Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Kendra Coulter discusses the connection between human treatment of animals and humans:
Close to home and around the world, working class and poor people are really struggling. In countries like Canada, unemployment and underemployment persist. We have been told that corporate tax cuts would create jobs, yet many of the few positions now available provide only poverty wages and part-time hours. Globally, over two billion people try to live on less than two dollars a day. In much of the global south, people face a "choice" between poverty wages in factories, or poverty income on farms. People are not poor by choice, and they should not be mocked or demonized.

Animals play different roles in the lives of the poor. Homeless and precariously-housed people are conscientious guardians of their cherished (and reciprocating) animals, for example. In some of the world's poorest communities, women see their donkeys as invaluable, and are keen to better protect the animals in return. Widespread and unrelenting poverty means some people must take undesirable paths, however. Too many for-profit industries and greedy individuals exploit people's desperation, trapping them into dangerous, poorly paying jobs -- and animals into worse.

People need income, and if given real choices, most would opt to earn a living by helping others rather than by harming them. Given this context, there is clear and pressing need to cultivate new, positive areas of work, to expand and create what I call humane jobs. Humane jobs afford people with good working conditions, doing jobs that help animals, or that help both people and animals. Humane jobs feed people's stomachs and their sense of pride.
- And Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig slams David Brooks' attempt to pretend that poverty can written off as resulting from the moral inferiority of the poor:
Brooks' underlying assumption is wrong: The baseline moral values of poor people do not, in fact, differ that much from those of the rich. Poor people feel ashamed of the incarceration of relatives. The poor, too, want to get married at roughly the same rates as the rich, though the rich have an easier time pulling it off. Matrimonial aspirations, then, are decaying no faster among the poor than the well-off; it’s only the ability to maintain a marriage under the stressors of poverty that seems to put poor families on unsteady ground. Lastly, lest anyone suspect the welfare-queen narrative about poor people eschewing hard work and responsibility holds true, Stephen Pimpare observes in his book A People’s History of Poverty in America that the stigma and shame of poverty and welfare are alive and well, meaning that welfare recipients tend to internalize society’s narratives about work and accountability. Poor people, whatever their material circumstances might compel them to do, don’t seem to lack a moral compass.
People who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or “food stamps,” tend to make healthier food choices than those who don't use SNAP; they also tend to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables when provisions (such as small credits for buying fresh fruits and veggies) are made that account for the extra cost of cooking multi-item meals. And, as a 2005 British study found, low-income parents who are given benefits to help raise young children "increased spending on items such as children’s clothing, books, and toys, and decreased spending on alcohol and tobacco.” In other words, reducing poverty through infusions of cash appears to correct many of the behaviors poor people are regularly maligned for, including neglectful parenting and unhealthy lifestyles, bringing them more in line with the habits of the well-to-do.

Morality should teach us how to live a good life. But to impose the easy virtue of the well-to-do on the poor is to request the most stressed and vulnerable members of society to display impossible moral heroism. To abstain from relationships, sex, and childbirth until financially secure enough to raise a child without assistance would mean, for many, a life of celibacy; to pour limited resources into education in order to score a respectable job would mean failing to make rent. If the problems plaguing poor communities persist after poverty is drastically reduced, that would seem an appropriate time to pursue the matter of a better "moral vocabulary," as Brooks calls itand even then, the participation of low-income communities would be essential. But before that conversation can happen, the obvious solution to the “chaos” Brooks observes among poor communities is to reduce poverty, and let its moral quandaries resolve on their own.
- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on Campaign 2000's push to make action against child poverty a leading theme of this year's federal election. And Ryan Meili writes about the connection between growing inequality and ill health.

- PressProgress highlights the fact that the Cons' push toward income splitting is based on an explicit desire to keep women doing chores at home.

- Jessica McDiarmid reports that the Cons' latest rail law falls far short of accounting for the real cost of a rail disaster, leaving the public on the hook once again. And Mike McKinnon discusses the similarly-fictitious numbers behind Regina's P3 wasterwater plant.

- Finally, Michael Harris comments that the Cons' lack of ethics isn't going away, as evidenced by two brand-new stories demonstrating that they've been ignoring impartial evaluations to funnel public money toward supporters.

1 comment:

  1. Mervyn Norton9:53 p.m.

    Thanks, as always, for your tireless aggregation of these progressive views. But both your one-line summary of Bruenig's New Republic piece and her actual piece are unfair to David Brooks, who wrote:

    "... It will require holding everybody responsible. America is obviously not a country in which the less educated are behaving irresponsibly and the more educated are beacons of virtue. America is a country in which privileged people suffer from their own characteristic forms of self-indulgence: the tendency to self-segregate, the comprehensive failures of leadership in government and industry. Social norms need repair up and down the scale, universally, together and all at once."