These people aren’t rebels, because to rebel there must be an acknowledged authority, someone to rage against. Modernity has excised the Hitlers, the Pol Pots and the Stalins. It has brought down “The Man” and turned him into a joke. Racial slurs are humor in poorly written musical rhymes. Even our villains are like cardboard cutouts of their predecessors, too lazy for genocide, resorting to punching random people in the street. Dropping a crucifix in urine is art. Paintings from the Renaissance are boring. What is next? How can standards sink any lower?

There are no standards anymore. Nobody is fat. They are beautiful. Nobody is stupid or ignorant. They are valuable souls to be cherished, their opinions are sage-like. Nothing is too tasteless, even Larry Flynt would blush at the results of Rule 34 writ large, but who cares about him? 50 is the new 20. What does that make 20? The new 10? Maybe that’s why people celebrate kids who live under their parents’ roof (and insurance) until their late 20s. Celebrity musicians twerk and strip, spewing simple-minded catchy ditties, subsidized by an army of lawyers and bureaucrats staffing the record labels. But don’t worry, they are just expressing themselves. Nobody is poor because of their own bad decisions, it’s always a vague class enemy cited as the reason. There are no bad decisions at all. In fact, there aren’t any decisions. Everybody is the same; it is fated to be so.

Equalism has replaced Communism, Capitalism, Consumerism and the like. And as the crowds line up for Black Friday, remember that they are all the same. The 700lb woman cruising the Wal Mart aisles in a slow moving cart, searching for her $100 TV to place on the mantle of her trailer, is your equal, is the same. But, maybe they have a point. After all, if you looked for the inner beauty in the average American today, you might see something very similar.

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