Sunday, February 23, 2014

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Being Poor Makes You Stupid

By Manifesto Joe

One hears much talk on the political right about the self-inflicted wounds of the poor, and that economic outcomes are closely tied to one's intelligence. It's a convenient way to justify highly unequal outcomes, and can be made to sound very "noble" with the emphasis on individual responsibility.

But science is finding that it's quite often the other way around. Being stupid may make you poor, yes -- but being poor also makes you stupid.

In a recent study of Indian sugar cane farmers, it was found through cognitive testing that before harvest, when the farmers are poor and struggling as their crops ripen, IQs were about 13 points lower than when the very same farmers were tested after the harvest, when money was ample. Being poor, it appeared, has a significant effect on the intelligence of the very same test subjects.

Here's a link to an article on the overall subject, and this study is referenced.

There are also studies linking mental health issues with poverty. Perhaps self-defeating behavior does create poverty -- but poverty, in turn, appears to create self-defeating behavior. Thus a vicious cycle is born.

I was born into a Southern working-class family that frequently struggled to make ends meet. My father left a promising military career to become a farmer just as the infamous Texas drought of the 1950s dried up the countryside, and then he became terminally ill in the 1960s. His financial fortunes were thoroughly destroyed by chance and/or fate. My mother struggled with mental health problems her entire life, and she was always plagued by her chronically bad financial decisions. Now I suspect that poverty was largely the cause of her problems, not the result of them.

Despite my background, I scored high enough on IQ tests to qualify for membership in the Mensa Society at the age of 26. In view of those recent studies, does this mean that my test scores might have been 13 points higher if I'd been something other than a struggling small-time newspaper reporter?

And would my IQ be higher now if I hadn't been laid off from a metro daily days before turning 56? The effect of the layoff, and its timing, on my finances has been nothing short of devastating. I'll never be able to really retire.

All personal experience aside, the effect that this has is the creation of a permanent underclass -- not only a socioeconomic one, but an intellectual one as well. As it turns out, it appears very much in the interest of the "1 percent" to keep a large bloc of people poor, in any society, for the rich to preserve the privileges they enjoy. Thus we see powerful opposition to increasing the minimum wage.

I've heard the arguments about increases in the minimum wage supposedly being inflationary, and being a job killer. But no empirical evidence supports that. Analyze the wage increases of the past, and one finds no such things. Any such ill effects are more than negated by the boost that poor people get in purchasing power. I've also heard it argued that people who earn the minimum wage are mostly teenagers. Studies have shown that the average minimum wage earner may be as old as 29. Also, try telling that to the typical Walmart "associate," as soon as his or her business with the food stamp office is concluded.

The bottom line is, when there are millions of working poor, those people are busy being absorbed by how to pay rent and bills, and their IQs suffer as a result. Keeps them in their place.

And then, the relatively wealthy can easily blame the victims for their own plight. They are there because they deserve to be there, it's been said. They should show the initiative and shrewdness to improve their individual positions in life.

But science is revealing that this isn't the entire story. And in general, what's strongly implied by these studies is that if people were broadly paid more for their labor, their IQs might increase commensurately.

But you see, we mustn't have the great unwashed rabble getting fancy, unrealistic ideas about themselves. That just won't do.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

By The Way, RIP, Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

It's the passing of an era. My mother was a folkie, and I heard Pete and others with him from an early age. We need a few more protest singers like him. You know, the ones from whom you can actually understand the lyrics. -- mj

The Lost Art Of Music: REAL Music

Something I've run across often on the very far left is people who think that three-chord punk rockers play "real music." One doesn't have to be a reactionary to yearn for music -- the real thing. Here's an example of how the REAL THING is done. This is the great Lee Morgan (1938-1972), one of the great jazz trumpeters and a bandleader in the era of hard bop in the early 1960s. (Too bad he was a junkie, but many were.)

Enjoy, if you can. I know too well that not everybody digs jazz. -- mj