The War Against the Poor
a book by Herbert J. Gans
(our site's book review)
As the title suggests, the book deals with America’s unfair treatment of the Have-nots in society. He explores the issue of which came first, poverty or irresponsibility. Obviously they reinforce each other. He tries to get us to refrain from judging those not as well off as we are. Then he criticizes the right’s call for moral self-improvement on the part of the poor. He makes the poor out to be “victims” of society that didn’t choose their lot and therefore aren’t responsible for their lot.
The rich are shaking down the poor via the Corporatocracy and our nation's oligarchy
We disagree they're not responsible for themselves and their lot. Everyone is responsible for their lot. And it is everyone’s responsibility to change their lot if they don’t like it. (What have they done to nonviolently undermine the oligarchy, or even recognize it, for example?) He disparages the evidence that poor unmarried mothers produce more criminals than other poor people, although we find such a conclusion obvious. There’s plenty of evidence that poverty leads to crime and that unmarried mothers produce more criminals than people with stable nuclear or extended families. Like most liberals, he disdains the get-tough policies that led to more prisons and prisoners in the last few decades. Irrationally, he doubts if the locking up of criminals leads to less street crime. We disagree. It has been said that the definition of a liberal is a conservative who has yet to be victimized. There are few liberal crime victims—if they were liberal, they no longer are. If Gans got victimized, he’d probably cease putting down the imprisonings and begin supporting them overnight. He needs a healthier degree of respect for the public’s demand for incarceration of criminals, and that’s likely the only way he’ll ever get it.
He makes a good point that it would make sense if prisons did more than punish: They should also be work camps that train and rehabilitate so that the ex-convicts don’t re-offend. This helps protect society and is good for the ex-cons and the economy as well. One cannot help but believe that the 30 or 40 grand a year (per prisoner) spent on incarceration could be better spent producing productive citizens. But when he talks about the scarcity of jobs, he should talk to some of the high-tech companies and even service industries that cannot find capable employees in this country and end up getting them elsewhere. He needs to realize that it’s not that there are not enough jobs. It’s that there is a serious mismatch between job skills needed and job skills of applicants.
He wants to pay the untrained more than the market will bear, regardless of the economic foolishness of such a move. People who want to earn more must first learn more and that’s simply reality in the information age. His idea of pushing the wages of minimum wage workers above the poverty line would bankrupt many businesses and be very inflationary as costs were passed on.
Having the government create public works programs that have already proven unfeasible in the past is not a good solution either, but he suggests it. The government can no more hire and effectively and efficiently manage public works employees in a productive manner than it can do anything else efficiently. A full knowledge of how government bureaucracies work/don’t work should dissuade him from this idea, but we suspect that what Gans harbors in his liberal-idealist mind is a concept of how he wished such things worked.
The idea of our government effectively and efficiently managing public works employees is a pipe dream
Some of the book degenerates into raw social engineering and bleeding-heart liberal welfare state idealism at its worst. His “social insurance” ideas are naïve and obsolete. If the risks in life are socially engineered out of existence, it will create dependence and irresponsibility, not security and equality. With many good jobs going begging and America getting many scientists, programmers, and engineers from out of the country, we need to concentrate efforts on training and education, in the spirit of the Third Wave, not on “income grants” for the jobless, as he proposes. We need an opportunity society, not a welfare state.
Liberal named Gans trying to save us by dishing out cash
In our opinion, unemployment checks should never be simply given out—they should always be earned by either training/educating people about what one knows, or by learning or being trained so that all the unfilled jobs in society get filled. This is a win-win situation that’s in everyone’s best interest. Why should American product prices contain an educational component because industries have to devote funds to train applicants who apply without the needed experience, training, knowledge and job skills? For that matter, why should people train for one thing only and then be “out of work” when there’s no demand for that type of work, when all the best futurists and thinkers know that people in the future will have multiple careers and need to be trained in several areas, as well as needing to engage in lifelong learning so they can keep current with what’s going on and always have marketable skills and knowledge?
In our opinion, unemployment checks should be earned by either teaching people about what one knows, or by learning or being trained so that all the unfilled jobs in society get filled
He needs to read both Toffler and Naisbitt, and then talk to a few more conservative people that understand the economy. His view of it is out of date and too liberal (he even tells us that “current welfare policy  needs to remain in place” and we should be more like the “European welfare states”!) and can only prolong the social problems we’re all tired of—if anyone listens to him. Luckily, his social engineering ideas are mostly politically unfeasible and getting more so by the minute. His assumption that political solutions will be developed by social planners to address the social dysfunctionality and inequities is at least tempered by the realization that: “Most of the major think tanks and private economic research firms devote themselves to short-range policy studies that supply immediate answers for questions of the moment.” In other words, he realizes that long-term problems need long-term solutions empowered by long-term thinking. Again, he needs to read Toffler and Naisbitt. (And then read about the MC movement plans. See Why Register for an MC?.)
Registering for MC search and match