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Blaming men for failing to acquire imaginary jobs

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I have a piece in The Week about one aspect of Paul Ryan’s “culture of work” remarks that hasn’t gotten much attention:

Ryan’s inner city men, who have never “learned the value and the culture of work,” are therefore not merely failing, but failing specifically as men, by failing to provide for their families.

The problem with this neat little morality tale is captured by what ought to be some startling statistics. Note that another unstated assumption behind comments such as Ryan’s is that the American economy actually produces enough decent-paying jobs to allow a reasonable number of Americans to have such jobs, as long as they embrace “the culture of work.”

To say this isn’t the case is an understatement. What is a “good” job, financially speaking? One which pays $50,000 per year? $40,000? $30,000? The latter figure, which represents take-home pay of less than $2000 per month, and which is only twice the minimum wage (which itself has declined sharply in real terms since the 1960s), is an extremely generous definition of what constitutes a decent-paying job.

But let’s use it anyway, to determine how many Americans of working age have such jobs. If we make a couple more unrealistically optimistic assumptions — that nobody under 18 or over 69 is working, and that no one has more than one job — the answer is: three out of 10.

Nearly 70 percent of American working-age adults do not have jobs that pay at least $30,000 per year, because there are only three such jobs for every 10 American adults between the ages of 18 and 69. In other words, the vast majority of working age Americans cannot possibly acquire decent-paying jobs, even if one defines a decent-paying job extremely broadly, because there aren’t nearly enough such jobs, not because people fail to embrace “the culture of work.”

Update: Some correspondence included for its potential sociological interest:

19 March 2014

Prof Paul F. Campos
University of Colorado
School of Law

Dear Prof. Campos,

Your criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan was a bit harsh to say the least. He does have a point regardless of you voluminous statistical presentation. Permit me to reflect upon certain demographic of the Black population. Why is it that, since the lack of jobs seems to be an equalizer and issue for everyone, Blacks have a far higher unemployment rate then non-Blacks? Why do Blacks have an astronomically higher crime/illegitimacy rate then non-Blacks? Why is it that Blacks are far more prone to create slums then non-Blacks? Why is it that Haiti, which has been under Black rule for over 200 years,is the economic basket case of the Western Hemisphere? Why is it that Black Africa is the most economically backward region of the world? Despite the false media hype of Blacks, why is it that rarely does one see Blacks in elite military units? The Special Ops unit that killed Bin Ladin did not have one single Black in it and most don’t. We’ve had decades of multi-$trillion minority programs and all sorts of preferential accommodations for Blacks and I might add Hispanics and the results are, to say the least, dismal! It is quite obvious that Blacks are not up to the job of constructively participating in a civilized society without a plethora of costly assistance programs;that American society can do without! The Black population, over the decades, has sufficiently demonstrated that it is more of a burden then an asset and clearly of no redeeming value! None! It is time to admit reality,as Rep. Ryan has done,and stop pretending!

Sincerely,

Roderick Spode*

*Name changed to protect the guilty

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