Money does matter

I don’t think poor people shouldn’t have kids, but I talk about a high household income earned mostly by Dad because money does matter in a world where people are always running away from their duties and obligations to people outside their immediate nuclear family.  Obviously yes, even in America you can totally raise six kids to adulthood on 20 thousand bucks a year.  But the big conservative lie around this is that it’s a middle class upbringing.

Further, refusal to accept that individualistic, disconnected society really does have high financial costs attached keeps a lot of families dancing without a net over a ravine.

Take the often promoted “telecommute in the boonies!” plan.  Well, where’s the internet to do that?  In most of rural America outside of city limits, high-speed, telecommuting-friendly internet is several hundred dollars a month, not fifty.  In practice, people “telecommuting” this way are either defining “suburb with large backyards” as “rural” or they are commuting the old fashioned way.

And if you live rurally, it is easier to let the kids scamper around while mom stays home with no other adults nearby doing stuff around the house.  But eventually the kids need to go places, and now mom is on the commute-train too.  Even the very rural homeschool types can’t actually sit at home all day every day and never leave until the youngest of nine is 18.

Having no money, and no ability to earn a large income leave the entire household vulnerable all the time.  Dad’s car breaks.  It’s a fix requiring shop access (car lift).  Those kinds of homes exist in rural areas, but they’re not the cheap ones you could afford because “how dare you suggest we not have mom stay home when dad’s earning capacity maxes out at 40k a year!”  A lot of people get forced into really tough positions a lot faster.  It can get really ugly really unexpectedly.

Like romanticizing herb lore because you can’t afford doctor visits for chronic ailments.  Or buying the kids off with cheap filling food because you aren’t really rural, but exurban and there’s nowhere safe for them to play (busy streets, no way to walk to the nearest open play area, and you’re a one-car household).

Money would matter less if everyone was aggressive about using the interwebs to maintain clannish-style community ties to keep people matched up if they were far-flung.  Or if living twenty to a 2000 square foot house was normal mode in America right now.

From both the comments and Shirley Jackson, homes used to be built with very small sleeping areas and larger shared spaces.  Shirley Jackson’s family moved into a home not much bigger than the 2500 square feet places of now, but it was split into four completely separate apartments, with very tiny sleeping areas, almost no built-in closet space and bigger social and cooking areas.  But large homes aren’t built or even modified this way anymore.

Money also wouldn’t matter if people accepted that leaving everything in the hands of one woman on the baby having and raising front will lead to fewer children if she’s really struggling and even if she personally isn’t because it always has and it’s even more the case with reliable contraception and sterilization and delaying marriage for those who take the other two options off the table.

This one’s pretty open for discussion.

Whatever happened to respectable poverty?

One of the weirdnesses of American conservative life is the way in which everyone tries to label themselves middle class or even upper middle class no matter how low their actual station and income.  Conservatives, even the very devout Christian sort, really do seem to buy into the “temporarily embarrassed millionaire” self-image.  So the idea that poverty is sometimes a thing that can happen even to people who work hard and live clean is lost, even though as recently as the 1970s in America it was still a whisper here and there (mostly of course in the context of black Americans, but not exclusively).  Living among the poor sincerely and functionally, not on a temporary basis where you go back to your high-income zip code a year later (there are easily half a dozen pastors I can think of who have done that kind of thing and dozens of non-pastors who think it’s “missional living” to do it for a few months), is something worth more than getting into a good school district via scrimping.

Americans have always recoiled from respectable poverty and only grudgingly accepted its existence, but in post-America, it’s worth remembering that poverty is always going to be with us until the Lord returns, so having it be respectable is better than having it be unrespectable.

This is the very model of a bagatelle.

(Proper) Catechesis is love

What it says on the tin.

Proper catechesis is missing from most Christian practice, and it’s one of the reasons well-off Western Christians seem so hypocritical and awful to non-Christians looking in.  There are many ways to properly catechize people smart and stupid alike, but mostly they aren’t done or even considered important by all too many Christians, but it is important for Christians to receive proper catechesis and it is, simply, love.

Why the working poor don’t just save up for a car while eating beans and rice

Conservatives are notorious, and rightly so, for generally dismissing the working poor as “low time-preference” or “unwilling to do what it takes to get out of poverty”.  This comes in the form of ridiculous statements very similar to the title of this post.  

The working poor can’t save up enough for a reliable car while taking very unreliable public transit, which is all that’s available in most parts of America.  A reliable car, in my experience in both high and low COL areas, costs about $2500 in cash.  That is the lowest reasonable amount to guarantee a low maintenance, sub 100k mile car that is reliable for someone with little mechanical knack.  Most working poor can save about $200 per month on paychecks from two part-time jobs totalling $1500-2000 per month.  This means it would take about a year to save up enough to get that reliable car.

Problem is, I just noted the public transit they have to use to get to work isn’t reliable.  So what happens is that many working poor hold multiple jobs concurrently, constantly swapping in a new part-time job to replace the one they lost not due to “bad attitude” or any of the other loving, Christian terms conservatives throw around, but due to being late one too many times when public transit is flaky.  They mostly can’t get full-time jobs for this reason, and part-time jobs vary in tolerating the episodic lateness of public transit, often kicking the worker to the curb after a few months.  Well, if you can’t even reliably make that $1500-2000 a month because you’re always hustling for a new second or third job, you can’t save the $200/month consistently either.

Further, because of the commute logistics, it’s very difficult to even manage crockpot cooking with the scheduling flux and transportation instability.  So the working poor eat a lot of quick food even when they have cooking skills because it’s safer and more consistent.

Conservatives should spend more time thinking through the situations people are actually in when making bootstrap arguments.  No, every working poor person is not some brave single mother of three working nine jobs.  But many are single adults working two or three jobs as often as they can take a bus to them and struggling to have more than a few hundred dollars put by because without saner transit solutions, it’s extremely difficult to get to a financial level that permits them to purchase a reliable enough car to get more stable part-time or be eligible for full-time jobs with better prospects.  And no, it’s not easier to lug 100 pounds of beans and rice home and crockpot them up.  That is a favorite of conservatives, the imaginary poor person who easily can carry a 50lb sack of beans and a 50lb sack of rice home via public transit.

A great many conservatives have a veil of sweet amnesia over the frankly better circumstances they had if they were once working poor and this leads them to create all sorts of bizarre and mean motives for the working poor remaining so when the reality is often quite ordinary.  Reality is biased, just not in a conservative or liberal direction.

Employ marginal men and women

Conservatives could employ the marginal instead of arguing that the marginal should magically make themselves functional in specific ways (the bootstraps argument).

There are a variety of ways to do this, as it is possible to employ many of the marginal *who want to work*.  This is not that hard to determine.

By marginal I mean people like ex-criminals, ex-drug addicts, and so forth.  A lot of these people can still do work and want to, but it is very hard for them to find work.  Sometimes privately funded job provision is the way to grant people dignity and a chance to be responsible for their lives.  It is a perfectly valid form of charity.