Theoretically, I’m not complaining. I get paid quite well by my employer and my bookstore is trudging toward consistent profitability at a rate which is keeping the wolves away from the door and my wife happy, so gaining income from the blog is hardly in the top 10 priorities in my life – It’s certainly not why I started the blog.
However, what makes me sick is that some people get paid to write complete nonsense. Let’s be clear that what I write may be complete nonsense, but it doesn’t cost anybody (except Blogger, I guess) anything for me to write it.
Take, for example, the state communist party organ known as the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (ADG). If you live in Arkansas, you can expect that it will be loaded very unabashedly to the left on almost every issue – with the occasional bone thrown to the right by local guys like Hatchet (our local managing editor) or Bradley Gitz. However, Paul Greenberg, in spite of his apparent erudition, consistently allows the front page of the "Perspectives" section of Sunday’s paper to be littered with complete pap.
Let me give you an example. This week, we were treated to the latest piece of rabble-rousing from Jim Wallis, author of God’s politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, and editor of Sojourners magazine. Those of you not familiar with Wallis should read his current book for context.
Wallis’ Sunday essay is "special to the Democrat Gazzette", and its title is "What the floodwaters have revealed". It is apparently not as special as one might like to think as you can also find it here. One of the things stunning about this article is that is doesn’t even try to be fair to anyone – not even the people for whom it is allegedly advocating.
Here’s the real centerpiece of his argument:
Katrina has revealed what was already there in America; an invisible and mostly silent poverty that we have chosen not to talk about, let alone to take responsibility for in the richest nation on earth. This week, we all saw it; and so did the rest of the world. And it made Americans feel both compassionate and ashamed. Many political leaders and commentators, across the ideological spectrum, have acknowledged the national tragedy, not just of the horrendous storm, but of the realities the flood waters have exposed. And some have suggested that if the aftermath of Katrina finally leads the nation to demand solutions to the poverty of upwards of a third of its citizens then something good might come from this terrible disaster."the poverty of upwards of a third of its citizens"? I think the amazing thing here is that this was printed without any fact-checking evident.
First let’s jump to this table, which tracks Number of Families Below the Poverty Level and Poverty Rate: 1959 to 2004. It’s an interesting table because it shows us something Mr. Wallis seems to be oblivious to: the poverty rate in the US over the last 45 years has been in a downward spiral. Yes, the number of families in poverty has fluctuated to some degree, but it turns out that the population growth of the US has outpaced the spread of poverty on-net.
So the ADG let Wallis slide on that one – maybe somebody forgot that the census bureau has these statistics on-line and available for free. A far more interesting set of data can be found in this PDF file from the census bureau. If you have an afternoon and nothing to do, I strongly suggest that you read through this document to clear your economic head – because it demonstrates something that Wallis and his ilk would never consider: the population of the United States is not permanently stratified along economic lines. In fact, we are a highly volatile people, economically speaking, with nearly as many people over the last 5 years moving up two income quintiles as there were families moving down two quintiles.
But, of course, that is also overlooked by Wallis and the ADG – in favor of some really cool color maps demonstrating, allegedly, that only black people were poor in New Orleans. Sadly, even that assertion doesn’t hold any water (so to speak) because the maps demonstrate something very strange: many predominantly-white neighborhoods (like the one between City Park and Lake Pontchartrain) are apparent in hard poverty, and many black neighborhoods (like much of Orleans Parish on Lake Pontchartrain) are in the middle class.
What is almost impossible to overlook, however, is the article on the same front page as Mr. Wallis’ screed for government to "do something" about poverty: David Wood and Chuck McCutcheon make a case that "Washington has trouble making plans". Let’s think about this for a second: if Washington can’t make plans which execute a practical means of moving people from point "A" to point "B", or perhaps they cannot move "stuff" that people need from point "B" to point "A" effectively, how exactly is Washington supposed to "do something" about a much more slippery problem – which is, poverty?
Maybe we could end poverty by handing out laptops in these depressed areas and letting the people there write feature editorials for syndication. Clearly, they wouldn’t need anything but a contract to get their work published – not even a grasp of fact.