More smart people saying smart things

Katherine Boo: “Reporting Poverty”

As a reporter, you know the tropes of how stories on poverty work in any country. A reporter will go to an NGO and say, “Tell me about the good work that you’re doing and introduce me to the poor people who represent the kind of help you give.” It serves to streamline the storytelling, but it gives you a lopsided cosmos in which almost every poor person you read about is involved with a NGO helping him. Our understanding of poverty and how people escape from poverty, in any country, is quite distorted.

Matt Yglesias: “Mitt Romney’s Incoherent View of Mothers”

That’s a provocative idea. And indeed it’s part of the idea behind the original pre-reform version of TANF known as AFDC. This idea, representing state-of-the-art 1930s thinking about gender roles held that the state should act as a breadwinner figure for families with dependent children that lacked adequate income. The idea wasn’t that mothers in such families “aren’t working” it’s that they’re doing the job of a mother, which is often conceptualized as “harder” and “a lot more important” than the job of earning wages in the labor market.

Hillary Clinton: “Remarks at Reception Marking Eid ul-Fitr”

When all of us who are people of faith – and I am one – feel the pain of insults, of misunderstanding, of denigration to what we cherish, we must expect ourselves and others not to resort to violence. That is a universal standard and expectation, and it is everyone’s obligation to meet that, so that we make no differences, we expect no less of ourselves than we expect of others. You cannot respond to offensive speech with violence without begetting more violence.

And I so strongly believe that the great religions of the world are stronger than any insults. They have withstood offense for centuries. Refraining from violence, then, is not a sign of weakness in one’s faith; it is absolutely the opposite, a sign that one’s faith is unshakable.

Mark Thoma: “Republicans on Infrastructure: We Won’t Build That”

We cannot afford to fall behind the rest of the world in terms of our infrastructure development, but that’s exactly what we are doing. At a time when interest rates are as low as we are likely to see, when labor and other costs are minimal due to lack of demand during the downturn, and when the need is so high, why aren’t we making a massive investment in infrastructure, which is ultimately an investment in our future? There are many, many public investments we could make where the benefits surely exceed the costs – these are things the private sector won’t do on its own even though they are highly valuable to society – so what are we waiting for?

"Especially when you haven't even brought the kid back, and are just promising not to ..."

And his own received him not
"American Christianity suddenly has a lot more to answer for. Apparently, at least some of ..."

And his own received him not
"As expected. Let's make sure the deception doesn't stick."

And his own received him not
"As I said on the Daily Show video where Trevor is talking about that: You ..."

And his own received him not

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  • AnonaMiss

    That last article would have been a good opportunity to bring up bridges again. It’s been a while since you’ve written about them, and though I understand that there’s not much more you can say, your audience has expanded dramatically.

    The reason I bring this up is that more than once I’ve gotten into an argument with right-libertarians on government spending*, and they argue that we don’t need any more infrastructure, so infrastructure spending would be the same as any other wasteful government spending. has won me all of these arguments so far.

    * I consider myself a moderate libertarian, by the way,  though I’m guessing most libertarians would call me left-libertarian if they acknowledged my presence in their camp at all. I agree with the principles that taxation should be kept to a minimum and regulation should be kept to a minimum; that when possible, the economy should be left to its own devices; and that if given the chance, freeloaders will leech off of the government teat. Where I differ is that I think that taxation is currently below that minimum; that in many industries, regulation is below that minimum; that because of the lack of regulation, the economy needs some government help to stabilize; and that as a general rule, it is the rich, not the poor, that social programs need to be guarded against. Growing up nouveau-riche, I became well-acquainted with those who are well-off, yet still stop by the fields to snatch up any grain a well-meaning sap may have left in the corners for the poor, the widow, and the foreigner.

  • Lori


    more than once I’ve gotten into an argument with right-libertarians on
    government spending*, and they argue that we don’t need any more

    They aren’t even trying to pretend to live in reality any more, are they? We need so much infrastructure it’s scary. Bridges, dams, streets & highways, the electrical grid, internet delivery. All in disrepair and/or out of date. I know the libertarian solution is for private industry to take on the projects and then charge us all out the whazoo for using “their” infrastructure but that idea, terrible as it is, isn’t the same thing as not needing infrastructure at all. 

  • Cathy W

    My relative with Fox Geezer Syndrome insists that the bridges are not actually in as bad shape as would have you believe – the engineers who assessed the bridges overstate the case in order to keep the yummy government funding flowing to themselves and their friends in the construction industry.

    I don’t even know what to say to that.

  • Carstonio

    From the Ygeslias article:

    (Romney) doesn’t say women should go back to the kitchen, stop working, and instead do the much harder and more important job of raising kids full time. But he doesn’t want to spend any money or burden any business with any kind of rules or programs that would push us to a new more egalitarian equilibrium.

    In some ways, that’s worse than if he actually did advocate limiting women to the kitchen and nursery. I don’t know about Romney specifically, but there are plenty of other politicians who I would instantly suspect of passive-aggressiveness on this issue. As in, “Go ahead and work outside the home, but don’t expect any help when you go against your biological destiny.”

    William Saletan goes further than Hillary Clinton:

    You’re living in the age of the Internet. Your religion will be mocked, and the mockery will find its way to you. Get over it.

  • The fact that people like that seem to think everybody around them is 100% selfish 100% of the time makes me wonder if they themselves are indulging such unhealthy impulses by proxy.

  •  A friend of mine nearly had a chunk of overpass crush him in his car when it suddenly collapsed just as he drove under it in rush hour traffic one day. Admittedly, that was twelve years ago. I’m sure that our country not having done much major infrastructure improvements in the intervening years hasn’t made things any worse…

  • Matri

    Ahh, the good ol’ fallback excuse of

    *sticks fingers in ears* La la la la la la la la I can’t hear you la la la la la la la

  • PJ Evans

    I don’t even know what to say to that.

    Ask how many more interstate highway bridges he wants to fall down?
    (One of the bridges they were most concerned about in my area is in the process of being rebuilt – it requires some construction in the middle of a river, which needs to be done before winter.

  • David Nangle

    I can’t help but think that the right wing “charity should be private” thing is all about rewarding the obedient poor, rather than the lazy, shiftless poor.  It’s offensive to them that government sponsored charity is distributed so evenly, and without their filtering.

    Their intended filtering, of course, allows all sorts of fun possibilities for the caring, private charities.  Possibilities like forcing ‘correct’ behavior.  Forcing attendance at the ‘correct’ churches.  Forcing various types of work.  Long-term human breeding projects.  Playing god with their lives.  The possibilities are endless.

    It’s good to win a war!  Especially a class war!