Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Raise the Minimum, Bring Back Welfare

First, what's not true.  It's not true that unemployment follows a rising minimum wage.

Now what is.  Welfare helped a lot of people, but it had a lot of problems.  We need to bring it back.

People who think of poverty and the economy generally like the weather need to snap the frack out of it.  The US economy, and in fact the world economy to some degree, has been managed for many years.  It's just been managed on behalf of the rich, not most people.  Poverty is the inevitable result of the rules of the game.  Who is and is not poor depends on how you play, sure, but also what hand you're dealt, how the dice roll, what the other players do to you or for you, and so on.  But the rules were made by humans and can be changed by humans.  In fact, they are changed all the time, sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much.

Even Adam Smith - I know, who died and made him god? - said there would have to be balances to shield people from the worst effects.  Personally, I think we've learned a lot since then.  We just don't act like it sometimes.

Free State of Jones THE MOVIE!

I grew up hearing and inspired by the legend of "The Free State of Jones," the county that seceded from Mississippi after Mississippi seceded from the Union, because what's good for the goose...  (Now a major motion picture!  Coming soon to a theater near you!)

The part I remember most from my proto-attempts to find out stuff back when was the bitter irony (or hypocrisy) of Southern poor whites being, as a good book I recently discovered through my lovely and clever wife would have it, a chicken when the elephants dance.  The chickens had better be careful.  So, not only did the Confederates fail to see the humor (or fair play, as turnabout) of a county that tries the same secession trick they did as states, but the Union didn't appreciate Newt Knight and his crew hoisting the Union flag in Jones County too much, either.  At least their actions didn't show it if they did.  Fully prepared to defy the Constitutional prohibition against dicing up old states into new ones in the case of West Virginia, the news that federal troops brought to the Free State of Jones was: nope.

And as many who pay attention will know, the USA has a longstanding pattern of withdrawing and leaving allies to fend for themselves, a pattern which apparently dates back at least to Reconstruction and the Klan era.  So, if you've ever had something stuck in your craw for, oh, say, about 32 years, chattering about it like the lunatic relation any time you manage to squeeze it into a conversation without getting asked to leave, and then somebody hauls off and makes a movie out of it? ... then you know how I feel about waiting to see this film.

Anyway, I will say this more and stop.  Generally, in the argument about whether or not the Civil War was over slavery (it was), one point that often comes up in geography, specifically, Appalachia.  From West Virginia to Kentucky and Tennessee, and Northeast Mississippi (where I'm from but my ancestors were not - my great great grandfather fought for the CSA, survived, walked home from an Illinois POW camp, and taught his children to never fight in any war ever again, no matter what), the areas where Southern people ran off to fight for the Union are largely to mountainous, hostile to large slave-holding plantation-style agribusiness.  It's not uncommon knowledge that there were four "border states" that held slaves but did not secede: Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware (although most people forget Delaware and include West Virginia, which was not a state until the middle of the war - more on that below).  Less common knowledge is that there also had been four more "border states" until the opening battle at Fort Sumter - Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Arkansas - slave states that argued over secession until after the first shots were fired.  All have hilly or mountainous areas, which are distinctive features of all but Delaware - likewise Northeast Mississippi.

Jones County is not mountainous.  It's part of Mississippi's Piney Woods region, where sandy soil and gigantic old forest made farming on a large money-making scale less than feasible.  The people there raised a lot of pigs, we were taught in Mississippi history class in school, and let them run free in the woods to eat acorns much of the year.  They were poor, dirt poor.  Newt Knight himself is described as "trailer trash" by pro-Confederates today in Jones County.  Plus he "married a black," apparently a further sign of his "low breeding" and "ignorance" in the Neo-Confederate hegemony, thankfully a little less dominant now in Mississippi.  But this is an important part of the tale, because Knight's men apparently learned an important thing about the Civil War - from being in it, like my great great grandfather - a lesson that applies pretty generally to wars throughout history and still today, those brutal destructive forces of organized violence irrespective of human life or value, those instruments of naked power masquerading as justice, the very justice they mock, and usually obtains whether they are over slavery or not: it was "a rich man's war... a poor man's fight."