Sunday, March 02, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your weekend.

- Nick Kristof writes that the growing gap in income reflects a similarly growing gap in social perception - and that there's plenty of need to reduce both:
There is an income gap in America, but just as important is a compassion gap. Plenty of successful people see a picture of a needy child and their first impulse is not to help but to reproach.
There may be neurological biases at work. A professor at Princeton found that our brains sometimes process images of people who are poor or homeless as if they were not humans but things.

Likewise, psychology experiments suggest that affluence may erode compassion. When research subjects are asked to imagine great wealth, or just look at a computer screen saver with money, they become less inclined to share or help others. That may be why the poorest 20 percent of Americans give away a larger share of their incomes than the wealthiest 20 percent.
It’s true, of course, that the poor are sometimes lazy and irresponsible. So are the rich, with less consequence.

Critics note that if a person manages to get through high school and avoid drugs, crime and parenting outside of marriage, it’s often possible to escape poverty. Fair enough. But if you’re one of the one-fifth of children in West Virginia born with drugs or alcohol in your system, if you ingest lead from peeling paint as a toddler, if your hearing or vision impairments aren’t detected, if you live in a home with no books in a gang-ridden neighborhood with terrible schools — in all these cases, you’re programmed for failure as surely as children of professionals are programed for success.

So when kids in poverty stumble, it’s not quite right to say that they “failed.” Often, they never had a chance.
Johnny shouldn’t be written off at the age of 3 because of the straw he drew in the lottery of birth. To spread opportunity, let’s start by pointing fewer fingers and offering more helping hands.
- And in a similar vein, Ryan Meili highlights the absurdity of the Libs' trial balloon about barring anybody deemed insufficiently virtuous from Nova Scotia's health care system.

- Meanwhile, Suzanne Mettler discusses how a university system increasingly tied to connections and wealth is serving to reinforce class barriers in the U.S.

- Stephen Maher comments on the creeping and creepy authoritarism of the Cons' selective ethnic preferences. And Scott Stelmaschuk similarly points out their scorched-earth campaign in Quebec.

- Finally, Jennifer Ditchburn reports on the efforts of independent oversight bodies to avoid being sliced to ribbons by Mark Adler's private member's bill. But if their millions in budget cuts to many of the same offices offer any indication, the Cons seem to figure that euthanizing public watchdogs is a feature rather than a bug.

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