Last week, before the debate, I noted that Democrats were mocking Republicans for trying to explain away Romney’s poor performance in recent polling (while themselves showing a certain lack of reality in their assessment of the economy.) The debate came and Romney routed Obama on the debate stage in a way that exceeded my wildest hopes. Now we see an unprecedented post-debate surge for Romney in the polls, with Gallup and Rasmussen both showing Romney in a tie with Obama and a post-debate Pew poll showing Romney beating Obama by 4% among likely voters, a twelve point swing from Pew polling a month before in which Romney trailed Obama by 8%.
And just to show that the desire to fight the data is bi-partisan, now Democrats are trying to explain away the polls, with Jonathan Chait arguing:
Polls have very low response rates. Sometimes short-term events that dominate the news cycle excite partisans and make them more likely to answer pollsters — it happened when Romney picked Paul Ryan — but they don’t reflect a deep remaking of the public opinion landscape, which remains fairly settled.
Of course, that’s true. Polling is a very uncertain science, and there are lots of unknowns like partisan differences in response rates. Of course, that’s equally true whether your candidate is ahead or behind, but it’s something that people usually only emphasize in the latter case.
Romney certainly doesn’t have the race in the bag. There’s a month to go, and the Democrats will be going for Romney’s metaphorical jugular with everything they’ve got. But there’s enough polling floating around right now to suggest that the candidates are now even or else Romney is ahead. (As I go to hit “post”, I see a PPP poll sponsored by DailyKos and the SEIU is out showing Romney up 2% over Obama among likely voters.) It may not last, but I’m hoping it does and enjoying it while I can.
We’ve reached the point in the election where the press decides to mostly report on how the election is being perceived rather than on any particular events, and since the president is doing well in the polls this results in a lot of “desperate Republicans do foolish things” stories. The flavor of the week seems to be the media’s discovery that somewhere out there in the right-leaning internet, there are people who have made a hobby of “re-weighting” polls in order to reflect what the re-weighters think is a more likely partisan composition of the electorate come election day.
There is, yes, a certain sad desperation about this. Now that election reporting is often more about “the race” than about issues or events, being behind in the race is crippling and so people come up with way to try to explain it away. Those with long memories (eight years counts as long in our modern age) may recall that when Bush was so rude as to be ahead of Kerry in the 2004 race, Michael Moore and those like-minded rolled out a theory that all the polls were wrong because an army of voters who only used cell phones and not land lines (and thus couldn’t be polled) were out there ready to vote against Bush.
However, just as everyone’s getting ready to announce that Republicans, in their constant flight from the “reality based community” have decided they don’t believe in polling, we find out that the left has its own reality problem: They’re convinced that the economy has been getting better over the last couple months, despite the fact there’s little reason to believe this. Gallup and the Pew Research Center both have data out showing that Democrats’ opinions of the economy and the job market have suddenly started improving, despite almost universally bad news over the last several months.
As you can see, partisan affiliation wasn’t much of a dividing factor in assessments of the economy a year ago, but now that a bad economy might mean President Obama not being re-elected, Democrats obediently come to the conclusion that the economy really isn’t that bad. According to Pew, the same divide now exists on the job market, consumer prices, the financial market, real estate, and even gas prices. You would think that at least people could agree on what the level of gas prices is, but no, apparently not, though the gap is narrower there than elsewhere: 89% of Republicans say they hear mostly bad news about gas prices while 65% of Democrats do.
The trope goes that you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. However, as the political divide has become wider and more entrenched opposite sides increasingly do have their own facts, as reality become filtered through a partisan lens.
One of the many divides among modern Catholics is between what we might call the “moralizers” and the “justice seekers”. “Moralizers” are those who emphasize the importance of teaching people moral laws and urging them to abide by them. “Justice seekers” seek to mitigate various social evils (poverty, lack of access to health care, joblessness, etc.) and believe that if only these social evils are reduced, this will encourage people to behave better.
Moralizers tend to criticize the justice seekers by pointing out that following moral laws is apt to alleviate a lot of the social evils that worry the justice seekers, arguing, for example, that if one finishes high school, holds a job and gets married before having children, one is far less likely to be poor than if one violates these norms.
Justice seekers reply that the moralizers are not taking into account all the pressures there work upon the poor and disadvantaged, and argue that it’s much more effective to better people’s condition than to moralize at them (or try to pass laws to restrict their actions) because if only social forces weren’t forcing people to make bad choices, they of course wouldn’t do so.
(I’m more of a moralizer myself, but I think that we moralizers still need to take the justice seeker critique into account in understanding where people are coming from and what they’re capable of.)
One area in which the justice seeker approach seems to come into particular prominence is the discussion of abortion. We often hear politically progressive Catholics argue that the best way to reduce abortions is not to attempt to ban or restrict them, but rather to reduce poverty and make sure that everyone has access to health care. There’s an oft quoted sound bite from Cardinal Basil Hume (Archbishop of Westminster) to this effect:
“If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed, she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?”
You’d think that it was obvious, but I’m suspicious of the idea that having more money or resources makes us better or less selfish people (an idea which strikes me as smacking of a certain spiritual Rousseauian quality that doesn’t take fallen human nature into account) so I thought it would be interesting to see if there’s any data on this.
I was not able to find data on the relationship of abortion to health insurance, but I was able to find data on the relation of abortion to poverty, and it turns out that the Cardinal, and conventional wisdom, are wrong.
It seems like leftist pundits have decided that remarks by Romney at a fundraiser that were secretly taped and distributed by Mother Jones constitute the latest “now Romney has lost the election” moment. In the video, Romney tells supporters that Obama starts out with a huge base of 47-49% of voters who pay no income taxes, are dependent on government, and thus cannot be reached by Romney’s low tax message.
Of course, for those whose memories go back further than the most recent “Romney is finished” moment declared by Andrew Sullivan and Co., the obvious comparison to this is when Obama famously announced back in 2008 that the big difficulty for his campaign was that it was difficult to reach people who are see no evidence of progress in their daily lives and so they become bitter and cling to their guns and their religion.
Both comments spring from a degree of party mythology. It’s not the case that all 47% of people who don’t pay income taxes are Democrat supporters. Because our tax code is so progressive and because of the hefty child tax credit and earned income tax credit (both of which are things Republicans generally support) a lot of middle income families do not pay taxes. That certainly doesn’t make them default Obama supporters. Many of them are in fact die-hard Republicans, because they don’t participate in the modern Democratic Party’s vision of government dependence and social engineering as the solution to their problems.
That said, I think this particular media tizzy is particularly silly, and the pundits declaring Romney to be badly hurt by this are mostly reflecting the beliefs of a bubble in which the GOP is already hated.
Obama’s remarks were, if anything, far more offensive to potential swing voters. He categorized whole sections of the country, demographically, as being given over to bitterness because they hadn’t seen progress and explained that this bitterness came out in their becoming attached to guns, religion, hating minorities and immigrants, etc. There are a lot of small town people who like to hunt and go to church and don’t think of themselves as racist who nonetheless were potential Obama swing voters in 2008.
By contrast, Romney’s analysis may be off (and I don’t think that does him any credit) but it’s really hard for me, at least, to picture someone saying, “Gee, I was really thinking Romney might have some answers on the economy, but now I heard this clip where he says that people who don’t pay taxes and want to be dependent on the government are in the bag for Obama, and I’m proud of the fact that I don’t pay taxes and depend on the government, so forget about him! I’m supporting Obama.”
A lot of people who don’t, on net, pay taxes don’t really think of themselves as not paying taxes. The tax code is complex enough to make it tricky to tell in some ways. (And they pay other taxes even if they don’t pay federal income tax.) Nor do many people who are potential GOP voters think of themselves as dependent on government. If anything, the argument that Obama already has a huge advantage because he’s bribing voters with lots of government handouts seems to fit with Romney’s overall campaign message. Whether that’s a winning message I don’t know (I hope it is) but it’s hard for me to see how this is actually all that damaging.
I’ve been listening to music via Pandora a lot recently (while writing) and the result is that although I’ve been hearing more than my usual share of political ads. (Since I don’t watch television or listen to commercial radio, I’m normally exempt from these despite living in Ohio.)
One thing that particularly struck me is the rampant dishonesty in regards to tax policy that’s going around, in part due to the both party’s bad habit of making tax breaks look more affordable by enacting them only for short terms, thus necessitating frequent renewal.
The first bone of contention is the “Bush tax cuts”. These tax cuts, which affected taxpayers all across the income spectrum, are estimated to have a “cost” of $3.3 Trillion over ten years (this “cost” is the combination of foregone theoretical tax revenues and the cost of servicing the debt resulting from federal spending not going down by a similar $3.3 Trillion.) Democrats like to refer to the “Bush tax cuts” as “tax cuts for the rich” and to quote the full “cost” of $3.3 Trillion as being the cost of those cuts. What this ignores is that two thirds of that $3.3T actually went to what President Obama refers to as the middle class (families making less than $250,000 per year.) So while it’s true that the “Bush tax cuts” had a “cost” of “over three trillion dollars”, the attacks against this ignore the fact that two thirds of that total is “tax cuts for the middle class” which Democrats support.
Just to make it even more confusing, Democrats like to call extending the Bush tax cuts “massive tax cuts for the rich”, despite the fact it is simply an extension of tax rates which have already been in place for some time. Republicans, on the other hand, like to refer the potential expiration of the tax cuts as a “massive tax increase.” This is accurate, to the extent that people would indeed experience their taxes going up, but it ignores the inconvenient fact that Republicans wrote the tax cut in such a way as to expire (in order to avoid having to make hard budget decisions to ‘pay for’ the tax cut.)
As if one set of expiring tax cuts that everyone talks about in different ways were not confusing enough, there’s also the Obama payroll tax cut: a cut of 2% in the payroll tax that pays for Social Security. This was never meant to be a permanent tax cut, but rather a short term economic stimulus. Social Security has financial problems to begin with, it doesn’t help to make a significant cut in its funding. (And that’s ignoring the fiction that the money you put into Social Security is the money you’re get out again.)
However, even though both parties have signaled that they’re essentially willing to let the temporary payroll tax cut expire at the end of this year (though both parties hope to see this done as part of a broader overhaul of taxes suited to their own priorities) that hasn’t stopped some commentators and advertisers from characterizing Republican support for letting the cut expire as “a tax increase on the middle class”.
A number of opinion writers have taken the occasion of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado to express disgust with the fact that the American public shows little inclination towards increased gun control. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who say they “feel that laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict” dropped from 78% to 44% during the period from 1990 to 2010.
Some of the more hyperbolic has claimed this is because the US is seized by a “death cult” or that it “worships violence”, but I think the actual reason is quite rational.
If we look at the percentage of people supporting stricter gun control in relation to the percentage of people who say they own guns (also from Gallup) and the US homicide rate, we see that the homicide rate dropped by 49% from 1990 to 2010 while gun ownership rates have remained fairly flat.
Since people readily perceive that gun ownership remains common, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly since the height of the ’80s and ’90s crime wave, people seem to implicitly believe that restricting gun ownership is not necessary in order to deal with crime.
We can get a somewhat longer term view of this if we look at an older Gallup question which is available in the same study, the percentage of Americans who say they support a ban on civilian handgun ownership. The question has been asked somewhat sporadically by Gallup, so we have only a few data points from the 50s, 60s and 70s, but the pattern is still very interesting.
Gallup first asked the question in 1959 when the murder rate had just gone up from 4.1 in 1955 to 4.9 in 1959. Support for a ban was quite high as 60%. Support for a ban dropped rapidly while crime increased. In 1979 31% of Americans supported banning handguns and the murder rate was 9.8. Support for a handgun ban then rebounded, reaching a recent high of 43% of American in 1991, which was also one of the worst years for violent crime with a murder rate of 9.8. However, violent crime then fell sharply and has continued a gradual decline, and support for banning hand guns has declined along with it with only 29% of Americans supporting such a ban in 2010.
This suggests to me that Americans actually have a pretty reasonable approach to the question. Despite the occasional headline grabbing catastrophe, the current murder rate is down at the same level as the 1950s, despite the availability of Glock handguns and “assault rifles”.
It’s typical of me to be a day late in a 4th of July related post, but given that I’ve been reading through a fair amount of non-US 20th century history lately, I wanted to write about three aspects of my country that are (fairly) exceptional, and for which I am distinctly grateful.
The US has a real history of separation of church and state. Yes, many of the individual colonies had established churches, but the US never did, and even the established churches within the colonies were comparatively small and did not control major portions of the wealth in those colonies. Yes, this means that we Christians in the US have never had the kind of totally integrated experience of religious and secular life that existed in some of the societies of the old world, but it also means that we have been spared the ills that seem necessarily to follow eventually when the church functions as a quasi (or official) government or when it is one of the largest and richest landlords in an area. The more I read of European (and to a great extent Latin American) history, the more it strikes me that we in the US simply have no frame of reference for the levels of anti-clericalism and government hostility to religion which resulted from the breakdowns of these old church-state partnerships.
The US is not defined by cultural or ethnic nationality. When intellectuals warn about “nationalism” in the US, they seem to think that nationalism is a matter of holding parades and thinking your country is a nice place. It’s hard to see how this could be a bad thing, mainly because they aren’t bad things. The nationalism which has been at the root of most 20th (and many 19th) century conflicts is another and wholly darker animal: the belief that a cultural/ethnic group by virtue of its existence deserves to have a country that is distinctively its own. It sounds all very idealistic to say that a people deserves to have its own country, but if a country is defined as belonging particularly to one ethnic or cultural group, the necessary follow-on is that it does not belong to any other. This is why, to cite the most famously intractable conflict, the situation in the Holy Land is so poisonous: because Israel is intended to be a country of and for the Jews, while the Palestinian Arabs desire a country occupying the same space that is of and for the Arabs. Neither group can have what they want so long as the other group exists in the same area. The United States, by contrast, while it is vaguely a member of the Anglosphere, is as Chesterton put it “the only nation in the world founded on a creed.” Because is the American idea which is considered central to America, despite all too much prejudice directed against whatever is the most recent wave of immigrants, not to mention the even more shameful history of slavery in the US, the country has remained notably free of the kind of nationalism which has made ethnic cleansing a nation building tool through much of the world.
The US has a noble history of a non-political military. For this we simply cannot give enough thanks to General Washington, a man so universally revered for his service in the Revolutionary War that he could very easily have made himself President For Life, and set the US on the road which is standard for virtually all countries which have their origins in revolutionary wars. Washington truly followed in the ideal of the Roman hero Cincinnatus, fighting for and ruling his country, and then stepping aside. 236 years into the American experiment, the idea of generals seizing control of the country and replacing the government is virtually unimaginable, and yet for many countries this has happened multiple times just in the last 100 years.
As the US continues it’s “national conversation” on same sex marriage, it’s fairly standard for someone to suggest that it’s time for the state to get out of the marriage business and have marriage be a strictly religious/personal arrangement. This seems like a fairly neat way to sidestep the issue of having to reach a state consensus on what marriage is, with the inevitable one-side-tramples-the-other problem that suggests. However, I’d like to suggest that it’s an impractical and illusory solution.
To start with, I think we need to look at why the state is involved in marriage in the first place. I’d suggest that the reason has little to do with managing morals or family values, it has to do with the essential function of government: being an arbiter in disputes, primarily about property. In this regard the state ends up needing to define marriage and know who is married in order to answer two questions: who owns what and whose kids are whose.
Say two people have been spending a lot of time together for the last five years. Now they’ve had an argument and want to not see each other again, but one of them claims that some things in the possession of the other are actually his. Are they? The state gets pulled into these questions because its job is to arbitrate disputes rather than leaving people to solve them the old fashioned way (which was by raising themselves up on their hind legs and bashing each over the head with flint axes.) Continue reading
So, you think you’re a calm and balanced guy, and you read all these news stories about how the nuns are just “stunned” that Rome would investigate them. I mean, “stunned“. How could the mean old Vatican investigate nuns?
Well, Thomas L. McDonald of God and the Machine gives us a little bit of an idea. He takes a look at the upcoming LCWR Assembly 2012 (to be held in August), and notes the keynote topic: “Mystery Unfolding: Leading in the Evolutionary Now” which will be delivered by Barbara Marx Hubbard. He takes a look at Barbara Marx Hubbard’s site and finds the following:
It has become obvious that a creative minority of humanity is undergoing a profound inner mutation or transformation. Evolutionary ideas are not only serving to make sense of this change, but also acting to catalyze the potential within us to transform. (Thought creates; specific thought creates specifically.)
It is the planetary crisis into which we were born that is awakening our sleeping potential for transformation. Planet Earth has given birth to a species capable of choosing whether to consciously evolve ourselves and our social forms, or to continue the course we have set toward our own extinction. And the choice is clear.
All great spiritual paths lead us to this threshold of our own consciousness, but none can guide us across the great divide — from the creature human to the cocreative human. None can guide us in managing the vast new powers given us by science and technology. None of us have been there yet.
What we can envision
The enriched noosphere, the thinking layer of Earth, is now replete with evolutionary technologies that can transform the material world. Within the next 30 to 50 years, we could transform our physical bodies, our minds, our social structures, and set in motion the emergence of a new civilization.
If you think you’ve found the key to a better life, the most natural thing in the world is to want to rush out and convince everyone else to do likewise. We want to shout from the rooftops, “Hey! Better life to be found here! You can too!” As someone who finds significant meaning and happiness in the Catholic understanding of sexuality and prohibition of contraception, this view (and the approach to natural family planning that springs from it) is indeed something that I think other need to hear — but as a result it’s doubly frustrating when it seems like it’s being “sold” wrong.
This is why my teeth went a little on edge when I ran into what ought to have been a very encouraging article to see in the Washington Post detailing the efforts of young and faithful Catholic women to re-explain the Church’s teachings on contraception to the modern world. Here’s the section that threw me off:
Yet the images the church uses to promote its own method of birth control freaked her out. Pamphlets for what the church calls natural family planning feature photos of babies galore. A church-sponsored class on the method uses a book with a woman on the cover, smiling as she balances a grocery bag on one hip, a baby on the other.
“My guess is 99 out of 100 21st-century women trying to navigate the decision about contraception would see that cover and run for the hills,” McGuire wrote in a post on her blog, Altcatholicah, which is aimed at Catholic women.
McGuire, 26, of Alexandria is part of a movement of younger, religiously conservative Catholic women who are trying to rebrand an often-ignored church teaching: its ban on birth control methods such as the Pill. Arguing that church theology has been poorly explained and encouraged, they want to shift the image of a traditional Catholic woman from one at home with children to one with a great, communicative sex life, a chemical-free body and babies only when the parents think the time is right.
Now, before I go any further, let me say that my limited experience of dealing with interviews is that what you say and the way you come off in the article are often very, very different. So I don’t want to suggest that McGuire was misrepresenting NFP. It may well be that the WaPo writer talked to her for a long time, wrote up the article in good faith, yet ended up infusing it with an attitude that’s just — off. (And indeed, I see that Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary (quoted elsewhere in the article) feels like what came across in the article is not exactly what she was trying to convey.)
That said, I think the message that the article conveys is problematic in that it simply doesn’t reflect all that accurately what it’s like using NFP, and when your advertising message doesn’t fit the reality of your “product”, user dissatisfaction is sure to follow. Emily Stimpson covers this well in a post titled Truth in Adverstising: Continue reading
There’s something about the magnitude and timing of the sinking of the Titanic that makes it almost irresistible for people to turn it into a sort of fable. The sinking of the “unsinkable” ship, the largest ship of its kind built up to that time, seems like a perfect example of hubris, and the fact that the wreck occurred just two years before the outbreak of the Great War (which perhaps more than any event defines the beginning of “Modern Times”) allows the Titanic to serve as a symbol of all that was bad and good about the world before the world before the War.
One of the things that most people are pretty sure they know about the sinking of the Titanic is that many of the first class passengers survived while those traveling third class were kept below decks and perished in far greater numbers. This fits well with the image of rigid class stratification in the pre-War years.
It is certainly true that a much greater percentage of third class passengers died in the sinking than first and second class passengers, however, the images popularized by James Cameron’s movie of third class passengers being locked below decks by the viciously classist crew appear to be fiction. The question of whether third class passengers were actively kept from the lifeboats was examined during Lord Mersey’s official investigation of the wreck and his conclusions were as follows: Continue reading
In Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel Childhood’s End the aliens invade, and they mean us nothing but good. A space race between the US and USSR is about to lead to war in space when giant alien space ships settle over all of Earth’s principle cities, and an alien race, who refuse to show themselves and communicate only through the head of the UN, announce that they are taking over responsibility for enforcing peace on the planet. These aliens (called the Overlords) generally take a hands-off approach to humanity, saying they will reveal themselves in 50 years when humans are ready to see them, but in the mean time they provide two inventions: a 100% effective oral contraceptive, and a 100% accurate paternity test.
The result is that over the next 50 years, while peace and prosperity reigns due to the guiding hand of the Overlords, marriage, traditional morality and organized religion all vanish.
Of course, Clarke actually thought this was a good thing, and the rest of the novel is about humanity moving onto the next stage of evolutionary development: as a non-material group mind. But in a sense, that’s the really interesting thing, that as someone who saw traditional marriage, morality and religion as a problem back in 1953, Clarke say the two inventions most likely to get rid of all three as being completely reliable contraception and paternity testing.
Coming at things from a Catholic point of view, G.E.M. Anscombe saw the same trends, now well advanced, in relation to contraception, morality and marriage in her 1972 essay “Contraception and Chastity”. Some key bits: Continue reading
Last night found me trying to decide who to vote for in the Ohio primary, and so disillusioned with the options that not voting almost seemed tempting. Not exactly an auspicious start for my first time ever voting in a presidential primary that was still competitive. (In prior elections I had voted in Texas or California, neither a battleground state in recent primaries.)
In general, I think that Romney is likely to be most electable, but he’s been less reassuring in recent weeks — and given that the only thing I liked about his was his apparent competence that was nor reassuring.
I’d found myself quietly cheering Santorum’s victories, but not so much because I think he’s a good candidate (I think he lacks the instinct for when not to discuss a topic that only hurts him or sets him up to be mis-interpreted — a very dangerous lack in a social conservative) as because he is the candidate to which the social conservatives have gravitated and I like social conservatives.
Given my utter lack of enthusiasm for both candidates, I ended up letting that decide the matter and pull the lever (or rather, touched the screen) for Santorum. I don’t think he has much of a path to winning, and I’m not sure he’d be a better candidate than Romney, but lacking any other means to decide I wanted to throw my vote where it would strengthen the social conservative faction of the GOP when it comes to picking a VP and making other campaign decisions. And with the economy, for the moment, appearing to have bottomed too early (though I wouldn’t put it past Europe to pull us into a swirl down the drain come fall) and social issues currently taking the fore, I want the social conservative ing of the party to be as strong as possible going.
[cross posted from the DarwinCatholic blog]
Sin has the tendency to inspire sin. The abused becomes the abuser, the person who believes himself oppressed begins to take on all the least likeable characteristics of his oppressor.
This has always been struck me with particular force when I’ve stumbled across the writings of the “manosphere”, a region of the internets in which men wail about how in the post-feminist age women are all money hungry cheaters with inflated senses of entitlement. The solution to this is, allegedly, to use to the rules of “game” to dominate women by proving the practitioners to be “alpha males”. A highly technical process with all rigor of a pseudoscience behind it (perhaps some enterprising gamester can introduce the taking women’s head measurements into the process) practitioners council each other on how to deliver “negs” (negative compliments) which will cut women down to size by informing them of their SMV (sexual market value). Then once the women feels like she needs to pursue since she isn’t being pursued, she melts when given “kino escalation” (he touches her).
You get the idea. I always get the sense of a couple rather mangy looking lions hanging around outside the pride talking about how they’re really more alpha than the lion who actually has all the mates and cubs. For all the acronyms and specialized terminology, you can tell that these boys’ manes are more than half weave.
As with most wrongheaded worldviews, there are some insights buried in there. The Sex-in-the-City feminist manifesto “from now on, we’re going to have sex like men” (which in feminist speak apparently means without thought or commitment) is most certainly something which has managed to make a lot of women (and men) unhappy — potentially for life. Once having correctly diagnosed this as seriously messed up, however, the manosphere solution appears to be that men should retaliate by turning into a bunch of whiny Carrie Bradshaws themselves. A group of guys supposedly outraged by the fact that many modern women demand special treatment and aren’t interested in marriage spend their time whining about how mean girls are and generally advocating an approach to dealing with women that seems guaranteed to make them singularly unattractive marriage material.
I’d been fooling around with Census data a bit over the last week. Here’s an interesting chart using Census Table P-36. Full-Time, Year-Round All Workers by Median Income and Sex: 1955 to 2010
Median income for full-time working men first hit 50,000 (in inflation adjusted 2010 dollars) in 1973, and it has been essentially flat ever since (breaking 50k for the second time in 2010.) However, the median income of full-time working women has gone up 35% since 1973. The percentage of full time workers who are women has also increased gradually throughout that time, from 30% in 1973 to 43% in 2010. (In absolute numbers, obviously both the number of male and female full time workers has increased significantly during the same period.)
Mary at the blog Young and Catholic has a good post up responding to a reader question about Church teaching on contraception versus NFP. Her handling of the NFP issue is great, but I was struck by the framing of her reader’s question, because it struck me as getting at a common impression one can get from being around conservative Catholic circles. Her reader writes:
I’m an 18 year old female college student, and I have just gotten back in touch with Catholicism…
…I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting back into my faith, but there is something that REALLY continues to rub me wrong. I’ve prayed and prayed about it, but I am not getting any answer. I’ve researched it, but just hear the same things over and over and it just doesn’t sit right with me, and that is the issue of contraception. I’ve read humanae vitae, I’ve researched “natural family planning”, and it all still leaves me completely unsatisfied still. I see where the Church is coming from on this issue, however, I feel that God has called me to do something else with my future besides staying at home with my “loving” husband and having a billion children…And then I went to the church and asked my female minister about it. The gist was this: If you have the financial capability, happiness, and wealth, your job is basically to be popping out children.
This just honestly does not sit right with me…Some women love being mothers, and being a mother is certainly an honorable duty, but I don’t think I’m cut out for it. I’m very ambitious and have goals of working for the Department of Defense, not sacrificing all my happiness because the Church says I should.
She goes on to ask about why the Church teaches against artificial birth control, and as I say, Mary’s answer is great. However, I think the other thing worth touching on is the impression people sometimes get that from a Catholic point of view you should either be in the religious life or else you should be married and having lots of kids. Continue reading
Every so often one hears about people doing the “food stamp diet” in order to see what it’s like to be poor in America. The idea is to subsist for some period of time (often a week) on the amount typically given to members of the “food stamp” program. Here’s one example, prepared by the Food Research and Action Center back in 2007. That one challenges you to live on $21/week. Here’s an annual challenge run by the San Francisco Food Bank. There the amount is $33.04 per person per week.
These amounts vary not only due to region and inflation over time (food inflation has actually been pretty high over the last five years, grocery store prices are up 6% from last year) but also because these are different attempts to model how the food stamp program works. Food stamp benefits are based on the idea of supplementing a family’s income so that the family can (according to the program’s rationale) afford to consume the amount of food budgeted according to the “thrifty plan” from the USDA “cost of food at home” guidelines. Of course, since food stamps can’t be used for anything other than approved food items, and they’re given to people who are already very short of money, the effective result is that people are often trying to get all their food off just the food stamp amount, even if the program is assuming it’s only a supplement.
What got me thinking about the topic is that I saw one of these “hunger challenges” linked to some time ago, via some Catholic organization which was encouraging people to take part “in solidarity with the poor”. I saw the amount mentioned in the San Francisco challenge of $33 per person per week and thought, “Wait a minute, for our family of seven that would be $231. That’s more than we spend per week on food, and we’re around the top 20% line in family income.” In normal times, we were spending around $200/wk on food. Since we’ve been on a tight budget paying off the boiler, we’ve managed to get that down to $100-$150 depending on the week (including household cleaners, diapers, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.)
So, is being on food stamps really cushy? Are these challenges just designed wrong? Being a chronic number cruncher, I had to get into it a bit. Continue reading