Cain on Success and Failure

If Cain wins the nomination, he has provided a whopper of a campaign slogan for the opposition.

Last week, in response to Occupy Wall Street, Herman Cain said the following:

“Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!” Cain said. “It is not a person’s fault because they succeeded, it is a person’s fault if they failed. And so this is why I don’t understand these demonstrations and what is it that they’re looking for.”

Now, as per my post on the 53%, it is clear that this sentiment resonates with a significant portion of the population.  Further, it is part, after a fashion, of the American mythos:  i.e., hard work is always rewarded and that one can pull oneself by one’s own bootstraps, etc.

Setting aside any issue of criticizing the statement, however, I have to wonder:  exactly how is the sentiment express above going to be helpful to a candidate in the context of a prolonged economic downturn?

I still consider the odds long that Cain can win the nomination, but if he does, I can see the commercials now:  “you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Rob in CT says:

    The commercial doesn’t even have to add anything. Just play the clip of him saying that. The End.

  2. Given how quickly Romney and others went after Perry on Social Security I wouldn’t be surprised to see this come up in a primary

  3. legion says:

    Well, after the bottom dropped out of the economy in ’08, something like 8 million people lost their jobs over the ensuing few months. Those people weren’t fired – if they had been, their old jobs would still be there, waiting for someone else to fill them. Problem is, they weren’t fired – they were laid off. Those 8 million jobs went away and don’t exist anymore. As a result, the economy had a) 8 million more unemployed people who were b) competing for 8 million fewer jobs. That’s why so many people are unemployed for such insanely long times nowadays.

    Now, your average Joe Sixpack wouldn’t be expected to grasp that not-so-subtle difference, but Herman Cain is a straight-up business tycoon – his big selling point is his so-called business acumen. But not grasping the vital difference between firings and layoffs pretty much condemns him as a complete idiot regarding business and economics. Any time someone tries to puff him up as a legitimate, competent person, they need to have this shoved in their face. Herman Cain is an idiot.

  4. Jay Tea says:

    @legion: Yeah, but Joe Sixpack knows that a lot of those jobs were chased away. He can figure out what it means when he can’t buy a lightbulb made in the US any more when he goes to replace his less-than-a-buck incandescent bulb with a seven-dollar bulb made in China. He can figure it out when Obama brags about helping to subsidize oil drilling off the coast of Brazil while a lot of oil workers wait for the Gulf of Mexico to fully re-open. Some will remember “Cash For Clunkers” when they first decide to get a new used car, and they’re priced out of his range, then decide to squeeze a bit more time out of his old car — and the used parts market is also way, way up. And some can even do the math when the EPA announces that its new regulations will shut down about 25% of the power generation capacity of the United States.

    I’m not saying that the downturn is all the fault of Obama and the Democrats. I am saying that they did a lot of things that made things worse.

    J.

  5. Boyd says:

    While I consider Mr. Cain’s comment from last week ill-advised for a presidential candidate, as well as being largely inaccurate, I understand the sentiment I think he’s trying to address. It seems to me he feels this way, and millions of other Americans feel this way, too, in response to so many folks not taking responsibility for their own failures. I’m not saying that everyone who was or is unemployed lost their job because of their own failure, but many, many people aren’t employed today due in part to their own failure, and they refuse to admit their share of responsibility for their circumstances.

    That being said, the situation is much more nuanced than Mr Cain’s bald statement, and there are huge swaths of unemployed non-rich people who aren’t to blame for their current circumstances. Over the past three years, I’ve spent almost a year and a half as one of their number. On the other hand, as time passed and I continued to be un- (or under-) employed, I sought out the shortcomings of my job search strategy, and adjusted multiple times to find an approach that worked.

  6. legion says:

    @Jay Tea:

    I’m not saying that the downturn is all the fault of Obama and the Democrats. I am saying that they did a lot of things that made things worse.

    But what exactly does that have to do with Cain blaming the unemployed for being unemployed? Answer: nothing. You’re still trying to derail every topic here into criticizing Obama. This is the ‘bash Cain’ thread – go try that down the hall.

  7. Jay Tea says:

    @legion: Fine, how about this:

    There is a significant portion of the electorate that has had it with mealy-mouthed politicians saying the “right things” and avoiding speaking harsh truths. People who are willing to say “I don’t like what he’s saying, but there’s a lot of truth in it.” And they look at Cain and say “here’s a guy who’s actually had positions where he’s been accountable for results, and he’s produced.”

    I LIKE a politician who’s occasionally willing to say “screw the pros and the advisors, I’m going to say what I want to say.” But I dunno if I would call them a “politician.”

    Cain is right on some things, wrong on others. Big whoop. What sets him apart is he’s willing to learn, and he’s not running everything he wants to say past some focus group or pollster (real or imaginary) before he says it. He doesn’t calculate whether speaking his mind will help or hinder him. And that is amazingly refreshing.

    J.

  8. mattb says:

    It seems to me that Cain’s comments are in perfect lock-step with the base — even most of the unemployed base. Beck and the other talkers have been drumming this line for years.

    The reason why it resonates with many of the unemployed base on the call in shows is that this belief is also their source of hope. That because they are good Americans — hard working, faithful, moral — they will get a job soon. It’s the story of Job — they’re just having their faith tested.

    Again, this is where Weber’s thesis on the move from Calvinism to Capitalism is so important. The Calvinist must believe in the total absence of evidence (for if there is evidence then its no longer faith). The Tea Party true believer does much the same thing.

    One you hit the general election, it gets dicier.

    But then again, like Obama in ’08, whoever the Republican nominee is, they will be running on assured hope — not only can things get better, but if you elect me they WILL get better.

  9. ponce says:

    The new Time poll has Obama beating Cain 49% – 38%.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/

  10. PD Shaw says:

    To my ear, Cain is channeling Frederick Douglas (Self-Made Men): “the man who will get up will be helped up; and the man who will not get up will be allowed to stay down.” I doubt Cain believes a man is an isolated actor unto himself (why else would he be running for President?), but that the task of success starts with getting oneself up when one has failed.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    @mattb: I’m not particularly a fan of the Weber thesis (I’m actually more of a materialist on the points he addressed), but agree that if you cut off some of the harsh edges, Cain is speaking in terms of values that will be accepted by Christian evangelicals. Imagine Dave Ramsey saying something similar about personal responsiblity.

  12. mattb says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I’m not particularly a fan of the Weber thesis (I’m actually more of a materialist on the points he addressed)

    At the risk of a hijack, care to elaborate as I think Weber addresses the materialist aspect (if you are looking at things intergenerationally).

  13. Franklin says:

    @Jay Tea: No, he’s calculating all right. He’s calculating that he can get enough votes from people who are pure black-and-white thinkers (no racial meaning intended). The idea that you’re 100% responsible for your own fate may be psychologically helpful to some people, but it’s too simple-minded for my tastes.

  14. MM says:

    @mattb:

    It seems to me that Cain’s comments are in perfect lock-step with the base — even most of the unemployed base. Beck and the other talkers have been drumming this line for years.

    The reason why it resonates with many of the unemployed base on the call in shows is that this belief is also their source of hope. That because they are good Americans — hard working, faithful, moral — they will get a job soon. It’s the story of Job — they’re just having their faith tested.

    People also are wildly successful at explaining why they are the exception to the rule. I’m taking unemployment/medicare/social security that I paid into for years. You are a lazy leech. Congress is full of bums who are too focused on pork. Throw ’em all out (except mine, he’s a peach and brings a lot of jobs to my district). Our local paper just ran a poll asking people to rate their driving skills. Shockingly, 90% of the voters said they were excellent or above average.

    Similarly, my success is because I’m a brilliant innovator, a hard worker and a tremendous asset to any organization. Therefore, any failures I endure are either bad luck, vindictive bosses or job-killing legislation from the political class. You, on the other hand, just don’t have a whole lot of drive.

  15. legion says:

    @mattb:
    @Jay Tea:
    And yet the fact is: He’s lying.
    His statement there, and I have no reason to think it’s not his honest belief, is that poor & unemployed people are poor and unemployed because they’re lazy and shiftless. He is openly demonizing people for not being rich & successful – if you’re poor, the only reason he offers is your own moral failings. This is the pure definition of class warfare, guys: if you’re rich, you’re a good person – if you’re a good person, you’ll get rich. It’s offensive and un-American on so many levels I don’t know where to begin.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    I appreciate Cain’s honesty. The GOP position is after all, “I got mine, f–k you.”

  17. jan says:

    @Jay Tea:

    and he’s not running everything he wants to say past some focus group or pollster (real or imaginary) before he says it. He doesn’t calculate whether speaking his mind will help or hinder him. And that is amazingly refreshing.

    I agree with you Jay, that Cain is a stand-out in this campaign because he is so overtly apolitical in his way of running for president and managing his campaign. In a way he is exhibiting bits and pieces of the Sarah Palin rogue behavior, of doing it “his way,” borrowing such a stance from Frank Sinatra, as well.

    While I too think Cain’s approach is ‘refreshing,’ it is also troublesome to me as well. For instance, his 9-9-9 economic plan has people ‘talking,’ which is good. But, there is no economic context for the numbers he has. Even Bloomberg had difficulty arriving at an analysis of it, because of him not divulging any perimeters surrounding his plan. They had to construct their own, coming up with a revenue shortfall when compared to 2010 revenues.

    Regarding Cain’s ‘bluntness’ of assailing people for not taking responsibility for their own employment —> he does have a partial point. Just like in sci fi features dealing with “shape-shifters,’ so do we currently have a natural inclination to have something called responsibility-shifting, in the ways that people deflect their own personal failures onto others. Because so many are doing this, it has become commonly empathized with and accepted. What Cain seems to be doing is putting out a blanket disclaimer, that asserts that first one should look at themselves to see where the problem is. It’s called finding what part you play in your own problems, owning that, and then looking to change the other problems outside of yourself.

  18. jan says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The GOP position is after all, “I got mine, f–k you.”

    Although a nice sound bit, it is so overdone in it’s harshness.

  19. Rob in CT says:

    people deflect their own personal failures onto others

    Sure. Happens all the time. Human nature and all that. Guess what else people do. They convince themselves that their successes are solely their own, which is also bull.

    People are selfish by nature. Our society has to be set up to deal with this (which is why neither communism nor libertarianism will work, ever).

  20. sam says:

    It’s economic Calvinism. There are the elect — identifiable by their Rolexes and Guccis and houses in the Hamptons — and there are the losers. If you don’t have a job, and can’t find one, you’re one of the losers. Poverty and unemployment are a result of moral failure. Why folks resist acknowledging this is a mystery.

  21. jan says:

    @Rob in CT:

    They convince themselves that their successes are solely their own, which is also bull.

    You’re right, they do that too, which is why honest self-review is so helpful.

    Each of us is good at conning ourselves into believing almost anything. But, occasional internal redirection, honestly sorting out realities and updating our own life’s data, is usually more long-lasting and personally more beneficial then external governmental arm-twisting. Developing our own self-discipline, motivation, confidence without too much government enabling is what makes a society stronger, as a whole. The opposite of that, paternalistic government, substitution of it for our parents, IMO, thwarts the individuation process allowing us to learn and grow.

  22. legion says:

    @jan:

    The GOP position is after all, “I got mine, f–k you.”

    Although a nice sound bit, it is so overdone in it’s harshness.

    Harsh? Yes. True? Completely and totally.

  23. Rob in CT says:

    Developing our own self-discipline, motivation, confidence without too much government enabling is what makes a society stronger, as a whole. The opposite of that, paternalistic government, substitution of it for our parents, IMO, thwarts the individuation process allowing us to learn and grow.

    Yeah, I agree. Government really needs to stop enabling Wall St.

    😉

  24. john personna says:

    I read someone a month or two ago claim that it was typical of recessions that threatened workers abandon their support for the safety net. It is, he claimed, a good times thing. When wealth is free and growing, there is more of a consensus that it can be shared. On the other hand, when the middle class starts to scrape by, they actually lose sympathy for others in a harsher situation.

    The nice thing about “it’s all your fault” is that it frees us from responsibility. That is kind of contrary though. You’d think that increasing misery would bring greater compassion … but that is apparently not human nature.

  25. Rob in CT says:

    @john personna:

    I think I read the same thing. Did it come with a quote of Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier?

  26. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Oh, I can’t remember that.

  27. mattb says:

    @john personna
    I think that position was especially clear during the initial months of the housing crisis. The talker’s talking point there is that anyone who was at risk of foreclosure was a victim of their own avarice (it’s their fault for not reading the fine print, being greedy and buying too much house, etc.).

  28. john personna says:

    Steven, the thing to watch for here is that half a month ago we were talking about the very rich, the 1%. We were talking about the Buffett Rule. Recent news on that (from bloomberg of all places) is:

    About 25 percent of millionaires in the U.S. pay federal taxes at lower effective rates than a significant portion of middle-income taxpayers, according to a legislative analysis.

    What a brilliant tactical strategy from the GOP, eh? Who thought this up? Give him an Oscar or something.

    Two weeks ago it was about millionaires (million earners) skating on taxes. Now it’s’ all about the lazy poor.

  29. Rob in CT says:

    Hell, that even resonated with me at first. But it’s too easy. I only didn’t “buy too much house” because I didn’t lose my job. If I had lost it… well, actually, we’d have survived ok on my wife’s income. But if she’d lost her job and I’d kept mine, things would’ve gotten awfully tight. Maybe too tight.

    The house flippers, sure*. But people who bought a house to live in and, having lost their jobs, can’t pay the mortgage? Blaming them doesn’t make a lick of sense.

    * and even with a flipper, some financial professional gave them the loan. The pro should’ve known better. The pro, in most instances, simply didn’t care. Make the deal, get the commission, pass the mortgage on to someone else and wash your hands of it. That was the racket.

  30. mattb says:

    @jan:

    Developing our own self-discipline, motivation, confidence without too much government enabling is what makes a society stronger, as a whole. The opposite of that, paternalistic government, substitution of it for our parents, IMO, thwarts the individuation process allowing us to learn and grow.

    The issue that I have with a certain thread of conservatism and libertarianism is this common assumption that any government is paternalistic government. Its clear that isn’t the case, especially when addressing social iniquities.

    Taken to the extreme (and note this is satirical) it seems to me that this response to the post civil war period up to the civil rights movement was that faced with deep, systemic racism, African Americans/Blacks should look at the reality of their situation and rather than seeking remedies through legislative action (or simply getting the government to enforce existing laws):
    (a) start bleaching their skin so they can pass as being white; and,
    (b) develop stronger necks to take care of that darn lynching problem.

  31. john personna says:

    @mattb:

    That’s trickier, because I do know lots of people who bought too much house.

    But yes, it probably was over-generalized. We know that job losses and importantly medical expenses tie prominently to foreclosure.

  32. jan says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Yeah, I agree. Government really needs to stop enabling Wall St.

    Wall Street donates heavily in elections as a way to lobby government entities — whether they be on the right or left. In ’08 it was Obama who was the recipient of their financial favors. And, just look where the bail-outs and hand-outs went. So, if you follow the money Wall Street is tied into government, like a marriage of convenience and self-augmentation. You can’t really condemn one without condemning the other, as well.

  33. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Oh yeah, one of my friends got caught as a flipper. His first worked, his second left him holding the bag.

  34. john personna says:

    @jan:

    The nice thing about OWS is that if it works it does actually punish Obama for his Wall Street aid.

  35. mattb says:

    @Rob in CT & @john personna
    To be fair, there were people who were living beyond their means/Bought too much house. Hell, around here I keep driving by too-much-house still being built in new developments.

    That said, I’m happy to discuss all of the get-rich-slowly-books that advocated house as investment rather than as a use-object. And considering how much of our economy is tied to housing, on has to ask at what point was the entire system encouraging overconsumption.

    And while there is a lot of truth to the old parental question about following others off the Brooklyn bridge, I think we have to find some way to acknowledge how much of the housing boom was something that was being supported at all levels of society.

    Of course, the problem with actually having that conversation is that we have to then struggle with the question of societal responsibility for what happened. And this is typically a bridge to far for most conservatives.*

    * – Admittedly most liberals start from this perspective and don’t seriously consider the question of personal responsibility. Both sides need to move off of their respective positions.

  36. Rob in CT says:

    @jan:

    First, note the wink I added to my post.

    Second, I’m well aware that Obama & the Dems raked in tons of Wall St. money. They donate to both sides, with more going to whichever side they figure will win.

    And it’s not just the donations. People get caught up in campaign finance, but it’s more than that. It’s the lobbying and the revolving door. Pol gets campaign donations, wins, lobbyists do their thing, pol helps pass some law that helps those who donated/lobbied, pol eventually loses an election and just so happens to wind up sitting on the board of directors or some other cushy job.

    The fundamental thing I think the Right gets wrong (heh) about this is that simply tearing down the government isn’t going to fix it. I get the basic logic, believe me. If the government has less power, then the corporations can do less via government. True. But it does not follow – at all – that corps will be able to do less with their money, overall. Governmental oversight is the best chance we have, for all its flaws. Without it, the corps will simply do as they please. There will be collusion, there will be law-breaking (w/o consequence), and of course they will still be able to pour money into whatever institutions they think might get in their way (such as, for instance, the legal system).

  37. Rob in CT says:

    @mattb:

    Yeah, sure, I agree with that. There are all sorts of incentives (mortgage interest deduction!) that skew things, and we should think about them and whether we’ve taken it too far (I think we have). It’s one thing to encourage home ownership. It’s another thing to encourage going out and getting the biggest loan you can get.

    And yes, there were individuals who behaved irresponsibly and I don’t really love the idea of “bailing them out” but I see that as part of the deal (especially since we bailed out the banks). Moral hazards abound. The problem is that dealing with the problem, on the one hand, and feeling morally pure/superior, on the other, are probably not the same thing.

  38. jan says:

    @mattb:

    Taken to the extreme (and note this is satirical)…

    Yes, that example is extreme, and I appreciate that you denoted this when you gave it.

    To me when government addresses social inequities, it often makes them worse.

    When politicians seize on something being wrong, their political panacea often sends the pendulum swinging radically in the opposite direction. Whether it is affirmative action, which in many cases has increased racism/prejudice in the opposite direction; busing which has broken up neighborhoods to the detriment of the people living there; or, even in medicine, where acclaimed theory often replaces quality bedside manners or skills in hands-on medical treatments.

    When new legislation is put forth to governmentally correct societal, regulatory, or some economical ills, there are normally no sunset clauses included, so you also have layer upon layer of legislative medicine accumulating in government policies related to curing all these ills. And, analogous to physical maladies that people suffer, when too much diverse medicinal remedies are endlessly applied, there are often complications and incompatibilities derived, which end up causing the patient to become worse, and even die.

  39. john personna says:

    @jan:

    To me when government addresses social inequities, it often makes them worse.

    Does “often” mean 10% of the time? Or does it mean 60% of the time? Proof?

  40. Rob in CT says:

    affirmative action, which in many cases has increased racism/prejudice in the opposite direction

    Oh, for f’s sake. You actually believe this?

    busing which has broken up neighborhoods to the detriment of the people living there

    How did it do that?

  41. john personna says:

    @mattb:

    That said, I’m happy to discuss all of the get-rich-slowly-books that advocated house as investment rather than as a use-object. And considering how much of our economy is tied to housing, on has to ask at what point was the entire system encouraging overconsumption.

    A moderately priced house is an inflation hedge (the buy vs rent calculation improves for your purchase over time). The two traps are bubbles and the temptation to over-invest in home as showplace.

    I think the Talmud recommends 1/3 investment in business, 1/3 in real estate, 1/3 in cash. That still works.

  42. jan says:

    @Rob in CT:

    First, note the wink I added to my post.

    Oh, was that a wink? Yeah, I noticed…..

    I think the Right gets wrong (heh) about this is that simply tearing down the government isn’t going to fix it.

    I agree that tearing down the government entirely isn’t going to fix it. And, I’m not sure how many on the real right (eliminating the fringe ones) really believe that either.

    However, IMO, the government has gotten bloated and way too big where mismanagement and corruption is inevitable. There are bureaus that overlap onto and into other bureaus with similar responsibilities, funding that leaks everywhere except where it is supposed to go. People in the government don’t know what other hands of government are doing anymore. There has to be some kind of realignment, trimming, accountability levied in the name of making it work better for the people, rather than insuring more terms in office for the politicians.

  43. mattb says:

    @jan:

    Whether it is affirmative action, which in many cases has increased racism/prejudice in the opposite direction

    The fact that you take it on a matter of faith that affirmative action increased racism and avoid any consideration of a larger social calculus (i.e. did that the real good that the program did outweigh any racism that it increased) shows you are fundamentally incapable of the necessary honesty you were just talking about a few posts up.

    It also suggests you’ve never seen systemic racism at work. Sadly, I have. And while I can argue that in my career I was the “victim” of diversity/affirmative action programs (and by “victim,” I mean to say that my general earning level/advancement would have been more rapid if I was a woman or a minority) I have also seen how institutional racism/sexism continues to play out at various institutions.

  44. Rob in CT says:

    @jan:

    It’s true that most Republican voters are not Grover Norquist, thankfully.

    As for some bureacratic wood-clearing, it sounds good in the abstract, but I don’t see much opportunity for bipartisan wood-clearin’ right about now. Plus, slashing more government jobs (they’ve been dropping, primarily at the local and state levels) in this economy is a bad idea.

    I’d love to think that we could gather a collection of “non partisan” types to recommend agency consolidations, cuts, etc., but I’m pretty disillusioned at this point. I don’t think it would be non-partisan and I don’t think that it would work.

  45. jan says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Oh, for f’s sake. You actually believe this?

    AA, in many cases diluted the whole concept of merit. People have been employed, promoted, accepted into colleges because of their race or color, instead of despite it, again being the basis of MLK’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech,’ which many believe to be a rallying force behind the civil rights movement. In creating this kind of ‘social/racial’ promotion you have initiated another racism causing whites or qualified people being discriminated against because of their race.

    Initially affirmative action may have had a positive ‘catching-up’ effect. But it went too far, like many unchecked government agendas do, and basically turned race into an entitlement policy, that has had many underlying negative raminifications and unintended consequences for all races, including extending racial resentments

    This all ties into Herman Cain throwing out his blunt critique that many African Americans find unacceptable — that it is time for Black America to stop alienating itself from the rest of society, by diagraming all of its historical slights as a way to get extra help, and step into their own shoes creating their own success. If 99% of the people are down and out, then this no longer is a racial issue, is it?

  46. mattb says:

    One other note on the entire “I’m white, therefore I’m a victim of Affirmative Action…” I find it ironic that embedded within that is the notion that something was taken away from me (that I might not have had otherwise). It seems more likely most of that victim talk was the result of experiencing for the first time that someone else was moved to the front of the line based on skin color or background. Its amazing how (white) people suddenly become so concerned about institutionalized discrimination when it’s applied against them.

    BTW, I’d love a link to something that actually demonstrates the link between affirmative action and racism as being something other than anecdotal.

  47. Tlaloc says:

    lot of people making “let them eat cake” pronouncements. I have to wonder at their historical literacy (even if Marie never actually said such a thing, surely they know what happened to her anyway).

  48. mattb says:

    @jan:

    AA, in many cases diluted the whole concept of merit. People have been employed, promoted, accepted into colleges because of their race or color, instead of despite it, again being the basis of MLK’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech,’ which many believe to be a rallying force behind the civil rights movement.

    Exactly… because there had been a systemic discrimination against people of color for generations — both in college and within businesses. Pretending that someone this was eliminated over night or the effects of that discrimination would disappear within a generation is ridiculous.

    But it went too far, like many unchecked government agendas do, and basically turned race into an entitlement policy, that has had many underlying negative raminifications and unintended consequences for all races, including extending racial resentments

    God, I love the “it was good at the beginning, but then went on too long.” Jan, why don’t you just argue that Blacks got 40 acres and a mule and that was a good policy. Everything after that was just a handout that destroyed their communities. This is a varient of “my family had nothing to do with slavery/didn’t come from the south… why are you bugging me about racism” form of racism (which often tends to ignore the defacto entitlement that there has traditionally been to being white in this country — something I know I benefitted more from than anything that AA has taken away from me).

    Seriously, instead of these banal conservative talking points, give me actual facts about Affirmative Action gone to far. Because it’s mighty white you to talk in these generalities, but you as usual can’t bring facts. Oh, and as I mentioned before, simply pointing to conservative editorials written by members of a minority that are themselves devoid of actual facts and full of personal anecdotes (for example Herman Cain’s essays or Clarence Thomas’s memior) are not broad facts.

    Further Jan, I’d love to know how has affirmative action hurt you? If you can’t give me a real example, please explain to me what gives you the perspective to accurately talk about the problems of AA on minority communities? Because I can tell you it sure isn’t your “whiteness.”

    Part of the reason I mention this is that from personal experience, I found that my parents were always far more concerned about the effect that affirmative action would have on me, versus either (a) the effect that it did have or (b) the amount I was concerned about affirmative action.

  49. mattb says:

    @jan:

    AA, in many cases diluted the whole concept of merit.

    I love it, btw… we’ve come back to merit and the moral component of success in the US.

    BTW, two more points about AA…
    1. Just because there was a minority allowance, that didn’t mean that skin color was enough. In most cases I know about there was a relaxing of certain standards, but not an out-and-out removal of standards.
    2. Just because someone got in because of AA, there was no guarantee that they could stay in. And I have known people who, once given that opportunity excelled and others who couldn’t cut it. But the same thing can be said of white students/employees.

    Also — and this may seem cruel — if you are so concerned about merit an fairness, I have to wonder if/when you plan on ceasing to provide any financial support to your son. I realize that it seems like a particularly cruel question, but the reason I ask is that most of the people I know who benefited from AA came from families that could not provide them with any financial support if they failed.

    I also realize that you can argue that what about that poor white-male student who missed his opportunity because a minority student bumped him from college. Of course I must then ask the question of if this is all about merit, then shouldn’t that poor white student still succeed in the long-term? If that isn’t the case, then the fact is that you are acknowledging a system that is zero-sum — that produces winners and losers — and where success will be unequally distributed regardless of merit.

  50. jan says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I’d love to think that we could gather a collection of “non partisan” types to recommend agency consolidations, cuts, etc.,

    I would like to see this happen as well.

    @mattb:

    It also suggests you’ve never seen systemic racism at work.

    I’m a woman, and have been a part of gender discrimination in pay — equal work for less pay because of being a female, type of thing. I always looked at this, though, as more of a challenge than a grievance, knowing that society is constantly in flux and changing, and that I was going to be a part of this. Consequently, my work has always been above the norm (mainly because that’s how I work), and so I created my own kudos and advancement by my actions.

    Racial stuff just wasn’t a part of my mind set or operating system. I’ve always had a diverse dance card, dating out of my nationality, especially enjoying working and being with other cultures because I usually found them interesting and ones that I was attracted to. My nature is one where I naturally tended to look more inside people, rather than outside, to see if we were compatible or not. Ironically, I was once called a “white witch” by an AA guy’s friends, who in turn wouldn’t introduce me to his mother because he thought she would be disrespectful to me because of my race.

    Discrimination? Yes, I’ve been discriminated against.

  51. PD Shaw says:

    @mattb: I think Weber has it backwards. Before the Protestant Movement began, there was a rising bourgeois class of craftsman, guildsman, shopkeepers, etc., particularly north of the Alps who were developing new value systems. When Protestant movements began, this group in particular was attracted to the writings of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, and Protestantism ultimately survived the various wars in places where the economy was most advancing towards the industrial revolution.

    Cain’s optimistic view of the ecumenical availability of success to all who strive for it, strikes me as more of a product of the evangelical movement after the Second Great Awakening, which was largely anti-Calvinist (pro-free-will; anti-election; and less about dogma than emotion)

  52. Tlaloc says:

    Affirmative Action was a bad answer to a real problem. The problem remains but the chosen solution has simply caused more problems. We’d be better off starting back at square one and figuring out the right solution.

  53. Rob in CT says:

    Racial stuff just wasn’t a part of my mind set or operating system

    And, as a white person, you had that privilege. I’ve had it too, and once thought as you did. The difference is that I recognize it now. I’ve simply never had to worry about race. That’s something you can do if you’re white.

    There are bigotted people of all races/creeds out there. The big deal is when those bigots have power. For hundreds of years, the bigots who wielded power here did so in the name of white supremacy. That is thankfully over. AA was designed to address the lingering effects. You seem to think it handed power to anti-white bigots. I don’t. As to the merit thing, it comes down to whether or not you believe in the power of (racial) privilege. I do, though I think it’s waning.

    Personally, I think it’s time it be shifted from a race-based program to one that seeks to help disadvantaged people regardless of racial background. While I don’t think racism is dead and gone, I think the battle is largely won and fighting over racial AA is counterproductive and will get increasingly so.

  54. jan says:

    @mattb:

    Also — and this may seem cruel — if you are so concerned about merit an fairness, I have to wonder if/when you plan on ceasing to provide any financial support to your son.

    My son has other issues, which I’m not going to discuss here. He struggles with them as do we, his parents, on how to best deal with them. And, while I have a Caucasian son who is not going to college, my husband and I are financially supporting a young Latino man, we love and believe in, who is going to college.

    Again, I find it uncomfortable to always have to address advantages or disadvantages of one person over another, in the racial context which you seem to favor. Our different cultures and skin colors make this life more diverse and less hum drum. But, it seems what is usually discussed and argued about are perceived inequities. How then are racial tensions ever to be eased or eventually mitigated when they are continuously highlighted?

    I’m sure you will have a clever response to this. But, I’m already behind in some work and have to go.

  55. jan says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Personally, I think it’s time it be shifted from a race-based program to one that seeks to help disadvantaged people regardless of racial background.

    …and that’s the whole point of looking inside, rather than outside, as to the needs of people. We are self perpetuating racism in this country by some of the remedies we currently have in place.

  56. Rob in CT says:

    How then are racial tensions ever to be eased or eventually mitigated when they are continuously highlighted?

    Hiding from it isn’t going to make it go away. The way I see it, that makes things worse. Head-in-sand does not help.

  57. mattb says:

    @jan:
    Couple points.. first the reason I brought up your son (and we don’t need to discuss his broader problems and I’m not looking to) is the hope of finding a point that might open your perspective up.

    I’m a woman, and have been a part of gender discrimination in pay — equal work for less pay because of being a female, type of thing. I always looked at this, though, as more of a challenge than a grievance, knowing that society is constantly in flux and changing, and that I was going to be a part of this.

    The great mistake is to assume that all women are equally discriminated against.

    While I believe you have experienced gender discrimination, on just the aspect of pay-scale being a WHITE woman is different than being a BLACK or LATINO woman… Here’s some actual data to back that up:
    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0882775.html
    In fact, note that by 2007 White women now make, on average, a higher wage for the same work than black men. And note that the largest growth in year-over-year average salaries (at ~28%) were white women.

    But being white can’t have anything to do with it. It’s just we work harder as a race than they do… right? Or that because those recent grads got into college through AA then not only do they value their work less, but so do their employers and therefore are punishing them as a race in order to make up for the handout.

    Or further, if it really is a flatter playing field (ignoring the data at the above link) then ask yourself why Black men with college degrees are twice as likely to be out of work than white men with college degrees?

    from NYT article: College-educated black men, especially, have struggled relative to their white counterparts in this downturn, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for black male college graduates 25 and older in 2009 has been nearly twice that of white male college graduates — 8.4 percent compared with 4.4 percent.

    Various academic studies have confirmed that black job seekers have a harder time than whites. A study published several years ago in The American Economic Review titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that applicants with black-sounding names received 50 percent fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names.

    — summary of the BoLS findings are available at: http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea17.pdf

    Racial stuff just wasn’t a part of my mind set or operating system. I’ve always had a diverse dance card, dating out of my nationality

    Jan, I’m really not trying to be an ass or a jerk, but dating someone from outside your culture or eating at an ethnic restaurant isn’t proof that you’re not a racist. Likewise neither is helping put a latino boy through college — though it is an admirable thing. Using those things as proof of your ability to look beyond race is a demonstration of how naive your are being.

    Put a different way, I have met many people who really did have a minority friend who they truly cherished… but at the same time they had no compunction from discriminating against members of that minority.

  58. G.A.Phillips says:

    I appreciate Cain’s honesty. The GOP position is after all, “I got mine, f–k you.”

    lackluster crap like this gets 9 likes…lol…
    Harry can’t you say something cool once in while, like this!!!!!…lol!!!!!

    I like how Steve Harris’ bass overpowers the 3 guitarists.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz3KpwHQeEw&feature=related

    CRANK THAT POOP UP!!!!! UP THE IRONS FROM RACINE WI!!!!!

  59. mattb says:

    @jan:

    We are self perpetuating racism in this country by some of the remedies we currently have in place.

    Jan, what proof do you have of this? Because I can find proof about the efficacy of these programs and what happen when they are discontinued…

    For example there are now quantitative studies that show that after AA in certain states college campuses became *less* not more *diverse*[1]. Additionally, as the number of minority students who graduated from these schools decreased, the number of minority students who applied to these schools also decreased.

    And before you mention that that’s ok because the minority students who were lost didn’t deserve to be there in the first place… let me note that a study in 1998 found that (I didn’t immediately find a follow-up) that an examination of all of the students who got into research 1 universities, the AA students had mean SAT scores lower than white admittees for the same period. However, it was also found that the mean SAT score of those same AA were still far above the national mean scores for white students overall. It’s not like color was the only issue at play here. (for information on the study see the following article:

    Further, consider the next data-point…

    A 2010 study co-authored by Marta Tienda, a Princeton University sociologist, showed that black and Latino students who were admitted to the University of Texas at Austin on the basis of their high school rankings [as opposed to their SAT scores] consistently got as good or better grades in college than the affluent whites with higher SAT scores whom they replaced. The minority students also were equally or more likely to graduate in four years.[2]

    Again, can you provide and hard data that demonstrates how minorities have been hurt by AA?

    Links back to studies [1] and [2] along with a summation of findings can be found at:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/affirm/stories/aaop011298.htm

  60. mattb says:

    @jan:

    I find it uncomfortable to always have to address advantages or disadvantages of one person over another, in the racial context which you seem to favor.

    I somehow expected this would lead to the old “I’m the real racist here because I can’t see beyond race.” The problem is that the content of your posts (so full of feelings an devoid of facts) seems to me that you feel uncomfortable addressing race in any way that suggests that there are still present systemic racial discrimination. So much so that you revert to this notion of the radical individual and pure merit.

    In other words you’ve taken your discomfort with race to the extreme — pretending that somehow it no longer matters or that you haven’t benefited from race.

    What’s worse is that so far your protests that race is considered far too much or that AA is somehow “hurting minorities” or that its reducing the merit of students who get into schools through AA doesn’t seem to have any basis other than your own gut feeling. And you then justify you gut feeling by saying that you had “jungle fever.” like eating chinese and mexican, and that you have minority friends/charity cases.

    As I wrote before, what you are doing is the most insideous form of racism because it allows you convince yourself that racism doesn’t exist.

    And, for the record, I’d like to get beyond race too. And talking about these things isn’t particularly comfortable for me either (especially since acknowledging that racism forces me to question a lot of other things about myself and society as a whole). I frankly think that “AA” systems based on income level would probably do more good overall. But, when faced with the choice of the present system and doing away with it, I base my support for continuing AA not only on my personal experience but also hard fact. You, on the other hand, would chose do away with the system based on articles of faith.

    And just to be clear, it’s not your conservatism I have a problem with, it’s your no-thinking-ism (something that’s made all the more painful by the fact that you clearly think that you’re taking a well thought out and justified position).

  61. mattb says:

    @PD Shaw: On Weber, I think that’s a fair point — my feeling that Weber would say that that for the sake of clarity his account emphasizes an X then Y when in fact there was a synergistic effect.

    As far as Cain and the evangelical rebirth, while I completely agree with the point that the movement is anti-calvinist, Weber’s point was that the spirit was not constrained to Calvinism. So I don’t think he’d have a problem with the supposition that once it became divorced from it’s roots, the spirit couldn’t be integrated into another religion. In fact, one could even go so far as to say that modern American evangelicalism is a far better fit for the modern spirit of capitalism.

  62. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: There’s a difference between a “harsh truth” and “a phrase that proves you are entirely out of touch with the way 99% of the populace lives.” But then, righties don’t care about the truth part, you just like it when a rich and powerful man trashes the poor and weak. Its why you all love Chris Christie. They make you feel all funny in your pants when you can pretend to be rich and powerful like them.

  63. jan says:

    @mattb:

    And just to be clear, it’s not your conservatism I have a problem with, it’s your no-thinking-ism (something that’s made all the more painful by the fact that you clearly think that you’re taking a well thought out and justified position).

    I read your posts, and respond as I do, not as a judgment call on your life, but simply as a statement how I live mine. You can assert I have chronic no-think-ism, and since that is only your descriptive analysis of me, a way to sort out and somehow validate how you think, then there is no real conclusion to be made, let alone understanding to be derived from this on-line conversation.

    what you are doing is the most insideous form of racism because it allows you convince yourself that racism doesn’t exist.

    I do take issue, though, with your statements of ‘insidious racism,’ as it is projecting your subjectivity as some kind of objectivity of racist behavior and racial progress onto others. While I could try to extend my explanations further, it would be futile after reading these closing comments of your’s. Nevertheless, I do see your racial perspective as being even more damaging than you seem to see mine as being….

    Maybe, one of these days, there will be a meeting of the minds, raising the eyes above skin coloration. However, as long as people continue to put down a door stop, preventing the closure of racial discrimination, it will remain an open, controversial and divisive topic.

  64. WR says:

    @Tlaloc: “We’d be better off starting back at square one and figuring out the right solution. ”

    Slavery? Jim Crow?

  65. Tlaloc says:

    Slavery? Jim Crow?

    right, that’s totally what I said.

  66. An Interested Party says:

    lackluster crap like this gets 9 likes…lol…

    As opposed to pearls of wisdom like the following…

    CRANK THAT POOP UP!!!!! UP THE IRONS FROM RACINE WI!!!!!

    Meanwhile, we have this thoughtful bit…

    Maybe, one of these days, there will be a meeting of the minds, raising the eyes above skin coloration. However, as long as people continue to put down a door stop, preventing the closure of racial discrimination, it will remain an open, controversial and divisive topic.

    It’s quite amusing when some conservatives throw out these “oh woe is me” statements that if only people stopped talking about race all the time, we would all just be fine and dandy, as if racists themselves would suddenly see the light and change the errors of their thinking…

  67. mattb says:

    @jan:
    Briefly, I am sure if we met we could have a friendly conversation. And I truly believe you to be a good person in the respect that I think you are doing what you think is best. And trust me, I’m not being hard on you because you are a conservative. I do the exact same thing to liberals who mistake their beliefs for facts.

    My comments are not intended to be personal, but rather forceful.

    We are both contributing to a political discussion on very important topics. And you continually claim statements of FACT — ie that AA has increased racism or that it hurts minorities. I and others have asked you, time and time again, to back up these statements.

    I’m sorry, but you don’t get the pass of claiming fact and not having any proof.

    All you have done is bring opinions based on your experiences. Which while they are valid, are exceedingly limited. The thing is you don’t treat them as beliefs, you treat them as fact. And frankly (and this may be the result of slogging through David Mamet’s crappy book… as I put him in the category of brain-dead liberal who became brain-dead conservative) I just have had enough with it.

    I’m sorry that my pointing out the positions you take have an inherent racist quality makes you uncomfortable. If it helps, I don’t this its at all intentional. As I said, I fundamentally believe you are a good person. And because the racism (or perhaps bigotry) of your position is so deep and so masked by good intentions, you are incapable of seeing it. And so you wrap yourself in a warm blanket of metiocracy and ignore every fact I present (just like you do with any conservative value that makes you uncomfortable like Climate Change or bigotry towards Muslims).

    But the problem is you don’t get to admonish people for not thinking for themselves when it’s oh-so-clear that you are the pot calling the kettle black. There’s no question in my mind that you truly believe what you write. But like any zealot, you cannot stand anyone seriously questioning your reality. And so we try harder and harder until we have to use really powerful language… and that makes both of us uncomfortable.

    I deeply respect your right to express your views. And I’ll be the first to defend that right. I will also defend you — as I would any poster — when you are misinterpreted or misrepresented. But I can no longer stand quiet — either online or in person — when someone spews the fundamental crap that you’ve been stating, treats it as fact, and then can’t back it up.

    Welcome to real debate. Back up your statements with fact or call them opinion. Do either and I guarantee you that the conversation will be much more civil. But if you keep on pretending that you’re interested in having a thoughtful conversation, then you need to bring something beyond your feelings to the table.

  68. mattb says:

    One final point… in all of these posts, when I mention racism/bigotry/discrimination, I’m not making a moral judgement about the person — especially because I don’t think it’s particularly intentional.

    But just because something is unintentional doesn’t mean it isn’t happening or that it isn’t hurting people.

  69. WR says:

    @Tlaloc: Sorry for the snark, but there is no clean beginning to go back to and start over, unless you’re talking about resetting race relations to the end of the Civil War and not screwing up reconstruction.