Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things April 21, 2012

Ed @ Gin and Tacos: “Running the Numbers: The Lottery, Part 2

Lotteries are machines designed to extract money from the poor and redistribute it to the middle and upper classes in the form of property tax relief, school funds, and merit-based scholarships. This is the point at which one of our friends on the right reliably steps in to remind us that no one points a gun at the poor and forces them to buy lottery tickets. This is indisputable. It also leaves us with the question of why people willingly participate in something that siphons off income they can scarcely afford to spare in exchange for catastrophically lousy odds of striking it rich. Anyone who is poor, has been poor, has close friends or family who are poor, or works in close contact with the poor understands that long term financial planning and rational money management are not traits the poor possess in great quantity. Accordingly many people simply conclude that the poor are not smart enough to behave in their own rational self interest. This is a common way of reaching our preferred conclusion that the poor have only themselves to blame for their predicament. In reality, of course, the poor know very well that state lotteries are screwing them. That doesn’t stop them because the experience of being poor in the United States is little more than getting screwed repeatedly ad infinitum until all parties are completely desensitized to the act.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: “Racism vs. the Race Card

This sort of thinking is endemic to how the conservative movement thinks about racism. For them it isn’t an actual force, but a rhetorical device for disarming your opponents. So one does not call Robert Weissberg racist and question his ties to National Review because one seeks to stamp out racism, but because one hopes to secure the White House for Democrats. Or some such. Even if you have a record of calling out bigotry voiced by people deemed to be “on your team,” it doesn’t much matter because there’s no real belief in it existing to begin with.

The conservative movement doesn’t understand anti-racism as a value, only as a rhetorical pose. This is how you end up tarring the oldest integrationist group in the country (the NAACP) as racist. The slur has no real moral content to them. It’s all a game of who can embarrass who. If you don’t think racism is an actual force in the country, then you can only understand it’s invocation as a tactic.

… That tradition of viewing racism, not as an actual thing of import, but merely as rhetoric continues today. To abandon that tradition, I suspect, would be cause for an existential crisis.

Katha Pollitt: “Ann Romney, Working Woman?

So there it is: the difference between a stay-home mother and a welfare mother is money and a wedding ring. Unlike any other kind of labor I can think of, domestic labor is productive or not, depending on who performs it.

For a college-educated married woman, it is the most valuable thing she could possibly do, totally off the scale of human endeavor. What is curing malaria compared with raising a couple of Ivy Leaguers? For these women, being supported by a man is good — the one exception to our American creed of self-reliance. Taking paid work, after all, poses all sorts of risks to the kids. (Watch out, though, ladies: if you expect the father of your children to underwrite your homemaking after divorce, you go straight from saint to gold-digger.)

But for a low-income single woman, forgoing a job to raise children is an evasion of responsibility, which is to marry and/or support herself. For her children, staying home sets a bad example, breeding the next generation of criminals and layabouts.

All of which goes to show that it is not really possible to disengage domestic work from its social, gendered context: the work is valuable if the woman is valuable, and what determines her value is whether a man has found her so and how much money he has. That is why discussions of domestic labor and its worth are inextricably bound up with ideas about class, race, respectability, morality and above all womanhood. You can talk all you want about equal parenting; nobody is raising his son from earliest childhood to see as the most important job in the world being a stay-home father dependent on a high-earning wife.

Browse Our Archives