Saturday, September 6, 2014

In which an obituary is Fisked.

Article: Michael Katz, 75, Who Challenged View of Poverty, Dies

He was a socialist who framed poverty as a failure of capitalism and proposed socialist solutions to the problems he himself framed as needing socialist solutions. The socialist solutions found favor by his fellow socialists and he was lauded and praised and given awards by Democrats and leftists and socialists because of his brilliant socialist solutions. And he earned a reverential obituary in the New York Times.
Throughout American history, Professor Katz wrote, there was a fundamental tension between the micro and macro views of poverty. In the micro view, individuals were the authors of their lives and impoverishment proof of their moral failing. In the macro analysis, large historic forces and economic trends — war and peace, the shifting interests of capital — favored some people and disadvantaged others.
First, this is an "false dilemma" fallacy.  By framing the question as either/or, he can dismiss the "micro" view as judgmental and moralistic (racist as well, see the quote below).

Indeed, he can dismiss reality; most people see poverty as due to both individual choices and due to structural causes. Both solutions are necessary to address poverty. We need a "safety net" and personal responsibility.

This is also a straw dog logical fallacy, since no actually believes in a pure "micro view." It is easy to argue against a position no one defends.

If the very basis of his analysis is incomplete, if not actually wrong, all of his analysis, conclusions, and proposed solutions are going to be incomplete at best.
Professor Katz saw the predominant thinking in the Reagan and Clinton administrations as updated versions of the micro view. In the work requirements and eligibility restrictions imposed on welfare recipients in those years, he saw traces of 18th-century notions that divided the poor into two classes: the “deserving” poor (disabled war veterans, widows with children and others with Anglo-Saxon forebears) and the “undeserving” (everyone else).
He committed a straw dog logical fallacy by claiming Reagan and Clinton were trying to apply 18th century thinking to late 20th century problems. He did this because he wanted to apply 19th century, socialist thinking to late 20th century problems. This made him, in his own eyes, a modern thinker.

This is also an ad hominem logical fallacy by calling proponents of the "micro" view racist ("with Anglo-Saxon forebears"). It is very satisfying to be able to dismiss an opponent's views as racist, claiming the moral high ground for one's policy solutions.
Welfare did not create the entrenched poverty of the American urban ghetto, he wrote, and the welfare reforms enacted by President Bill Clinton in 1996 would not end it.
Another straw dog logical fallacy. NO ONE claimed that Clinton's reforms would end "the entrenched policy of the American ghetto." As such, this is a false argument and shows Katz's intellectual dishonesty.
That, he said, would require an unflinching look at the history of racism and its effects in the United States… 
...Followed by a laundry list of all the bad things that happened to blacks during American history. As if we have not spent decades discussing this? Since the Supreme Court rulings in the 1950's and the Civil Rights Acts in the 1960's? People who looked at the link between welfare and the ghetto were shouted down by people like Professor Katz.

And didn't anything good ever happen to blacks in America?
Alice O’Connor, a professor of history and urban affairs at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in an interview that Professor Katz’s influence in the field of social science research was “immense,” particularly since the 1990s, when the welfare reform consensus threatened to shut down debate on the problem of poverty.
Alice O'Connor is either delusional or a liar. The debate RAGED over 20 years, from Reagan to Clinton, in congress, in the press, in state houses all over America. The Clinton welfare reforms worked, getting millions of people off the welfare rolls into jobs. And the safety net was retained (was Social Security and Medicaid destroyed, for example?).
“He helped a generation to rediscover the tools of social science,” Professor O’Connor said, and “reintroduced them to a language — a counternarrative — for discussing poverty.”
"Narrative" is used to describe a "story" about something. Politically, it is not about truth or facts or data. It is about defining the framework that people are allowed to use to discuss an issue. By out-working, once a narrative has been set, any facts, any data, that counter the narrative can be ignored. Welfare reform worked? It can be ignored because that is not part of the narrative.

"Rediscover" the language of the 19th century, of Marx, and the early socialists and the progressives of the early 20th century. Again, 19th century solutions to late 20th century issues.
In the 1990s, Professor Katz joined a heated debate about a segment of the poor referred to as “the underclass” — drug addicts, dropouts, unwed mothers, long-term welfare recipients and others who formed a “culture of poverty” supposedly beyond help.
Call them what you want. These people are real, and they need to be dealt with as people and as a class.

It is ironic that a socialist would complain about creating a class of people. For Marxists and Socialists, this is usually a full-time occupation.
Professor Katz said the idea of poverty as an “underclass” problem was misguided. 
“The processes creating an underclass degrade all our lives,” he wrote...
This is a "proof by assertion" fallacy. How does it degrade all our lives? My life or the lives of Hollywood starlets, Wall Street stock traders, and professors at elite universities?

The underclass has existed forever. Charles Dickens wrote about it for years during the early 1800's. Sir Arthur Canon Doyle features the underclass in some of his Sherlock Holmes stories in the late 1800's.
...Adding, “We will flourish or sink together.”
This is also "proof by assertion." It cannot be easily refuted because there is no evidence given that it is true. And in fact, there is no socialist evidence that it is true.

It is also a socialist truism. It is a basic assumption underlying all socialist thinking.  As such, it can neither be proven true or false.

The symbol of the Fascists was a bundle, or "fascia," of sticks, bound together to symbolize the idea of "strength through unity" of "flourishing or sinking together."

And, yes, Fascism is leftist and socialist. Mussolini repeatedly declared himself, and his policies and his philosophy, as socialist and "of the left."

Socialism has a basic contradiction in it. The Marxist version breaks all of society down into classes that are at war with one another.

Feminism adopted this mode of thinking by making men the oppressors and women the oppressed. The war of the sexes is, for them, a real battle that only one side can win.

The same with race relations in the US, whites are the oppressors of the blacks. And, yes, there is some basis in reality for this view. The white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant males of 18th and 19th century America were on top, until the Irish, the Jews, the Italians, the Blacks, the Hispanics, the Asians, and all women were invited in.

On the other hand, socialism views us all as one: "We will flourish or sink together."

There is a way that this idea has already been proven true, and it is not by a socialist, or by socialist thinking.

The free-market economy (not to be confused with "capitalism") has made everyone's boat rise, except for the "underclass." The Dickensian poverty of the 1800's, destitution, is rare. And usually only in the "under-most" part of the underclass, which in itself is the under-most part of the lower class.

But look at the list as to who is included in the underclass: drug addicts [I would include alcoholics here, as well], dropouts, unwed mothers, long-term welfare recipients.

The first three all prove the "micro view" correct: they are in the underclass due to pure poor choices.

As for long-term welfare recipients, if you grew up in a culture of welfare, in a ghetto, and have people tell you, all your life, that you will never get out because the "Man" (the white man) will never let you out, you would believe that you have no choice. So it is not a "poor choice," but a lack of hope, to remain there. And bad habits, and bad role-models, and bad schools, and bad etc.

Oddly enough, for a person considered an important researcher and thinker, he apparently has no Wikipedia page.

Odder still, he died in mid-August, and the NYT only got around to posting an obituary on September 4th.

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