WSJ article on the working/chump class

“The Calls for Help Coming From Above the Poverty Line” (WSJ, April 6):

United Way, the nonprofit that operates about half of the country’s 200-plus 211 centers, and other poverty researchers blame that disconnect partly on the federal poverty line, which they say hasn’t kept up with the real cost of living.

The share of households below the census-designated federal poverty line has barely budged since 2010. Meanwhile, poverty researchers say a large and fast-growing group of people are earning too much to qualify for social services and not enough to afford the basics where they live.

In other words, the working class has been trampled by open borders, just as the Harvard economics eggheads said: “Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers”.

The trend, which was hugely accelerated starting in 2021, probably isn’t going to be reversed. The question then becomes how should a person of modest means, yet not entitled to “not-welfare”, adapt to a society that has been degraded for the working class?

Humans are social animals and a lot of the misery inflicted on the working class has to do with their standard of living being lower than that of nearby non-working people on what used to be called “welfare” and is now “means-tested”. The working class person will experience pain at the grocery store when seeing a relaxed-from-not-working customer pay for a huge cart of groceries via EBT card, for example.

How about a move to a state where people who work have a higher spending power than people who don’t work? “The Work versus Welfare Trade‐​Off: 2013” (CATO) is filled with pre-Biden dollar figures that are absurdly out of date, but the percentages and rankings are still relevant. Here are the states where a working class American is going to feel the dumbest for not having gone on the welfare career track starting at age 16:

Here are the states where a median worker might enjoy twice the spending power of someone who chooses the relaxed non-working lifestyle:

We then probably want to look at these states to figure out which ones have the best opportunities for free recreation, the best schools for kids so that they can move up, and the best weather. In the report covered by “Surprise: Florida and Texas Excel in Math and Reading Scores” (NYT 2015), Texas, Florida, and Colorado had the best schools among the above states. Florida and Colorado have great weather and free recreation. Florida is ranked #8 for happiness by WalletHub and Colorado is down at #31. So maybe the answer for a working class person feeling like a chump is to move to Florida! (Maybe not to Palm Beach County, though, if envy is an issue!)

The same advice applies to people who are rich, incidentally, if the rich person wants to be in an environment where anyone with a job can thrive and not suffer despair. Inequality isn’t a terrible thing, from a rich person’s point of view, but for those who adhere to the now-obsolete Protestant work ethic, there is value to being in a place where the working people one interacts with are cheerful.


7 thoughts on “WSJ article on the working/chump class

  1. Only so far inflation targeting can go by forcing the average of houses & technology to be 2%. Eventually houses have go to infinity because technology goes to 0. The inflation target has to be deflation eventually.

  2. I guess if you’re really happy you don’t mind being a chump in the grocery line (Hawaii).

  3. It’s interesting that only 8.70+6.52+6.52 points out of 100 in the Wallethub happiness scale come from asking the person if they are happy or unhappy; these include depression, days feeling mentally unwell, and suicide rate. The other 78% comes from factors that the surveyors think should make you happy or unhappy.

    • That’s a good observation. Around the turn of the century, US News or similar published a list of “Best Cities for Singles.” One factor was the ratio of single men to women, with higher=better. This would totally make sense in a women’s magazine, but it was boldly put forth as “good’ for everyone.

      Another thing recently about ‘best states’ came out and it was mostly about culture-war stuff like “easy access to abortion” and “easy access to gender-affirming care.”

  4. Every year, for decades, Money magazine published a list of America’s Best Cities based on a number of factors, including “diversity.” Oddly, after winning a “Best City” award, a city could never win again.

    My mom bought me an annual subscription to Money when I turned 18 y/o and renewed it every year until I was 40 y/o. Money ceased publishing a hard-copy magazine in 2019.

    • It’s a similar situation with our school ratings (K-12). One the main factors in deciding how good our schools are is “diversity.”

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