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The Real Inequality Problem

It's not income inequality. James Q. Wilson clarifies in today's WaPo: "Reducing poverty, rather than inequality, is also a difficult task, but at least the end is clearer." Obama's policies will perpetuate poverty and possibly even increase inequality.
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Discussions - 32 Comments

By real-world standards, we don't have much poverty in the United States. Ending relative (rather than absolute) poverty is just another way of saying that inequality ought to be addressed. Of course, actually ending relative poverty won't do much to allay the demands of the Left. Wealth (i.e., other people's wealth) is sinful and must be cleansed.

We are dealing with a disease of the mind, so we really shouldn't expect any quick policy fix. Every generation will have to fight this fight.

Sure, even if measures of poverty vary over time, human envy is a constant.

Mr. Obama;

I am a very rich and wealthy taxpayer and job creator. I make over $2 billion a year in profits from my hard work. I spent 8 years in college getting my doctorate degree and have taken chances in starting companies and sometimes making money and sometimes losing money. I work long hours and employ many people who like me have gone to college and got a degree in something useful and then went on to work. Because of my hard work and the chances I have taken, there are many people who have ridden on my coattails and also become millionaires. People like me who you want to pay more taxes to help the "poor".

I am all for helping the "poor". It is the Christian thing to do and it is an obligation that all of us in a civil society must do. It is the just right thing to do.

However, I want to know what constitutes "poor". Drug addicts, gang members, high-school dropouts, felons/ex felons, X-Box/Playston/Nintendo gamers and above all Single Mothers are "poor" because of the choices that they made in their lives. If I would have made their choices instead of the ones that I made, I too would have been poor. Single mother, however, is the crown jewel of them all. If you are born to a singe mother, your chances of ending up in jail, dropping out of school, in a gang or a drug addict and remaining in poverty for the rest of your life are at about 90%. The Bible emphatically states that we are to care for widows and children, but no where does it say that we are to care for single moms. Single motherhood is like an abortion - it is a choice. If you want to cure single motherhood, make the sperm donor and the single mother 100% responsible for the offspring. No exceptions, not even in divorce. This will get both mom and dad out of their selfishness (the leading cause of divorce and single motherhood) and into being responsible for their children. This will eliminate the bulk of gang members, drug addicts, high school dropouts, X-Box/Playstation gamers, and felons/ex-felons. The statistics that prove this fact are irrefutable. No dad - the kid(s) will be losers. Period. End of discussion.

If you still want me to pay for "single motherhood" with my hard-earn taxes, then I demand that I be with the irresponsible couple engaging in irresponsible behavior so that I can have a say in the matter as that would only be fair. You do want "FAIR" right Mr. Obama?

Sincerely - Hard working tax payer and job creator.

For those of you who consider yourself Christian:

http://tryingtofollow.com/2007/03/29/7even-statements-of-jesus-about-wealth/

Did Jesus have this "disease of the mind" - envy?

"The Bible emphatically states that we are to care for widows and children, but no where does it say that we are to care for single moms. Single motherhood is like an abortion..."

cow, that was AWESOME. Thank you!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyln-yReNv8

and, also quite relevant to this matter, if you've got a bit longer attention span:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VB1T7IaK6g8&feature=related

Jesus lived in a wholly different time, Scanlon, when wealth was mostly built on exploitation (slavery and the like). Industrial capitalism is far different - it's the first economic system where you must serve your fellow man in order to get rich. Of course, there are still other paths (being an ambulance-chaser, or a politician), but the world has changed since Jesus' time.

And, since I'm not a religious person, I'm OK with saying that even if the above weren't true, Jesus was wrong. He didn't understand the necessity of building wealth in order to improve the lot of most human beings. We have learned something over the millennia.

Craig, it is always a treat to have you, or any non-believer, like Colbert, tell Christians how they ought to live. cowgirl said she gives to the poor because it is the right thing to do. She has problem with people are poor because they commit sins. I don't really see how not having an abortion is the same as not having an abortion, but that was not really her point. She is saying that the father of the child should be responsible for the child. I do not see anything in scripture that does not support that idea. In addition to the scriptures cited in your first link, there are many others about the necessity of working, such as, "if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either." 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

If Jesus had had so much trouble with rich people, he would not have been dependent on them for support in his ministry. You need wealth to care for the poor. In speaking to the idle rich in the instances cited in that list, he was suggesting that their wealth was a problem for them. Wealth is a problem for some and traits like selfishness and envy are sins, and not restricted to the poor.

Colbert misunderstands Christianity. There is a difference between giving to the poor with an open hand and having your government take your money and give it to the poor with an open hand. The nation cannot be Christian; it does not relate to God. We, the people of the nation, can be Christians and do what Christians ought to do, what God commands. When government takes our money to give to the poor, it robs us of volition in the matter.

This is recognized in our tax code; charitable donations are tax deductible. The federal government recognizes that giving to the poor is a charitable act and supports it. We must help the poor, that is, Christians are commanded to help the poor. Like cowgirl says, that is just right. Government forcing us to do so through taxation is something else, not charitable giving.

Perhaps if we were a Christian nation, in that all people in the nation were Christians, there would be no need for government programs to help the poor.

"Craig, it is always a treat to have you, or any non-believer, like Colbert, tell Christians how they ought to live."

Did you actually read what cowgirl wrote there? It seems that she has some ideas on how people are to live, be they Christians or not (she also can't seem to comprehend - among other things - that some widows might actually be mothers, too!). And what I offered was not MY thoughts on such matters, but what are supposedly quotes from Jesus Christ himself, per your preferred holy text (albeit perhaps the "wrong" version), and the reasonable interpretations (certainly more reasonable than Limbaugh's, for instance) of his words, via O'Donnell and Colbert.

BTW, contra your suggestion otherwise, Colbert is widely known to be a Catholic; he even teaches (or has taught in the recent past) Sunday School. Sorry!
So, I guess the argument now will have to be that he's not a "true" Catholic or Christian or whatever feels right in your gut.

More later...

Craig might have a different or more developed reason for being against drastic levels of income inequality, but for me it is mainly about barganing power.

While theoretically I like the libertarian view of contracts, the theory simply has no or very limited application for a huge segment of the population.

I like portions of Wilson's analysis, but he turns to public opinion as a guide to speak misleading untruths.

Income inequality has increased because intellectual and proffesional inequality has increased. The rich are rich because they are more disciplined, and more sophisticated, largely because they can employ lawyers or live in communities where they have friends who more or less comprise a sort of brain trust.

No one disputes that you can take $100 and turn it into $3500 by hitting the right number in roulette. But if the rich start the game with $1000 they have 10 outs to $3500. But what is more the rich know enough not to take the gamble, they have more direct access to odds. If they even play roulette they can negotiate so to speak for a french table (1/36 vs. 1/37). They might even be able to bankroll the table itself, and play as the house.

The house edge is compounded at every level. A rich person who files a suit can argue more credibly from a position of moral outrage. When tabulating settlement offers typically a company will offer to settle for an amount that leaves it better off than its risk adjusted cost.

Scenario: Old lady falls and breaks a hip.

Cost to old lady for lawyer(assuming hourly rate) $5000,

Odds of losing 50%...payout $0
Odds of prevailing 25% payout 10,000
Odds of prevailing 25% payout 50,000

E.V. (estimated value) of law suit equals $15,000

Cost to business for lawyer (assuming hourly rate) $10,000.

Same E.L. (Estimated Liability) $15,000.

Business as rational person (actually thinking of businesses as people, is about the most accurate form of rational choice theory).

So business is willing to settle for sum under 10+15k or 25k, minus the interest rate/debt retirement/time value of money.

The Rich old lady can press the suit for moral outrage($5000 legal fee no object) that the business failed to salt the parking lot..so the business will be more likely to settle offer on the high side. Say 20k.

But when it is a poor litigant the business will calculate the settlement not by using its own EV/EL but by using the mathmatical EV of the old lady.

Can the poor old lady really afford to push her statistical value, and risk 5k on a 50% loss proposition? Do the middle class poker players who luck into the bubble of the WSOP push advantage with pocket Kings? The answer it turns out is that they are actually/typically risk adverse. A risk adversion that is not "rational" especially since they are fine with paying $1 to win $1 million with an E.V. of 80 cents on the dollar.

It is true that you are always even, and that in the long run these house edges tabulate. If as Einstein said, the strongest force in the universe is compound interest, then it is clear that the rich have a fulcrum for employing it.

The counterparty to pushing the house edge happens to be the old lady in this example. Her offer is more likely to be $8k (don't get too greedy or this will certainly backfire, especially since lawyers can work on contingency and juries can be sympathetic...but for simplification purposes...)

The poor party will likely get the offer which is "rational" for them to accept, while the rich plaintiff on similar facts will often get the offer which is "rational" from the perspective of the corporation/business.

What is worse is that the lawyer more or less has to understand the client/sympathize. It is hard for the lawyer to tell someone who can't afford to lose 5k that they should turn down 8k, and legal ethics forbids loaning money to clients(with some sensible reasons).

While this is Law School ADR 101, it is really something I knew from playing poker. Attitudes about risk change with income.

Also often times when talking down the progressive stance on unemployment right-leaning economists will bring up frictional unemployment. I think the right-leaning economists have a valid point, but again the poor have less barganing power, while the rich can farm the brain trust for better offers. Only the rich push the competitive advantage of "frictional unemployment" to its maximal value.

Since sucess in life itself is a series of small edges pushed for maximum value (and I don't mean to discount ethics in any way) the poor lose out on appraising risk.

Having seen real poverty in third world nations, I grant that for the most part the war on poverty has been won.

But Wilson is wrong, it is not about poverty, from the tea party to Madison, to Columbus to occupy Wall Street it is about the legal fiction of contract/formalism and barganning power, and income inequality that foundationaly structures rationality/choice.

Pumpkin:

" Single motherhood is like an abortion..." it is a choice.

Quit being the New York Times taking something completely out of context .

SIngle motherhood is like an abortion - it is a choice".

One can choose single motherhood or not.

Your mental illness is showing.

Craig, confess knowing nothing about Steven Colbert, except what I read about him here and or see other places, like suggested YouTube clips. From those things, I would not ever have guessed he was a Catholic.

So you think nothing about this. Then why did you write?

I never said I had a problem with the scriptures cited in your link. I said the opposite of that. Did you read what I wrote? I don't think so. You have not addressed it.

John Lewis, given a choice between absolute poverty and American poverty, people from all over the world come here knowing the difference. It is a rational choice. This is not your clearest effort, but this is my argument with what I understand of it.

Futhermore Pumpkin, lay off Jesus and the Bible. It is quite obvious you know nothing about either one.

Again, liberalism is a mental illness.

Pumpkin:

Do you ever think for yourself or do you form opinions based on watching youtube?

Times may have changed since Jesus walked this earth, but man has not. There is no difference between the people of Jesus' time and now.

The teachings in the Bible are just as applicable then as they are today.

Wealth is a blessing, not a necessity. Job and King David are just a few people in the Bible who were blessed by God with wealth. Read about them. Their stories are better than the junk on Youtube.

Pumkpin:

Try and grasp this. I know liberalism is a mental illness, but try okay - just once open your closed mind;

Single motherhood is different from widows. Widows don't have a choice in the matter unlike abortion - again you are the liberal and you are the group that makes aborition a "CHOICE" instead of what it really is which is murder of an unborn child. Widows who have children are to be helped.

SIngle motherhood is an irresponsible girl/boy having irresponsible sex thus resulting in a child who the mother raises, the father leaves and the taxpayers foot the bill.

What part of this simple idea don't you get? You just keep proving that liberalism is a mental illness.

Kate;

In response to your following statement:

cowgirl said she gives to the poor because it is the right thing to do. She has problem with people are poor because they commit sins.

Poor, middle-class, wealthy, short, tall, fat, skinny, black white, yellow, brown, blonde etc people all sin. No one is not a sinner in this world.

I have a problem with people who are poor and demand handouts and don't take responsibilitiy for their actions.

There is a difference between someone who is poor because they are a drug addict and someone who is poor because they were born with Down Syndrome or MS. I will gladly help someone born with a disability, a widow with children or without children, a disabled vet or someone who had a bad accident and is disabled for the rest of their life. I will not, however, pay for someone who is poor because they dropped out of school, got pregnant had children out of wedlock or is a drug addict.

People are responsible for the decisions they make in life and the government should not be taking from hard-working people and giving to people who make bad decisions in their lives and expect hand outs.

Just wanted to clarify that statement.

I also can't help but note that anyone who read the article has to notice that Wilson actually tepidly endorsed one of Obama's policies(social impact bond), by pointing to the work of Liebman.

Yet Ken Thomas says: "Obama's policies will perpetuate poverty and possibly even increase inequality."

Yet given the complexity of a typical american contract, and the attention span of american readers...

This also answers Kate:
"John Lewis, given a choice between absolute poverty and American poverty, people from all over the world come here knowing the difference. It is a rational choice. This is not your clearest effort, but this is my argument with what I understand of it."

You are the english prof, but I don't understand the reply. If people come to america "knowing the difference", then the difference is really what we must examine, which means getting beyond "america" or beyond "Obama's policies". Which ones? Certainly it means getting beyond "ObamaCare" to the PPACA, and beyond this to specific provisions or beyond "RomneyCare" to examining federalism, or distinctive elements of Mass. (assuming legal minutia is actually relevant.)

The devil is in the details, and the rich exploit the details. The poor don't understand the details, but try to be manly by paroting a caveat emptor idealism. You have a retail politics and economics of generalities for the poor and middle class, and administrative law/notice and comment and waivers for the connected.

If Progressivism is a mental illness, it mainly inflicts Cowgirl. Craig seems to be thinking clearly. My position is actually that Progressivism and Conservatism are subject to a form of genericism. If these terms/Brands were owned(trademarked) by say Coca Cola, then they would be subject to legal protection and retain meaning, as it is under Capitalism non-commerical adjectives lose a narrowly tailored syntactic role, while terms like Apple acquire secondary meaning, to the point where I think of the computer and not the fruit. Obviously you have folks like Rush L. who are in the business of politics, who shape the meaning of these terms(Progressivism, Conservatism) for a narrow audience. Still these accounts(or personal history) may be very far removed from reality and completly off. It works for Rush, but his audience is reduced to a relatively innacurate dependancy. (a generalization, sometimes even Rush is on point).

But I think wealth today is a function of being able to narrow in on relevant factors, which may involve throwing away adjectives that do not serve a syntatic role. I think a lot of middle class folks myself included suffer from this sort of conceptual ADHD, while the rich seem to have a better ability to sort and organize information, while a lot of folks run around chasing ghosts.

I don't know if this makes sense to you as an english professor, but there is a huge advantage in having a clearer mechanical/syntatic understanding of the system.

"If Progressivism is a mental illness, it mainly inflicts Cowgirl. Craig seems to be thinking clearly."

RIght. I guess to get over my mental illness that you seemed to think that I have, I should just argue points with links to youtube and forget any actual facts.

I have read your long-winded, non-factual, self-centered essay here. You think in terms of abstract, racism (you think poor people cannot make clear choices or undertanding anything - typical liberal elitist) and the liberal utopia mind-set which doesn't solve any problem except to make Liberals/Progressives feel good about themselves.

Your inability to deal with facts and reality further prove my point that liberalism is a mental illness and both you and Pumpkin have severe forms of it.

"John Lewis, given a choice between absolute poverty and American poverty, people from all over the world come here knowing the difference. It is a rational choice. This is not your clearest effort, but this is my argument with what I understand of it."

You are the english prof, but I don't understand the reply. If people come to america "knowing the difference", then the difference is really what we must examine, which means getting beyond "america" or beyond "Obama's policies". Which ones? Certainly it means getting beyond "ObamaCare" to the PPACA, and beyond this to specific provisions or beyond "RomneyCare" to examining federalism, or distinctive elements of Mass. (assuming legal minutia is actually relevant.)

All right, I was unclear. I meant that people who immigrate to America (legally or illegally) often know a different kind of poverty than America's poor, especially those eligible for government assistance (as it is today or even was ten or twenty years ago) and would rather take their chances on escaping poverty in the US than in whatever poorer country that they came from.

A quibble: Rush Limbaugh is in the entertainment business, not politics.

Yet, I do agree that many people who have, (as Charles Murray puts it in an article I refer to in another thread) plenty of cultural advantages still will not become rich. It is also unlikely that such a person will remain poor if he works and finds a place to work well.

"So you think nothing about this. Then why did you write?"

I didn't say I have no thoughts on the matter. I was merely offering what are supposed to be Jesus's thoughts on the matter of helping the poor (as opposed to Paul's thoughts on his associates). Since I'm not Christian and do not consider the Bible a holy text (insert facile assessment of lack of morality here), I don't find Bible-quote-warfare to be particularly edifying, although it's obvious enough that the text is ripe for various reasonable interpretations (although there are literalists who insist that there's not a contradiction to be found), and it can be retrofitted to prop up almost any social or political view - left, right, or a combination thereof.

I do think Colbert sums up nicely the dilemma facing conservative Christians in America - those who think that the US is or should be a (narrowly defined) "Christian nation." Perhaps we could achieve greater clarity in our national dialogue if those Christians were just honest with themselves and what they want, and then state it plainly.

Kate, you just might be interested to know who else was a fan of the principle embodied in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 - Vladimir Lenin. He considered the idea an essential value of socialism, and it was even put directly into article 12 of the 1936 Soviet Constitution.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_who_does_not_work,_neither_shall_he_eat#Soviet_Union

Of course, their concept of who could be an idle parasite would be most politically incorrect in today's US, where the uber-wealthy are exalted to godlike heights, and one is to always assume that enormous wealth must have originated from enormous labors (see cow's Letter to Obama).

"If Jesus had had so much trouble with rich people, he would not have been dependent on them for support in his ministry. You need wealth to care for the poor. In speaking to the idle rich in the instances cited in that list, he was suggesting that their wealth was a problem for them."

So, is that first part really a claim that the incarnation of God on Earth was dependent on rich people?

"You need wealth to care for the poor."

Given your preceding context, I think you're referring to Jesus's caring for the poor.
So, who were the behind-the-scenes funders in your rather original take on the Feeding of the 4,000, and the Feeding of the 5,000?

"Perhaps if we were a Christian nation, in that all people in the nation were Christians, there would be no need for government programs to help the poor."

Are you serious? So you think that, by definition, Christians - True Christians - must be opposed to government-organized, taxpayer-funded social welfare programs? You were surprised to learn that Stephen Colbert is Catholic. Prepare to have your mind completely blown to bits: Michael Moore is a Catholic!

Aside from your cavalier dismissal of any Christian who takes a different view than yourself on government social welfare programs, I don't get your suggestion. Is the idea that the non-Christian Americans are somehow holding back Christian Americans from alleviating poverty (putting aside the convenient catch that you might not even concede any Americans live in poverty, in which case, one could consider non-Americans living in poverty)? Yes, some of your tax payments are put into social welfare programs, but if you still have enough income or wealth (after taxes) for pretty much any luxury item (2nd car, 2nd home, a la Steven Hayward, multiple TV sets, etc.), perhaps you should consider helping out, say, a homeless person. Would it be a safe bet that Jesus would want you to do so, or is there a "not necessarily" Bible quote to cover that contingency?

Or (I'm really mulling over your words here!) did you mean to suggest that if America was a 100% Christian nation everyone would pull their own weight and there'd be no poor people to help out? Just what were you getting at there?

Cow, I don't have the time to address your numerous absurdities. It is clear that some of those you wish to pull assistance from are those that started out as random victims:

"If you are born to a singe [sic] mother, your chances of ending up in jail, dropping out of school, in a gang or a drug addict and remaining in poverty for the rest of your life are at about 90%."

(Hmmm.... do you think that anyone born with such odds might later end up having some problems of their own - problems that will make them undeserving and unfit for assistance in your eyes (and let's face it, they won't get private assistance from you if you have such disdain for them when they get taxpayer-funded aid)?)

As for your annoying "liberalism is a mental disease" mantra, I'll just leave this here for you - enjoy!!:

http://www.livescience.com/18132-intelligence-social-conservatism-racism.html

"There's no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience."

"Since I'm not Christian and do not consider the Bible a holy text "

Then quit trying to act like you know something about it.

"Cow, I don't have the time to address your numerous absurdities. It is clear that some of those you wish to pull assistance from are those that started out as random victims"

Pumpkin - of course you don't have the time to address my numerous "absuridities" as those absuridites are all facts that neither you or Lewis can prove false nor wish to accept as it destroys your liberal-minded utopia.

My father was the poorest person I have ever known in my life. My father and his brother spent their childhood in a Catholic orphanage in south Texas. My great grandparents could not afford to raise them during the depression. His brother, my uncle, died at the age of 6 because he got a beetle in his ear and it went untreated . At the age of 14 my grandparents took my father out of the orphanage and trekked to California living in the labor camps along Highway 66. My father graduated early from high school, joined the Navy during WWII and served his country. He then went on to work hard and make a lot of money. He died a very wealthy man. My father was born into extremely unfair circumstances with the odds COMPLETELY against him. He never committed any crimes or expected anyone to help him. He had character, integrity, was honest and worked hard. HE NEVER EXPECTED HANDOUTS because of his "circumstances".

So your "oh poor me I was born into unforunate circumstances" does not work. It is an excuse.

Your bro at Live Science has got it all wrong. Read the article that Peter Lawler posted and you will see that those with conservative values are more successful, stay married, work hard, their children are more successful and do better in life overall. Twist those facts Pumpkin all you want.....

But the real point you miss is this. Conservatives are more generous with their own money and give more freely and more of their time to charities and "poor" people than liberals.

Vice President gave his salary each year to charity. That means for 8 years he gave approximately $200,000 to charities. In 2006 Cheney gave $7 million to charities and medical research organizations.

Mitt Romeny gave $3 million in 2010 in charitable contributions.

President Crackpot and his cranky wife gave $369,000 in charitable contributions in 2009.

Vice President Joe Biden's charitable contributions in 2010 - $369.

Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper gave $353 dollars to charity with an income of almost $200,000.

So Pumpkin, this begs the question - Should conservatives stop giving soooooooooo much of their money to the "poor" so they can be smart like Liberals?

Again, Liberalism is a mental illness.

Lewis/Scanlon:

I am sure that both of you would not want to miss out on the 59th Annual National Day of Prayer that will take place in DC on Thursday. Your favoriate socialist Obama will be in attendance along with agroup called Occupy Faith DC who will be there representing the 99%.

I would bet my house that their mission/motto is right up your alley:

"Thou SHALL covet thy neighbor's goods"

Kate, you said:

"A quibble: Rush Limbaugh is in the entertainment business, not politics."

You don't seriously expect anyone to swallow that, do you?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rush_Limbaugh#Defining_the_conservative_movement

Also:

"A month after Bill Clinton's defeat of George H.W. Bush in 1992, Ronald Reagan sent Limbaugh a letter in which he thanked him "for all you're doing to promote Republican and conservative principles ... [and] you have become the Number One voice for conservatism in our Country."

(orig. found at National Review's site)

He may be entertaining to some (for various reasons), but he is very much in the politics business.

Wikipedia? On a topic like this? For all I know you could have tweaked the entry. Just joking, but are you suggesting this is the authority on the topic that I should take seriously?

Look, Reagan could have written the same kind of letter to Bob Hope years before. I am not saying Rush has nothing to do with politics. His show is an entertainment about politics. He has no real power except the power of persuasion, and clearly, if you are any indication, a person must be willing, must be inclined to be willing, even, to be persuaded by his logic when listening.

Surely, there must be entertainers on the Left whose topic is politics. Those topical comedy shows the kids in my classes watch and take in as "serious" (ha-ha) news are surely that. You've tried to get me swallow what Rachel Maddow (sp?) says about various topics. She's an entertainer, too, although more carefully placed so as to have a journalistic veneer.

Rush isn't even presenting himself as to appear to be a journalist. He knows he's in the entertainment business. Nice for him he's got some political influence, as that gets him listeners, which makes him attractive to advertisers. For him and for your hero, Glenn Beck, part of the way they maintain high ratings is by stirring up controversy. That makes them money. Nice for them. We should be so lucky as to have someone pay us for expressing opinions.

I am willing to entertain the idea that those guys are only marginally more commercial than the regular news programs available to us, primarily on TV. Those programs package and sell news as entertainment, competing for viewers based on -- oh, my -- God only knows what formula of heavy/light/ludicrous news it is that works these days and brings viewers, and hence, commercial sponsors to those programs.

Surely, there must be entertainers on the Left whose topic is politics.

See Franken, Al.

I don't find him entertaining.

"Wikipedia? On a topic like this? For all I know you could have tweaked the entry. Just joking, but are you suggesting this is the authority on the topic that I should take seriously?"

So, I linked to wikipedia. It's not as though I needed to source some super-obscure, little-known fact. If you look at the wiki entry, you'll see that (like so many others at wiki) it's well-sourced and footnoted. I've seen the original National Review issue that printed the text of Reagan's letter to Limbaugh. Explaining to you that Rush is involved in, and influential in, politics - rather than merely making political jokes a la Mark Russell or whoever (and how Limbaugh's "Barack the Magic Negro" or nearly anything else he does as humor could be considered comparable to Russell is beyond me) - really seemed like a thankless task, so I wasn't going to put a whole lot of effort into it. The fact that any Republican who's ever dared to criticize Limbaugh has opted to subsequently plea for forgiveness (usu. after a very short time, too) says enough. In any case, the wikipedia facts are facts. If their link to the National Review article no longer works, well, that's life. Go to your library and find a copy. Never mind... here's a link to a later National Review article (happy?) that quotes the whole (short) letter from Reagan to Limbaugh.

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/207702/rush-leader-opposition/james-bowman

It should also be noted that the article, entitled "Rush: The Leader of the Opposition" quotes no less than the legendary conservative William Bennett, who said:

"[Limbaugh] may be the most consequential person in political life at the moment. He is changing the terms of debate. He is doing to the culture what Ronald Reagan did to the political movement.
(...)
Rush is extremely sophisticated, extremely smart. The great thing is that, never having been through a university, he is not complicated with pedanticism. He’s very serious intellectually. He knows how to frame an issue, how to debate an issue, how to argue ad finem and ad absurdum. He does both. But he is larger than a leader of the political opposition. He represents a shift in the culture. Another ten years of the political change he stands for will take us beyond Republicans and Democrats."

So, anyway, yes - Wikipedia. What are you, some ivory tower academic elitist? (haha)

I would still appreciate further clarification of what you said above, namely:

"Perhaps if we were a Christian nation, in that all people in the nation were Christians, there would be no need for government programs to help the poor."

and, while you're at it, this:

"If Jesus had had so much trouble with rich people, he would not have been dependent on them for support in his ministry."

From the bottom:

1. People with means, mostly women, (referenced in Luke, at least, as women who had been healed) supported Jesus and his disciples. I note that Jesus and the men who were his disciples had all worked before, but were doing this work of ministry, now. They needed support and took it where they could get it, including through the occasional miracle, but also taking meals at the homes of supporters. It couldn't have been easy for anyone to host Jesus and his retinue. I do not know, but I figure this is one reason Jesus spoke of money and wealth as a snare. It would have been easier to give in to comfort or to massage his message to get more contributions. He didn't.

2. Christians are commanded repeatedly to give to the poor, especially to care for orphans and widows. Scripture also says that he who will not work should not eat and lays a stress on any work (any honorable work) being better than no work.

3. I still say Rush is an entertainer first, before anything else. I do not deny he is a politically conservative entertainer. I just do not think he is the demi-god you think he is.

"Christians are commanded repeatedly to give to the poor, especially to care for orphans and widows. Scripture also says that he who will not work should not eat and lays a stress on any work (any honorable work) being better than no work."

Well then, I guess you're off the hook (at least as far as helping any Americans goes), since - following conservative mantras - there really are very few truly poor people in the US, and to the negligible extent there are it is because they are lazy.

"I still say Rush is an entertainer first, before anything else. I do not deny he is a politically conservative entertainer. I just do not think he is the demi-god you think he is."

I never said that Rush is a demi-god. Please do not infer my opinion from those of Ronald Reagan, William Bennett, and the people who determine the CPAC awards (does the P in CPAC stand for entertainment?).

You asked me questions and I answered them. You are welcome.

I guess that would be my cue to say "Thank you." But really, Kate, we've "known" each other for so long now I thought we could have dispensed with such formalities.

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