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1 in 4 Americans are jobless or earning poverty-level wages, new study finds (cbsnews.com)
144 points by AndrewBissell 9 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 168 comments





Some things are already starting to give way pretty loudly, and others are yet to come. You simply cannot maintain a democratic society (for whatever nominal value of democracy you want) with these levels on inequality and non-shared misery.

I’m not sure what the next decade holds for the US, but it’s either gonna be some major-scale reinvestment and redistribution or it’s gonna get pretty damn unstable.


Given that the duopoly is beating the war drums again, I'm figuring "pretty damn unstable" is a lot more likely than any sort of focus on pesky trifles like "national infrastructure" or "healthcare".

As soon as the vaccine is distributed on a mass scale, things will start to become normal.

Stability is directly proportional to the strength of economy. When people struggle, they take up on the streets. Not to take away anything from the BLM movement (I support it obviously), but my guess for its stronghold and how it became mainstream is because of the pandemic. 2 months into the pandemic in May 2020, a lot of anger was pent up. It was all released in the unrests we saw in pretty much all major cities. Same goes for far-right extremists, Boogaloo boys, QAnon, etc.

There hasn't been as many protests in the world in pretty much every country as much as we had in 2020.


Of course it was because of the pandemic.

Too bad people are more focused on social identities than poverty. If the unrest was more about poverty there would be a lot more people involved, and people would have a harder time painting it as thing for restless black people. If the demonstrations were about poverty, and every group could see “people who look just like me” I bet there would be more success.


Prior to Covid the unemployment rate was the lowest it’s been in 40+ years and wage growth was 6%+ in 2019.

The issues this article highlights are not systemic, they are because of the pandemic.


Wage growth and gdp increases don't really do much for a lot of people if inequality is high.

Unemployments statistics also differ heavily on what the specific statistic consider unemployment to be.


https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/demo/p60-27...

6.8% increase in median household income from 2018-2019. Look at the stats, most of that growth went into the lower quintiles.

And no, even if income inequality increases, higher incomes for low wage workers have real, immediate benefits.


Not discounting the pandemic. But how good it was before could be debated further around how much those income gains were slurped up by rising education/healthcare/housing costs.

Furthermore income isn’t everything. If wealth inequality wasn’t so great than even those unemployed would be able to weather C19 must more comfortably.


The US has the most progressive tax system in the world - far more than Europe. The middle and lower classes pay basically 0 tax, or even get refunds (negative taxes), while the rich pay basically all taxes https://www.economist.com/united-states/2017/11/23/american-...

The middle and lower classes in Europe pay very high tax rates, but get a lot in return. The left in America is promising European-style safety nets without any tax raises - but the rich simply can’t afford this amount of safety net. Bernie was at least honest in that he plainly said new, broad-based taxes would be necessary to fund his proposals.

Edit: HN is hilarious because people downvote facts they don’t like. At least admit reality to yourself - or post a comment that refutes the statistics.


Is it not the case that taxpayers in the U.S. can write-off interest on their mortgages? That's insanely regressive.

My understanding is that it's all the deductions that make the US system on the whole quite regressive.

In any case US taxpayers don't appear to be getting good value for their money.

They do have a pretty insane military though...

The Economist article is paywalled so I can't read beyond the intro. But the headline is intriguing: "gov't spending is not." That seems to be me to be the crux of it; Canada's tax system isn't terribly effective and we've been running deficits for seemingly forever, but at least all that debt is on the whole focused on things like health and education; while the US has an absolutely huge debt that seems to produce little of value for its population.

EDIT: I'll add that Canada is no worker's paradise. Inequality here is still very pronounced, and the gov't is also involved in all sorts of stupid subsidies on failing industries, and seems unable to effectively build new infrastructure. And our housing market just gets more and more irrational every year.


> Is it not the case that taxpayers in the U.S. can write-off interest on their mortgages? That's insanely regressive.

With the 2018 tax changes, a lot of the itemized deductions are capped and the standard deductions raised. I think I've read now that 90% of the filings are for standard deductions.


I agree that’s a handout to the rich that should be eliminated, although it was drastically curtailed with the expansion of the “standard deduction” which made it irrelevant for the majority of taxpayers.

The most hilarious thing of all is that Trump passed a tax cut, and one of the very few tax increases as part of it was to eliminate the ability to deduct state taxes from federal above 10k. The only people this affects are rich people in high-tax blue states. And the democrats are bitching and moaning to remove this, because again, no one likes paying taxes, even those who pretend to love tax increases https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/12/house-democrats-stimulus-bil...


Don't forget about FICA, which is 7.65% that is only taken out of wages (not investment earnings), and only paid on the first ~$140K of wages.

I was astonished to discover earlier in my career, after a pay raise, that I got to stop paying FICA at a certain point. I didn't even realize there was an upper limit. It's a tax that only applies to "lower" income workers. Highly regressive.

Also, US income taxes are only nominally progressive. There are so many loopholes that very wealthy people (most infamously the POTUS) can end up paying no taxes whatsoever. Tax dodging is a science and an art. Didn't Warren Buffett say he paid a lower rate than his secretary?


In the US, there is the fiction that FICA pays for your Social Security pension, somewhat proportional to your contribution, though high contributors don’t get benefits in proportion to contribution. There is a legitimate fear by the government that if it becomes viewed as just another income tax that political support for the tax will evaporate. It is really important for it to be viewed as a pension contribution of sorts, which is obviously capped by how much it pays out.

If you did not limit the taxes and they explicitly became income taxes (in appearance), many upper-middle class Americans would find themselves paying upwards of 50-60% taxes on income for vanishingly few benefits. That has political ramifications that the government would rather avoid.

The challenge for the US is that the taxes on the middle class are very low relative to e.g. Europe. But they cannot squeeze enough taxes from the top 20% that pay most net taxes to make up the difference.


That’s because social security isn’t a “tax” - it’s funding pensions, and you pay into it now to get a pension later, which is capped at maximum payout, which is why you don’t have to pay above a salary amount because above which you won’t increase your income in retirement.

However to reform social security so it can actually be maintained, I agree we should increase the limits or remove them entirely. But keep in mind social security is not seen as a tax - it’s a retirement pension. If we are going to change it so that rich people pay more and get less, we should also reform Medicare so that rich people pay for their own healthcare in retirement. Tons of old age programs give handouts to the rich - that’s not what they are for.


They are absolutely not pensions, and you are not paying into it now to fund payment later. It's a tax. You pay it now to cover those taking it now, and the social contract says future generations will do the same.

This is a very important distinction, so I'll repeat it. Social security in the United States is not a pension, it's just a government program. We're told it will continue, but that's only because the current government says it will. A future government could just decide to stop payments, and there would be no recourse because it's not a pension. If you live in the United States, please plan accordingly.


You're right that it's not a pension, it's a tax, and the more one contributes the less they see in returned benefit.

> A future government could just decide to stop payments

A future government could just decide to go to war with Canada and the recourse for citizens would be the same.


> The middle and lower classes pay basically 0 tax, or even get refunds (negative taxes)

This is a common misunderstanding of how taxes work, or specifically what refunds mean. Getting a refund does not mean you paid zero or negative tax. Getting a refund simply means that you had more tax withheld than you should have. The tax withheld from your regular paycheck is not authoritative, it's just a prepayment of your estimated tax bill for the year, and it is almost always slightly inaccurate.

You can see this for yourself assuming you earn above the poverty line. Your tax return has three fields related to this: total tax withheld, total taxable income, and the tax owed given your taxable income. Getting a refund just means the tax withheld is greater than the tax owed. The total tax owed on your tax return is the tax you actually paid for the year, and for the vast majority of people it is >$0 even if they get a refund. In fact, the approximate tax paid on the median US household income (~$68k) would be ~$13k (assuming the household files a joint married return) which is decidedly non-zero.


Getting a refund does not necessarily mean that you paid zero or negative tax, that's true, but when you pay zero or negative tax you do get a refund too. E.g. you can get negative taxation through https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earned_income_tax_credit

This is absolutely not true, many people get refunds in excess of their payments, and many people in this category pay no taxes and still get refunds as a result. This is by design.

Which just goes to show you can't tax your way out of inequality. You need better incentive structures.

What high marginal tax rates do is make upward mobility far more difficult.

That's interesting about the progressive taxation. My quick look at income tax rates in the US is that there is a lot of progressiveness in the income ranges of the top 5% rather than through the income levels that the bell curve of Americans live in. I am not an expert or spent anytime I must say so I'm not arguing just my first look.

What income range do you define as middle class? And What's lower class in the US income wise?

Also for a bit of context what government services do people receive welfare for in the US? What are the big sercices that are driving those net negative tax payments?


One difference from here than other developed countries is that America has a lot of rich people. Not just super rich that you hear about on the news, but tons of millionaires. The software salaries at FAANG are true, but basically every industry has a cream at the top that makes absurd money compared to what they would make in other countries. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, military contractors, salesmen, stock traders, fast food franchisees - every state in the US has a sizable pool of millionaires. And while the tax rates that someone making $800k salary vs. $80k salary aren’t hugely different, 37% of $800k is a hell of a lot more total than 30% of $80k. And that’s where the bulk of the taxes are made - not from the poor, or the middle class, or even the super rich that often game everything, but the upper middle class / “normal” rich.

Thank you I appreciate the comment back and with facts and figures and back to your original point it is totally not possible to bring the things that American progressives want without lifting taxes - there are not just enough of the 'rockstars' you mention above to pay for those services even if they paid huge percentages of tax which wouldn't be ideal for the regressiveness of doing so.

It's only going to be done with all tax payers increasing their contribution (or maybe all but the lowest).


> Edit: HN is hilarious because people downvote facts they don’t like. At least admit reality to yourself - or post a comment that refutes the statistics.

The HN guidelines [1] mention:

> Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Please pardon the HN behavior. Downvotes doesn't mean you're wrong, just as you said, it doesn't resonate with what people experience, hear and read. I am sure most people here would agree with the facts. We read you in a slightly gray font, it's fine.

I pay 30% of my paycheck in taxes. Where do I go for free taxes?

"By comparison, the October jobless rate stood at 6.9%, down from 14.7% in April as workers regained jobs or gave up searching for work."

I love how the hopeless are not counted as jobless.


They are counted in U-4 and other measures. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm

This has sadly been the case for a long time. Some people try to defend it for various reasons and keeping track of this figure isn't a problem for me personally, but calling it the unemployment rate and acting like it's representative of reality bugs the heck out of me

It is reality. What it reflects about reality may not be immediately obvious but that's true of most metrics.

It's important to understand that the value of the unemployment rate is not the absolute number but its change over time.

We also have other metrics published alongside the unemployment rate, like labor participation.


It’s seldom mentioned when talking about unemployment. Particularly when it comes to titles, so it’s fair to say excluding the hopeless from unemployment makes it a misleading metric

Which again, has been the case for a very long time. The participation rate has been tracked for as long; rather than changing how unemployment is calculated the media could just reporting that metric instead. Seems like a simpler solution.

> Which again, has been the case for a very long time.

We all seem to be admitting that it's a bad, misleading statistic. So why are we so committed to keeping it around forever? Why not change the definition?

People say "for historical comparison", but what's the point of a historical comparison of a statistic that we all admit now is bad and misleading?

The fact that something has always been done a certain way is no justification for continuing to do it, especially if the initial decision was misguided in some way.


I don't think it's seldom mentioned - it's both common knowledge among people who pay attention to financial/economic news and repeated monthly (when the new jobs report comes out). They're usually reported side by side.

It's much more misleading to suggest that the people not included in the unemployment rate are the "hopeless" since it includes children, the retired, and those unable to work.


These statistics are hard to calculate. Defining “actively searching for work” is one way. You have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. For example, say I’m the primary breadwinner and my wife works part time at a restaurant and cares for our daughter in the remaining time. Work goes slow and she gets laid off. She could actively try to find another job but decides to spend full time with our daughter instead. I don’t know that she’s “hopeless” but rather made a different choice. Certainly there are hopeless people. It’s hard to find a perfect measure.

It is difficult to define "actively searching for work" with a consistent baseline across the decades, but it is not all that difficult to arrive at a definition that is valid for any given point of time. Simply consider the social norms for the era. If it is considered normal to have two income households at any given point of time, then it is legitimate to include an unemployed spouse.

Another route, similar to the one in this study, may be considering people who are actively searching for work and where the household income is below a certain threshold (likely based upon the composition of the family).


normal to have two income households

The country is not monolithic. It could be considered typical, yet you might still have only 70% being two income households.

It would be silly to include the other 30% as unemployed.


Yeah, that's one of the reasons why I suggested a hybrid of seeking employment and household income. It is similar to the one used by the study, except the article seems to use individual income rather than household income. Of course, there are still problems with that approach. For example: a baseline household income makes many assumptions about a decent standard of living, it would also be complicated to calculate due to variations in household size/composition and regional differences in the cost of living.

That being said, "seeking employment" is likely one of the worse indications of unemployment. People may be excluded or impeded from joining the workforce for a variety of reasons and stop seeking employment because of that. It is a rather long list: discrimination (age, disability, gender, race), accommodations for disabilities, access to affordable childcare, criminal record, level of education. While some of those can be addressed, they rarely are addressed in a meaningful manner. In those cases I find it difficult to treat not-seeking employment as a choice.


Consistency in how statistics are measured is important. You can rag on the methods but without consistency it’d be meaningless.

The majority of what you term as “hopeless” is seniors that are let go and eventually decide to retire rather than entering the work force at wages less than they earned previously. It’s not a bunch of disillusioned 20 somethings giving up on life.


The majority of hopeless people are a long way from retirement. Homeless, long term disability, or people living off of their parents etc. America is rich enough that bring poor represents a huge range of lifestyles from young raft guides living in leaky cabins to just about everything else.

> The majority of hopeless people are a long way from retirement

Source?


>> The majority of hopeless people are a long way from retirement

>Source?

assuming "long way from retirement" is 10+ years.

Discouraged over job prospects

age 24-55: 311k

age 55+: 170k

Discouraged workers are persons marginally attached to the labor force who did not actively look for work in the prior 4 weeks for reasons such as thinks no work available, could not find work, lacks schooling or training, employer thinks too young or old, and other types of discrimination.

https://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea38.htm


Thanks!

Is there a reason you didn't ask for a source on the numbers in the initial claim they responded to? The claim about seniors representing the majority contradicts my own understanding, so I would have started there.

Is there any data on U4 rates based off age demographics?

> Consistency in how statistics are measured is important. You can rag on the methods but without consistency it’d be meaningless.

Is it meaningless? Isn't it important to get as accurate an assessment as possible of the current situation? Arguably that's even more important than historical comparisons.

> The majority of what you term as “hopeless” is seniors that are let go and eventually decide to retire rather than entering the work force at wages less than they earned previously.

Is there a citation for this? Millions of people are newly out of work now as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns, so it seems highly unlikely that primarily seniors are affected by an inability to find work.


> citation

It's not true. Discouraged workers is usually 2:1 for age <55 vs >55.

Usually the vast majority are not seniors. GP just made that up

You can check for yourself via blm:

https://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea38.htm


Inconsistent definitions or methods render statistical comparisons meaningless.

You need that historical baseline to assess the current situation.

To provide an extreme example, as extremes are often useful in illustrating failure cases, it would be trivial to say that the murder rate in the US has dropped by nigh-on 100%. Simply redefine "murder" to mean "persons killed by a woman wearing a blue hat on the third Tuesday of February".


> You need that historical baseline to assess the current situation.

But what if the historical baseline has always been misleading, and undercounting a problem?

> Simply redefine "murder" to mean "persons killed by a woman wearing a blue hat on the third Tuesday of February".

This isn't a useful example, because the point of redefining unemployment is to get a more accurate view of it, whereas this redefinition of murder gives a less accurate and completely pointless view of the problem.


> But what if the historical baseline has always been misleading, and undercounting a problem?

Then you create a new metric, but keep the old one around for historical baselines.

By the way, this is what the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is doing with the various unemployment metrics.

> The point of redefining unemployment is to get a more accurate view of it, whereas this redefinition of murder gives a less accurate and completely pointless view of the problem.

I see you are new to politics.


> I see you are new to politics.

Please refrain from violating the Hacker News Guidelines. Your comment is neither accurate nor appropriate.


I wonder if you are "hopelessly" misinformed or open to accepting information that conflicts with your worldview

And it's more nefarious than simply a matter of misrepresenting statistics. For instance, I was denied even the minimum Pandemic Unemployment Assistance because I have been unemployed since before the pandemic began.

What’s with the lumping of different categories together?

“Regained jobs” or “gave up searching”.

One of those is good, one of those is bad. Seems like lazy reporting to just say “meh, one of those two”.


The BLS should be using U-6, but I don't an administration would do that because it will make things look worse.

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm


Why do you think the BLS goes to the trouble of calculating and publishing U6? Because they want it to be ignored?

The people in power always use the most optimistic measures and the people who want power always use the most pessimistic measures. I'd personally argue the more pessimistic measures are closer to reality, as would many others. BLS found a way to serve us and the people in power, simultaneously, without getting themselves replaced. They didn't just do an ultra-important, thankless job, they also found a way to square a political circle in order to do it. I have nothing but respect for them.


I meant the federal government should use U-6 because it's closer to what most people thing of as unemployment.

The BLS does use U-6. They are literally the agency which calculates and publishes U-6. They aren't hiding anything.

Sorry, I meant the federal government should be using U-6.

They do use it. You can find U-6 mentioned in many federal government documents.

I mean as the most commonly reported measure of unemployment. So use the measure that most people would intuitively view as unemployment (include discouraged workers, etc).

They do use U6. They use hundreds of data points. U3 is "headline unemployment" because it's a middle ground indicator that has a consistent meaning. It's not possible to summarize the employment landscape in a single number.

I meant the federal government should use U-6 because it's closer to what most people think of as unemployment.

BLS is the federal government. Congress and the president have the entire data set produced by BLS. They also have state-level data and more. There are no statutes explicitly tied to U3.

Click through all the links at the bottom of this report: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm


I mean using it as what's commonly associated with unemployment. There aren't any requirements to use U3, but the DOL uses it instead of U6. I think most people's idea of unemployment is closer to other measures than it is to U3.

U6 includes underemployment. It's definitely not what most people think of as unemployment. It doesn't adjust for participation rate. Participation can be misleading because while there are definitely discouraged workers the size of the workforce varies naturally as people retire, become disabled or take time off for families. U3 helps track demand for employment and anyone outside the labor force isn't demanding work.

That being said, the closest single metric to follow isn't any of the indices. Try prime age employment-population ratio.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=y51M


There's been a growing number of voices[0][1][2] speaking to not only inequality but also the meritocratic system that seems to have positive feedback loops that worsens inequality by precluding opportunities for those who don't fit the mold of the college education track. I think it's only a matter of time (within the next decade?) where this comes to a head and results in some shock to the system that forces a correction.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_in_the_Twenty-First_Ce...

[1]https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/43671669-the-meritocr...

[2]https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51087394-the-cult-of-sma...


From "Down with meritocracy" (Thu 28 Jun 2001 21.59 EDT):

The book was a satire meant to be a warning (which needless to say has not been heeded) against what might happen to Britain between 1958 and the imagined final revolt against the meritocracy in 2033.

Much that was predicted has already come about. It is highly unlikely the prime minister has read the book, but he has caught on to the word without realising the dangers of what he is advocating.

Underpinning my argument was a non-controversial historical analysis of what had been happening to society for more than a century before 1958, and most emphatically since the 1870s, when schooling was made compulsory and competitive entry to the civil service became the rule.

Until that time status was generally ascribed by birth. But irrespective of people's birth, status has gradually become more achievable.

It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others.

Ability of a conventional kind, which used to be distributed between the classes more or less at random, has become much more highly concentrated by the engine of education.

...

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/jun/29/comment


I just listened to a great interview with Joel Greenblatt[0] on the subject of education. It's really worth a listen. I think the solutions are within our reach with just a little political will.

[0] https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-economics-of-commo...


Meritorcacy is the worst form of allocating resources except for all those other forms, I'd say. How else would you suggest doing it? A meritocracy at least gives people a way to strive to do better. A system in which one cannot raise his chances of success by improving himself is likely even worse than what we have.

One place to look is other countries, e.g. Germany. They have alternatives to the college/university track that enable people who don't fit that mold to still prosper.

The way the U.S. is structured it's as if the only route to success is becoming a professional basketball player in the NBA. Oh, you don't happen to be extra-tall or able to shoot a basket? You must not be working hard enough.


Interesting thoughts. How do they achieve this? And do you believe it will hold up to increasing automation?

There are definitely good non-college jobs in America, though fewer than there were fifty years ago. Many are trades - welder, carpenter, plumber. Are things similar in Germany?


This article does a pretty good job of describing the system in Germany[0]. They have an apprentice system that offers an alternative to the usual college/university track.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/why-ger...


what are the chances this "shock" is peaceful? Anyone have ideas? Unfortunately, it may be not very high (though I am optimistically hoping we can figure something out!) A very cool atlantic article I read following a similar line of thought, highly recommended read:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/12/can-his...


While their is much reasonable debate about what "true" poverty level rates are, this study uses a threshold of $20k/year for a worker. That's significantly higher than the federal rate set by the Census bureau at $14k/year for a single worker with no other household members. A 2 earner household each pulling in $18k a year, or $36k a year, in the cheaper parts of the US is not an easy life, but its also difficult to call it a poverty. That's why many government studies of this type will use household income and size, rather than an arbitrary cut off.

I'm don't really know what to make of this number. I know what they are trying to express, but it doesn't seem well done.


The US is a big place, I think many people situated in tech cities do not appreciate just how inexpensive it is to live in many parts of the country. Cost of living can be surprisingly low in flyover country. I know many people that get on pretty adequately with a family on much less than the median US household income. Definitely not living large but also a reasonable if basic standard of living. Wages are relative to a region.

If $20k/year per worker is "poverty", and to be clear it is a relatively poor wage in the US, it would be interesting to apply the same analysis to European countries. It gets uncomfortably close to the median income in countries that we typically don't view as particularly poor. Americans have anomalously high incomes, even those below the median.


It's not difficult to call that poverty at all. It's uncomfortable or upsetting, but not difficult.

I think they meant it’s a different kind of poverty than we’re traditionally used to. Poverty is relative so modern poverty is much different than the dirt floor kind of poverty that was more common during the initiation of LBJ’s war on poverty

I guess it shows how far we’ve come, as that income would have been considered rich in 1900!

By "we", do you mean inflation?

$20,000 in 1900 is worth $619,971.43 today, so not sure what your argument is. It's not the raw number value that matters but what people can buy with it.

The average annual salary in 1900 was in the range of $450. That's about $14k today. What's worse, that when norms dictated a ~60 hour week and households, even at the low end of the spectrum, were often single earner.

While "rich" is over stating it, based on purely inflationary measures $20k in 2020 (or $645 in 1900) was not bad pay.


Sure. We can still do better though.

Income and wealth disparity is the biggest problem in the US and it’s not given the attention it deserves. The republicans have no interest in addressing it, in fact they actively make it worse every chance they get. The Democrats want to address it but cannot focus. It’s what is causing these symptoms like trump in the country.

> The Democrats want to address it but cannot focus.

What does that mean? Do they have ADHD?


It means that there is genuine disagreement within the party about how best to handle it. Some call for radical change; others prefer a more incremental approach. The disagreement is real and substantial, and there are genuine unknowns and risks.

And that leads to real political risks: no matter what they will be tarred with the brush of their most radical element, while the radicals feel that they aren't being listened to. As a sibling comment to yours put it, the party is "largely funded by the same people" as their opponents.

So they're unable to put forward a radical program, and seem to get little traction on incremental changes. That, I believe, manifests as what the OP thinks of as "unable to focus".


The Democrats also have no interest in addressing it, they're largely funded by the same people as the Republicans.

[flagged]


This is the primary source:

https://www.lisep.org/


Thanks!

[flagged]


American news is the WWE of news. Nothing wrong with his position.

There is when he is asking someone else to summarize a story from an American news source because he is too stubborn to read it himself cause of his "principles".

I never said I had any "principles" that were at play here. I left a reply above that fully explains it. In the future, maybe give people some benefit of the doubt that they're not coming here in bad faith.

I do want to thank you for saying this out loud since the downvotes don't really give me an opportunity to respond.

I've soaked up American media and politics for the past four years. I originally got into it because I had some personal life events that made me interested in it. Since I started paying more attention, an attention that has risen both steadily and sharply over time, it has noticeably decreased my quality of life overall. I would get upset, frustrated, and overall I've been skeptical of connecting with people. The byproduct was that my awareness around narratives, misinformation, and propaganda has grown and I started to understand that this was largely just the status quo now. That view favors no political party whatsoever.

I'm from the South/Midwest but live on the coast and I served in the military. Because of that I have had this huge array of friends that hail from all walks of life whom I had no problem getting along with. I've now lost lifelong friends over their or my political views, I've felt disappointment in people (and they have felt it in me), and really it's alienated me very much from the American way of life in general. I've always had different views from my friends because I don't fit very squarely in many of our political categories and for a long time that was okay. These days disagreement comes part and parcel with some sense of morality and unfortunately in our political dichotomy that cuts both ways and leaves someone like me in the middle.

At some point I came to the realization that I could either become an ex-patriot or totally disconnect and buy some time. Surely some folks would find my disconnection so abhorrent that they may choose to alienate me anyway, but for my own mental well-being I decided to deactivate my social media accounts, block all breaking news, american news, and political commentary, as well as cancel my streaming services (other than Hulu, I can't miss Rick and Morty!)

I'd like to bury my parents before I leave this country, so if I can buy some time I'd like to do that and this has made a world of a difference in my day to day life. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to stay up on some statistics like this one. I'm still a citizen and I still want to help people where I can, I just can't be subjected to the daily onslaught of politically focused, shifting morality.

I have more interesting observations, like how the news looks without being able to see Twitter, or things my friends have done to keep me included on the more positive sides of things happening on social media, so feel free to ask questions.


American news is really bad, across the board — and doubly so for coverage of issues around and within America. If you want to find out what’s happening I recommend some combination of NPR, some Canadian news (I like the Globe and Mail) and probably Al Jazeera English.

NPR is American.

Yeah I know, I called them out as an exception, PBS is decent too. I was referring to "American [mainstream] news." I recognize I wasn't clear, so my bad.

Definitely an exception. Here are some good sources:

CBS News: https://www.cbsnews.com/

NY Times: https://nytimes.com/

Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Wall Street Journal: https://wsj.com/

PBS News Hour: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/

Boston Globe: https://www.bostonglobe.com/

Philadelphia Inquirer: https://www.inquirer.com/

Finantial Times: https://www.ft.com/


The FT isn’t American. As for the others, they are mostly terrible, at least when compared to German, Swiss, and French media.

[flagged]


You know, it’s not a dichotomy. It’s possible to implement temporary restrictions while providing support to help people remain employed.

Your attitude kind of glosses over the fact that the current unfolding catastrophe in the US is a result of a series of deliberate policy decisions and does not have to be like it is.


What would be measures to help bartenders remain employed while closing down bars? I’m struggling to imagine what you have in mind here.

In many other developed countries there is some kind of furlough scheme in place. Like here in the UK - businesses which can’t remain open (or have to temporarily downscale) can opt to place their staff on furlough and have their wages paid by the government through to the end of this year.

I've never understood the exact mechanics/limits of those schemes, but that is exactly what I was missing as it's (literally) a foreign concept to me. Thank you.

Agreed the policies that destroyed the economy and put 100 million people into poverty should be lifted?

As you are fully aware, that is not what I said. Pretending otherwise doesn't make you smart.

What you said is super abstract vague hand wavy and not very well thought out.

You're saying restrict economic activity for the pandemic but still have a good economy and that doesn't make sense.


One in eight nursing home residents in Massachusetts has so far died of COVID-19.

Let’s be careful with flippant remarks about people dying when the measures we _have_ put in place have still left us with hundreds of thousands of people dead.

There are reasonable debates about how we handle the response to a pandemic in America. Let’s stick to those.


A hundred million in poverty vs a 2 hundred thousand dead.

The balance doesnt seem out of whack to you?

Would you put 100 million people into poverty to save 1 life?


Norway (partial lockdown, schools still mostly open) compared to Sweden (little lockdown and talks of herd immunity): https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1327230581143465984

Note that Norway has seen less economic damage than Sweden.


Whats funny is that once they lifted the partial lockdown they had very similar restrictions as Sweden which is minimal.

Pre-pandemic the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line was the lowest it had been in decades. The rate for 2019 was 11.1% or 40.6 million people. Of course it has jumped significantly during the pandemic, but the question is how much and how quickly the number will return towards pre-pandemic numbers once the pandemic ends.

Nah.

The US has pursued a spectacularly inept constellation of policies that have killed granny and created an economic disaster.

The economy can't recover until the pandemic is controlled. Doing nothing about the pandemic to 'save the economy' will only make both the pandemic and the economy worse.

Making enough N95 masks, and forcing people to wear them, would have both kept granny safe and saved the economy. But, that didn't happen, so the US is stuck with the worst of both worlds.


If you’re a capitalist or a socialist or somewhere in between, I think we should try to find common ground that this isn’t a good position for society or the future.

Having spoken with someone today, at length, that thinks any improvement in the current situation is “socialism”, I think common ground won’t be found with some folks (and that’s okay, as long as you can get a majority onboard). You have to do the right thing regardless (go to the mat for overwhelming fiscal policy stimulus firepower short term, and driving towards improved policy long term, increasing the minimum wage, universal healthcare, etc).

With recent political events, I’m hopeful (and it has been some time since I’ve had hope). Just have to keep up the momentum.


“Some folks” is approaching near 50/50 split of the population of the US who have been led to believe “socialism” is worse than death. I know so, because my friend goes to church and they are now talking about this in their sermons...God is a Republican apparently.

Yeah, it’s really unfortunate the situation has become almost cult like. I have no explanation for these incoherent belief systems. No one said staying ahead of the ignorant and malicious was going to be easy, but it’s necessary for a democracy to function. The most conservative folks are the oldest cohorts, so they will age out eventually. [1] Millenials are also leaving behind religious affiliations due to perceived intolerances [2]: “A majority (57 percent) of millennials agree that religious people are generally less tolerant of others, compared to only 37 percent of Baby Boomers.”

“Apathy is the glove into which evil slips it’s hand.” Stay involved. This isn’t a call to a particular party, but to compassion and empathy, regardless of whom champions it.

[1] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/20/a-wider-par... (first graphic)

[2] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/millennials-are-leaving...


I think you need data to support that 50% claim. Otherwise you could just as easily claim the other 50% thinks the same way about fascism. Maybe it's just extremists you're looking at.

Don't give up on the people who are so extreme one way or another. We need people in the middle to reign in those on the far outside edges of the political spectrum. It takes a lot of time, energy, effort & listening. Be kind. Don't chase them away. I see to many people chase away anyone who disagrees with them.

Common ground can be found with everyone. I've found you can get those who hate capitalism to suggest capitalist ideas. I've found you can get those who hate socialism to suggest socialist ideas, especially around the ideas of safety nets regarding children, cancer and other health concerns.


Americans hate socialism, but mostly loves socialist ideas like minimum wages, free healthcare etc. Florida who voted strongly for Trump, many thinks because of Socialist scaremongering, voted to raise minimum wage to $15 this year.

Republicans have tried to take away social security and medicaid/care, but their voters will not have it.


"improvement"? The fact that you don't seem to see your own bias shows that you might be part of the "no common ground" problem. Are you willing to accept that changes which you see as making things worse might actually be improvements? Even changes favored by that person you spoke with?

Aren't the poorest in society naturally always going to be the bottom 25% or so? The poorest American is still in the top 10% of the world.

Relative economic standing != absolute economic standing.

Statistical measures of poverty are set in terms of being able to afford the basic necessities of life, such as food, housing, medical care, transport, education and communications. Relative standing is irrelevant.

Further, having 10 times more income (or wealth) than subsistence farmer in sub-Saharan Africa is meaningless if your cost of living is 1000 times higher than that of a subsistence farmer in sub-Saharan Africa. Poor Americans aren't paying sub-Saharan African prices; they're paying American prices, and that means their income does not go very far.


People don't have access to food? Sounds like that would be a self correcting problem if remotely true.

The problem with asking the government to fix this in some way is that you'll most likely ensure the absolute floor of the pricing with be set higher.

It's all those beautiful first world regulations we set out subsiding the price paid that ensure pricing is high, not capitalism. I'm not saying remove them but if we can not recognise the the true source of the problems it's hard to improve it meaningfully.


Did you intentionally or unintentionally paraphrase Ebenezer Scrooge just then?

If unintentional, perhaps you should consider your life and behavior in view of the three ghosts referenced in that novella.


The poorest American, who earns 0 dollars in his lifetime, is absolutely not in the top 10% of world income.

Well, a poor American is not better off than, say, a middle class Ghanaian. Along pretty much every meaningful metric of human development, access to health care, access to good foods, access to education, the Ghanaian is probably better off. At the same time though, there are nations like Nicaragua, Mali and Cameroon. A poor American is absolutely better off than a middle class Cameroonian, or a middle class person from Mali.

So you're right that the old mantra about a poor American being in the top 10% of the world is no longer true. Having made that concession, we should also recognize that the poor in the US are still much better off than the poor in a lot of other countries. That group of countries has just been shrinking over the past 30 years.

Our main societal concern should be, "How do we reverse that trend?" Because more and more of the middle class are joining the ranks of the poor, and though it's only my opinion, I don't think that will end well for us.


Poverty is about having difficulty meeting basic human needs, not an income percentile.

I really don't believe people think that way, unfortunately. Many people see this as the "natural order of things". The idea that a significant percentage of the population should be in debt, jobless or lacking healthcare coverage has been normalized and institutionalized in the US.

Anyone who wants to change this will be fighting an uphill battle against cultural norms, vested business interests and ideological positions.


Its usually all of the above. In debt, jobless AND lacking healthcare.

They do? Who are these people?

[flagged]


[flagged]


Would you please stop posting flamewar comments to HN? We've asked you this multiple times and you've not only continued to do it, you've done it more. If you continue breaking the site guidelines we're going to end up having to ban you.

The GP comment was a bad one, but responding with a second bad one not only doesn't help, it breaks the site guidelines in an additional way: "Don't feed egregious comments by replying; flag them instead."

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

kmonsen 9 days ago [flagged]

Everyone that votes republican. Even many centrist democrats think so.

Everyone who votes republican doesn't believe that.

Maybe some republicans simply think realistic solutions are not those you believe will work.


I’m from a Republican family in a culturally conservative part of the upper Midwest. It’s disappointing to see the national level Republican Party so diminished as to be seemingly nihilistic. Unless it falls in the bucket of tax cuts or deregulation, there seems to be so little positive vision of what the future should look like.

Maybe the idea is the government shouldn't be in the business of saying what they future should look like?

The government keeps the roads fixed and the playing field level and the country safe. People, as individuals say what the future looks like.


I've seen the same among most Republicans I know. They're despondent because the Republican party these days is just fighting against the far-leftists that are taking over the Democrat party. It's basically a one-way ratchet leftward: the Democrats get power and move stuff, then the Republicans get power and just prevent movement for a few years. The Libertarian party is the only one that's truly fighting for a better future with things like small government, gun rights, and lower taxes. The LP presents a positive vision of the future and a plan to get there that I like. So I'll keep voting Libertarian, even though I know we have no chance.

Lol. which people? The ones questioning why we should accept this or the ones foisting this on the population?

I could tell you but I'll be b& from commenting. :-)


I would personally prefer a direct answer. Then your post could be informative and discussed. Perhaps you could add nuance to the discourse. I think that by joking around that you’d be banned for doing so prevents that discussion from happening

It's no joke, pal.

> The idea that a significant percentage of the population should be in debt, jobless or lacking healthcare coverage has been normalized and institutionalized.

FWIW, that's only true in America, which is only 5% of the world's population.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world have it much better.


Nope, the middle class is living now better than kings have lived in the past. Let that thought wash over you and don't think twice about the jobless statistics whatsoever.

This isn't about the middle class and there really is no legitimate basis for comparison when it comes to being in poverty.

Those kings lacked modern luxuries, to be sure. They even lacked most modern comforts. Those kings of the past did not have to worry about being homeless and were unlikely to worry about putting food on the table. When it comes to the essentials, their needs were met and (for the most part) they did not have to concern themselves with losing it due to their economic position. While they may be concerned with losing those essentials due to the politics of the era, that is something entirely different.

Edit: for clarity.


Are you giving the same line to high income earners who are complaining about high taxes?

You're being downvoted because people on HN don't like being reminded about how good they have it. Sorry, you don't deserve this.

Or they might be downvoted because “kings hundreds of years ago” is an irrelevant comparison when talking about the lives of people today.

This isn’t a dinner party conversation of whether I’d rather be a feudal lord in 1270 Britain or an American living paycheck to paycheck in 2020.

Or they might be downvoted because this community skews towards makers, and “it’s better than it was so why talk about how to fix its problems?” is the antithesis of building, creating, making. It is the antithesis of the very real work of progress.


This is not appropriate material for HN.

The community of HN seems to disagree.

I've heard reasonable people define poverty as being in the lowest quintile of income, meaning the poverty rate will always be 20%.

His figure incorporates both jobless workers — people who were actively searching for work in the past month — as well as adults who are earning below $20,000 a year, or below the poverty line.

It's a more meta observation that "poverty" has many subjective definitions. Certainly many (not all) people we would consider living in poverty today would be considered well off even 100 years ago.

For example, owning a functioning automobile was a huge luxury only for the rich 100 years ago.

For another example, the terms of the debate have shifted. It used to be about the objective state of the poor people. Today it is less about that and more about the subjective state of poor people relative to the state of wealthy people, i.e. "inequality".


Owning a car wasn't a requirement to get anywhere 100 years ago though, or to hold a job, whereas it is for many areas/people now.

Or another example: I really don't like smartphones, for all sorts of reasons not worth getting in to here. But having one is sort-of a requirement these days since all kinds of services are only available as a phone app, and many company's primary method of contact is WhatsApp, and a lot of social life happens on there as well. Of course you can go without one, but it's debilitating.

There are a few more things like this. Income has risen, but so have mandatory costs for a normal life.


If you don't like the car example, pick an attribute where poor people 100 years ago were better off than today.

I think this is missing the point. You can always point to people who have it worse off throughout all of history.

Any average metric where poor people were better off 100 years ago will do.

I think we're talking a bit past each other here; I don't deny that on average poor people were generally worse off 100 years ago (although I'm not a student of history, so there may be some nuance here, or not, I'm not sure), but I don't think that's important here.

Of course "poverty" is subjective, but IMHO it's a disgrace that (working!) people struggle to make ends meet every month, and would definitely classify that as "poverty". That peasants 100 years ago had it worse is just irrelevant here, in my view.

I'm not entirely sure what the intention of your comment was, but by your reasoning we could relativise every war as "it's not as bad as WWII" or every pandemic as "it's not as bad as the black death", and that doesn't strike me as a helpful or constructive way to deal with the problems that exist in the here and now.


Doesn't matter. They have access to unprecedented levels of free pornography so they're too pacified to be a threat to the ruling class.

That's a bit harsh, innit?

I wish it were harsh to say that.

Regulate universities to reduce what they can charge for education. Federally kill teachers unions that have caused rot in public education. Do NOT forgive student loan debt as more than 50% of the debt is held by "high net worth" [0] individuals and graduate degree seekers [1]. Bailing out student loan debt without regulating what colleges can charge will only make current issues in education worse.

Smart people command more value than dumb people - it's a sad but true reality. Educate your kids!

[0] - https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/which-households-hold-most-...

[1] - https://www.businessinsider.com/graduate-student-loan-debt-n...


> Smart people command more value than dumb people

Completely disagree. This is one of the biggest lies being forced by the higher castes in the US. "Smart" is subjective, "value" is subjective.

Let's be honest: this statement only true because a certain class of people want it to be true. I value k-12 education in my world view more than I value derivitaves traders: in my ideal world teaching would be a high-paying competitive field and Black-Scholes would mean absolutely nothing.

But I can't tell if you don't realize the world we live in is what me we make it, or if you just accept what you are told the world "should be" because you're benefiting from the system and are scared to make it equitable.


"smart" in terms of navigating society and understanding where value is. What things are worth learning vs not learning, what kinds of skills are worth taking risks for etc. "smart" in terms of just having a degree and believing that being credentialed = intelligence is completely orthogonal to the point I intended.

A stupid person will fall for get rich quick schemes. A stupid person will believe grinding it out at a job they hate will eventually lead to something better. A stupid person will lack the will to try hard enough to better themselves.


It would have helped if you had actually explained your terms, since you made up your own definitions we don't have a common understanding.

The real question is, of course: are you ever "stupid"?

And what I mean by that is you set out a very black/white view of who is worthy and who isn't, and I bet dollars to donuts you don't live up to your own standards because that's where black/white thinking leads. It helps everyone to not think in such subjective, judgemental, and largely pejorative terms. I think the world would be better served if we started from the position "everyone has value."


Personally I believe that in some ways, both extreme political views are right.

First, in my opinion, basic income is absolutely needed, and has been for quite some time. Not only the pandemic, but also the severe state of the long-term debt cycle, and the increasing automation, as well as existing social inequality, all make basic income necessary if we want to avoid more extreme levels of homelessness. And it seems unlikely that significantly higher levels of homelessness will be tolerated without large increases in entitlements.

We also need much more effective tax policies related to corporations and wealthy individuals.

But I also believe that when people on the other side say that we can't pay for the basic income, they are correct. The income of the government will still not add up to be able to give everyone a livable floor to start with given the high cost of living in the US. And even with dramatic improvements in tax collection, its not going to come close.

So I believe that either we will end up creating a new type of high-tech money, or quite possibly have a global war where we try to defend the US currency.


If national productivity is insufficient to fund a basic income, how has a basic income been needed for some time? One of the assumptions of basic income is that automation will displace so many jobs that people will be redundant. But if the economy cannot fund basic income, then not enough people have been displaced yet, and there isn't enough automation.

Americans are primarily disagreeing on how to finance these ideals.

They are also afraid of the following things:

- Consequences for using free money the wrong way. We've already seen people imprisoned for using stimulus money[0] that was freely given out with no real checks. And that was from a completely right-wing administration and Department of Justice! People know they'll take the money, they just don't want the opportunity for the state to judge them for its "generosity". It's either no strings attached or not done at all.

- A diminishing set of options. People don't like consolidation of control when the state nationalizes an area, distorts a market with its unlimited resources but is also not very competitive while retaining its ability to imprison and kill people. So people are afraid of that.

Underneath all the arguments about empathy, redistribution, how it is actually financed or expropriated, are those concerns.

[0] site search of doj.gov "ppp indict" https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ALeKk009z-HSGv1tJet83_Rj...


> already seen people imprisoned for using stimulus money that was freely given out with no real checks.

Sorry, what? I must've missed this.


site search of ppp indict doj.gov (oddly, google doesn't seem to index actual site searches of doj.gov, like site:www.doj.gov)

https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ALeKk009z-HSGv1tJet83_Rj...

with the point not about rationalizing how much you agree with the substance of fraud, but about the state not having created the opportunity to feel defrauded and levy greater charges 'on behalf of the people'




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