If the Economist’s “Free Exchange” blog didn’t exist, Michael Lewis would have to invent it. And, in a sense, he did. In this morning’s Bloomberg column, Lewis—tongue planted firmly in cheek—explains that the main lesson from the subprime fallout is that “finance is one thing you should never engage in with the poor.”
“Our society is really, really hostile to success,” Lewis writes. “At the same time it's shockingly indulgent of poor people.”
It’s written so straight forwardly that you almost believe that Lewis is transcribing his column straight from the reactionary brain of a right-wing elitist, except that elitists long ago learned to stop thinking and talking in such shocking ways. But someone didn't get that memo at Free Exchange, which this morning began a column by announcing that “America’s so-called poor live like kings.”
More after the jump.
Actually, Free Exchange is paraphrasing a report it apparently approves of by the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector. Or, at least, half approves of. It agrees that America’s poor enjoy a “bounty at the bottom” but disputes Rector’s claim that reducing unskilled immigration would help to further alleviate the condition of Americans in poverty. Actually, they don’t even dispute that claim. They just dispute whether alleviating American poverty makes sense from a “humanitarian” perspective.
“But it takes a special kind of brazenness to propose a reduction of the national poverty rate at the expense of ensuring that more people stay poor by denying them opportunity to set foot in the nation,” Free Exchange explains. “From a humanitarian perspective, if a wealthy nation's poverty rate improves, then it isn't letting enough poor people in.”
We would have thought that the word for that “special kind of brazenness” of caring for one’s own countrymen more than one does foreigners was “patriotism.” Bu it’s probably called something else now. It's so hard to keep track of those words these days and we’re kind of old fashioned. We haven’t yet lost the ability to be shocked by someone claiming to have humanitarian reasons for hoping the poverty rate doesn’t improve.
"There's a reason the rich aren't getting richer as fast as they should: they keep getting tangled up with the poor," Michael Lewis writes. The nice folks at Free Exchange remind us that it's also getting tangled up with the world's poor who keep the American poor that way. They just want to make sure that doesn't change too much.
A Wall Street Trader Draws Some Subprime Lessons [Bloomberg]
Fighting "poverty" by promoting poverty [Free Exchange]
How Poor Are America's Poor? Examining the "Plague" of Poverty in America [Heritage Foundation]