The Widdershins

Goose meet gander…

Posted on: May 12, 2015

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  How many times have you heard that tired old saw?  Surprisingly, there is a good bit of truth in that statement especially if the goose is a poor child and the gander is a rich child. Who knew?Seesaw

Through the study of some 5 million families a truth has emerged from the mountain of data.  Some of the findings are not earth-shattering pearls of wisdom.   Cities like Baltimore, Detroit, Orlando, and Chicago are inherently problematic for a poor child to have any hope of upward social mobility.  These cities are highly segregated and unequal.  They have a higher crime rate and worse schools.  They are also more likely than not to have a lot of single-parent families.

Courtesy of this study, we now know that poor children have better odds if they moved to places with more economic mobility like Fairfax County, Virginia, Bergen County, N.J., Seattle, Cedar County, Iowa, or any number of other communities.

So what’s the big deal?  What is the learning from this study?

The learning is that rich kids, with all the built-in advantages of economic freedom and stability, also fare better when they live in these very same communities as compared to just average communities.  In other words, whether you are a poor or a rich child, you benefit in your adult years from living in a community where economic mobility is embraced.

Bigger ladderAgain, not that earth-shattering – not until you consider the fear that permeates any effort to positively leverage social mobility.  That fear:  Any increase in economic mobility comes at the expense of those who already enjoy it.  Simply put, doing good things for some means equal or greater bad things for others.  It’s this fear that has stymied progress on health care, food stamps, child care, or crumbling roads and bridges for the past thirty-years.  The damage from this fear continues to this day.  It is at the heart of “I got mine, sorry about your luck.”

The code words for this fear in all things economic are “zero-sum gains” – meaning if we put struggling, poor children in classrooms with rich children, the rich kids will be worse off and suffer.  We worry if we contaminate “nice” neighborhoods with the occasional poor family, the nice neighborhood won’t be nice any more.

I’ve written about this often since, in my opinion, this is the greatest obstacle to anti-poverty programs.  You can see this fear playing out – cut food stamps before they affect social security, we can’t afford Obamacare because it might affect Medicare, or we can’t repair our deteriorating bridges and roads because it might mean closing some sacrosanct corporate tax loophole.

Anti-poverty programs to the poor are the anemic twenty-third cousin to the perpetual generational endowment of the one-percenters.  Without some positive governmental influence through boot-strapping, what hope is there for the neighborhoods of the generational poor and their children?  For most of these communities, hope is as rare a commodity as fresh produce at the corner market.

Helping poor kids won’t harm rich kids.  Helping poor sick people get medical care won’t impact Medicare recipients.  The jobs created from repairing our infrastructure pay for themselves.  If, and only if, we overcome the zero-sum fear underpinning bogus economic slogans perpetuated by the conservative media’s echo chamber.Social mobility ladder

Remarkably, instead of matching action with the mantra of “a rising tide raises all ships,” conservative energies always seem to be solely focused upon elevating the pier just beyond reach.

If we step back and think about it, the only legitimate zero-sum fear is one that extinguishes hope.  Poor kids and rich kids need essentially the same thing to insure their success.  Instead of cities withering in inequality, future generations need communities embracing institutions promoting social and economic mobility.  Now we have a study proving it.

I hope your Tuesday is a good one.  Any direction you might want to take this conversation is, as always, encouraged.



43 Responses to "Goose meet gander…"

I’ll be back later to read your post, prolix. I just wanted to share this before I go.

I have read a number of interesting articles that state that a child’s success rate can be measured directly to their zip code.

Wow, GAGal! How about that?

Fantastic post, Prolix. All I can say is that fear turns off critical thinking, which is why conservatives embrace it as a tactic. Historically, investing in the poor to improve their social mobility has been much more economically stimulating than investing in the rich. But if you’re too terrified to look at the charts comparing food stamps to tax cuts, well…

That fear: Any increase in economic mobility comes at the expense of those who already enjoy it. Simply put, doing good things for some means equal or greater bad things for others.

In other words, there’s only so much ‘stuff” in that pot and if I have to share, I have less.

So sad that this is a prevailing opinion in so many instances and circumstances.

As someone who grew up in poverty, raised by a single mother back in the 1960’s, I would like to add that poor children usually lack the social connections that help wealthier children to get ahead in the world. Providing basic needs like food, shelter, health care, and education is of course essential but “who you know” is also important. Look around and see how the wealthy help each other though family ties, friendships, and organizations. The so-called “old boys’ network” is but one example. When a middle or upper class young person is just starting out in life, how many times does a recommendation to a good college or a well-paying job lead come from someone who knows the family? It happens a lot. Poor children could profit greatly if they are mentored by successful people or groups that can help them get a leg up in life. Even outside the inner cities, providing basic needs is seldom enough to make it out of poverty these days. Neither is the 19th century Horatio Alger “all it takes is hard work” myth so beloved by the right-wing.

@1: Unfortunately, today’s Senate vote was just the first round of the match. The fight’s not over yet. I’d bet on it, if I were a betting woman.

@2, absolutely right Chat, zip code is a major correlation to success. Another related one is transportation. If you are in a poor neighborhood with no car and no adequate public transportation, most likely you will live and die in that neighborhood.

@3, in the Equality of Opportunity study, there are all types of charts and graphs. One of the most telling is if you are moved to a more socially mobile neighborhood at about 8 or 9 years old, you have a 60% chance of success. That’s amazing.

@5, couldn’t agree more. What is amazing to me is that the old Horatio adage might be espoused, but I don’t think it is any longer the real basis of any thought among the conservodroids. I truly believe the “I got mine, sorry about your luck” is where the party is, at least for a good third of their most active voters.

@1 and 6,absolutely right, it’s not over. You can bet the corporate side won’t let it die — the issue will be with us for the rest of the summer or at least until the critters go home in August.

@5 – well-said, Beata. The right connections are critical to success. That’s one reason why upper class families insist on sending their children to the “right” schools. Academics are not the only important factor.

@7: That is so true about transportation. We never had a car when I was growing up. There was no city bus in our town back then. Public transportation consisted of expensive ( for us ) taxi rides that my mother only used when one of us children had to go to the doctor and we were too sick to walk. Otherwise we walked everywhere. My mother never owned a car. She walked to work and to the store ( when I was 5 or 6, I started going with her so I could carry at least one of the grocery bags ). How we were going to get somewhere we needed to go was constant worry for my mother. We only went to places we could walk to. No further. Our physical world had boundaries, limits that wealthier people did not have. Years later, in the nursing home, she still worried, always, about transportation even though by then her Medicaid paid for outside trips to the doctor. She would ask me when I went with her in the Medicaid wheelchair van, “Beata, how will we pay for this? I only have a dollar hidden in my room.”

It breaks my heart to think about it.

@12, as difficult as it is, thank you for sharing that. I can spout studies and corollaries, but there is nothing quite so strong and convincing as first person testimony.

Beata, speaking of public transportation, the hipsters have begun a service in San Francisco for those who can afford a “better ride” than the public transportation system. Leap has “attendants” on their buses, plus wi-fi (rolling eyes) whereas the plain old public buses didn’t. You can bet that when it comes time for funding for the public transportation system, these will be the folks who will vote against it.

When I was a kid, New Orleans had a great public transportation system. My mom and I could walk a short distance to a bus and then get a transfer we would use to get on the Canal street streetcar, and then the same thing going back. It was still a pretty good system going into Katrina. Since then, the transportation authority has been “reviewing” ridership on some routes and is looking at either cutting back on those routes or discontinuing them. Naturally those routes are in the poorer areas and have a good number of folks who work in the service industry, i.e. tourism. I won’t be surprised if something like Leap starts up there.

Amazing post, Prolix. We need to be reminded of these truths often. i really enjoyed reading that, although it made me angry at the same time! Why do the 1% always manage to keep the status quo? Do these people have no hearts at all?

Great comments, Beata!

You know…there are just those times when you sometimes do want to chuckle at someone’s misfortunes.

And here is the original Gawker article.

Fredster, omg, did you see the comments to this idiot on his gofundme page? Brutal…but hard to feel sorry for him.

annie@17: You know…I just didn’t want to go there. I wasn’t going to donate to him, hell I have to pay for mine each month. 👿 And, during the entire roll out of the program (and no ACA is not the best – we should have had single payer) that’s a perfect example of what they pointed out. However, I guess I’ll go give it a look-see. 😉 Oh and what got me was the wife says he should go to the front of the line. NOT!

@annie: Oh did you see this part from the Gawker article:

“There’s a lot of talk about personal responsibility in health care reform,” the Observer observes, “so it’s probably fair to note that Lang is a smoker who has, by his own account, been inconsistent in his efforts to control his diabetes.”

{{{Beata}}} Thank you for sharing that with us. Perhaps clean, safe public transportation is one of the reasons why the New York area has good social mobility. I know you don’t need a car in Manhattan or most areas of the surrounding boroughs, and you can get almost anywhere for $2.75, which includes one free transfer between trains and/or buses. When I moved to Manhattan as a grad student in 1989, the fare was 25¢.

And Fredster, that article was really something. They slammed Obama for adopting the conservative philosophy on signing up for healthcare, too.

That “Leap” thing is limousine liberalism in action. Just revolting.

Great post, prolix. It makes you sad and mad at the same time.

We were poor when I was young. If not for my grandparent’s farm and gardens we would have been on food stamps. Things were better when I was in high school. In Government class I sat next to a guy who was very, very poor. One day the discussion was about food stamps and welfare. There was a rich kid jerk in front of him who made a nasty remark about it and then turned and looked right at the poor guy. I went off on him. You should have seen the look on his face. I don’t know where the poor guy is today, but I do know where the jerk is. In jail for fraudulent banking practices. HAHAHA!

This is funny. A 19 yo college student lets Jeb know who is really responsible for ISIS:

Poor Jeb has not done well this week when it comes to Iraq stuff.

Jeb: Just go on back to whatever it was you were doing before you decided to start this impossible run for President. You’re just digging the hole deeper each time you open your mouth.

Arrrgggghhhh! I just went to check the gofundme page for that jerk in South Carolina and he’s already gotten over $15k of his requested $30k!! And look what he had the nerve to post as an update:

I am a honest person and I have to give a big thumbs up to the liberal side. Even though you have crucified me in your comments but you spoke with your heart with the donations. I respect everybody opinion whether I agree with you or not. That is why we live in the U.S.A. home of the free and free speech. As far as the conservative side I wish they would step up to the plate and do there part. Again thank you all and i will be posting updates with my condition.

Oh! And here’s the house he and his wife live in!

Oh, brother. Why doesn’t he take out a 2nd on his fancy house? Typical hypocrite conservative. Did you notice the first comment where the poster said he wanted to contribute, but couldn’t find a way to get gofundme to accept bootstraps? LOL.

@24: And all this time I thought Jeb-boy was supposed to be the smart one!

@25: Perhaps someone should point out that liberals step up for people that need help, because we care about people – even the ones with whom we disagree.

annie@26: A 2nd my @ss! He may not be able to work again although Gawd only knows how much he did “under the table” since he said he was a handyman. The articles have said his wife didn’t work so if she’s able, then let her go to work. If her job doesn’t have insurance then that would be one of the “life-changing events” covered and they could sign up for O-care then. If all else fails, sell that lovely house.

chat@28: He said As far as the conservative side I wish they would step up to the plate

That shows how clueless he is. The conservatives aren’t gonna give you any cash bud; that’s part of their philosophy. If he hasn’t figured that out yet, shame on him.

I put in a comment that said I’d like to help but that I had just done my donation to Hillary and also had to pay my O-care premium for the month. 🙂

chat@28: Isn’t it pathetic that he hasn’t figured that part out yet about liberals?


Did you notice the gofundme guy made his living maintaining foreclosed properties for banks and the federal government? We were already paying part of his wage. I think the reason conservatives aren’t chipping in is because he didn’t say “God” over and over.

This is one of the comments from the gofundme:

“Jeffrey Hard 358358 2 days ago
Every one of your donors identifies as liberal. Your conservative right-wing friends gave $800,000 to an homophobic pizza place, but not one dime for you. Think about that.”

A lot of the comments are just funny or snarky, but there are lots of people who donated saying they are liberals and some that remark how having the ACA paid for some surgery that they needed and how grateful they are for the ACA, and they hope he thinks about that. The guy is up to almost 18 grand. Hopefully, this will turn out to be a life changing lesson for a lot of people.

#33, wow! did not notice that.

Here’s a man who truly deserves to be helped. He’s an 81-year-old veteran suffering from cancer who called 911 because he had no food and no one to help him:

Yeah, if that guy who is going blind had pretended he was a PAC for an anti-abortion campaign, he’d have a lot more money from his conservative friends.

He won’t get a dime from me. I applaud those forgiving souls who gave him money, though. Liberal also means generous. 😊

Beata@36: That’s awful. You would think that when he was being discharged it would have crossed someone’s mind that the man had no one to assist him at home.

That’s why we have case managers and social workers. This is an epic fail.

Gagal: Good point about the Gawd thing.

And don’t forget this part too: He’s also diabetic and admits he’s been “inconsistent” about managing his disease.

@chat: That’s what I wondered about also. When the momster was being discharged from the hospital even when going back to that n.h. there was always a social worker or someone coming in and going over the stuff that would be done.

Heh. With the gofundme guy admittedly being “inconsistent” with his diabetes, and also being a conservative, maybe he was trying Mike Huckabee’s diabetes “cure”.

@37, agree completely.

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