The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wealth and Income

So a certain POTUS can't remember if he used cocaine. Hmmm. If you can't remember, you probably did.


I came across a statistic that is a perfect example of what I mean about women in America--that it is dangerous to measure women by men's standards, and conclude that they are being screwed over. In this case, it was a stat about wealth, that by 2010 women would control 60% of the wealth in America. But they only earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, right? Now, understand that I am 100% in favor of laws pushing to equalize this, but it is interesting that no one cares about equalizing the wealth thing for MEN. And maybe no one should. But note that this is very very different if you look at the same statistics concerning, say, black people. There, (and I don't have the stats at my fingertips) the gap between incomes is SMALLER than the gap between relative wealth. This speaks to the fact that something very different happens within groups (wealthy men leaving their money to women?) and BETWEEN groups (wealthy whites leaving their money to...other whites).

Now, then. What do we do about it? I'm not certain what the best thing to do here is. I know that I personally am in favor of doing what we can to equalize incomes, salaries, education opportunities, whatever. I think that if women end up being slightly ahead, that the human race won't suffer, and in fact benefits from movement between an emphasis on male and female energies and approaches. The hysterical fear that "talking" to an opponent equals "appeasement" is a perfect example of this, pure male-mind bullshit. Of course, the opposite position (that everything can be healed by communication) is equally blind. But I'm willing to shake things up.

But I can't get past the fact that stats like the one about who actually controls the wealth won't be considered in the equation. Maybe, just maybe it shouldn't. But I can't stop thinking that women, given the opportunity, will attempt to control the environment to their own purposes, just like men. And part of the process of doing this will include guilt, blame, and shame.

I'm especially interested that there are so many pro-feminist males who seem to believe that men are better off dominating women. This attitude would SEEM to be indicative of cognitive dissonance. Women who are programmed to believe that women are better off being dominated and passive can be swiftly identified as brainwashed. But men who believe men are better off without real intimacy...with weak partners...having to maintain ego-barriers even to their own families...defined only by their ability to crush and fight and scratch their way up a hierarchy...ignoring their physical pains, pursuing life-threatening activities and accepting death and violence as a definition of their very being....

They are just as brainwashed. And if the number of unscrupulous women is equal to the percentage of unscrupulous men, trust me...women will try to stifle dissent just as men do. As whites do. As blacks do. As gays and straights and Christians and Atheists do...if they get the power.

But again, I don't know what there is to be done about it, or even if anything should. I see no real problem with letting the pendulum swing.


I have been blessed in my martial arts instructors, there is no doubt about it. It honestly grieves me that I haven't been a student totally worthy of the opportunities that have been presented to me. Sigh. Maha Guru Cliff Stewart is a walking encyclopedia of combat, with black belts in something like 15 arts, and master level skills in about four. Pretty amazing, really. Anyway, Cliff's annual "Camp of the Masters" will be held on June 20-22nd at the Couprie Marital arts Studio at 4532 Erwin St., in Van Nuys, California 91406. I'll post more information as it comes.


And the question of the day is: in the matter of equal salaries for women, what is the significance of the fact that women already control over half the wealth? Does that matter? Why or why not?


Dan Moran said...

I'm especially interested that there are so many pro-feminist males who seem to believe that men are better off dominating women.

I think you're talking to me....

It's like the slave owner thing. You take a slave owner and take his slaves away. Have you done him harm? Of course you have; owning slaves did him a world of economic good.

Have you done that slave owner any good by taking away his slaves? Maybe, though I'm guessing most slave owners who lost their slaves didn't get to a better spiritual place before dying. But their children were probably better people as a result, and their granchildren, and their great-grandchildren ...

All of which, as you know perfectly well, has nothing to do with anything. Abolishing slavery wasn't a step taken for the good of the slave owners, and to the degree it did them good, it was a minor and broadly unimportant side effect of the good it did the slaves.

Why you want to apply a different standard to women I don't understand. You can recognize that male privilege was useful, that it did individual men a certain amount of good, much as owning slaves did individual slave owners a certain amount of good ... while still being crystal clear that as a structure it was evil and that sweeping it away was a long-term benefit to all men, though maybe not to some individual man.

men are better off dominating women.

I've never said that, don't believe it, and don't believe anyone else here has said it. The difference between "a man" and "men" isn't that hard to parse, any more than "white people" and "white slave owners" are. White slave owners were a part of the group of "white people" ... but not all white people were slave owners. By the best numbers, about 360,000 white men died fighting to end slavery. Perhaps we can say that while the Civil War was good for the country as a whole, it wasn't so good for those 360K as individuals?

suzanne said...

I expect the number of women
"controlling wealth'
is much lower than the number of women receiving unequal pay . . .

the women "controlling the wealth"?
I expect mainkly got it through inheritance
from biological family or spouses
not through their investment acumen, yes?

for these reasons I find comparing
controlled wealth and income
like comparing apples and oranges

and while I am certain we would benefit
from more of the so-called womanly traits in government and other high places
I don't think we should invert from lae dominated
to female dominated

and in fact I think Obama is more
i.e., more yin
than Hillary (or McCain)

what we need is balance
in the traits which have been labeled
amsculine and feminine

Steve Perry said...

More than a few times, Steve, you've said it straight up that quantifying who has it better or worse, vis a vis women or black men, isn't really possible.

Every time it comes up, you've said that.

Thing is, you seem to keep dancing around it. This posting seems like a touch-and-go from a slightly different angle -- maybe I'm reading something into it that isn't there -- lot of that going around -- but there is a hint of, Well, if women have it so bad, how come they control more than half the money?

Obviously this is an issue you have struggled with, and while you might not have resolved it in your own mind, the feeling that you have comes across. (We have had this discussion, what one says, versus what people mistakenly hear, and mayhaps this is the case. But there is a tone that -- to my ear -- indicates you've made your mind up -- being a black guy is worse than being a white woman.)

Could be my error. Could be you aren't being clear.
Or some combination thereof. But it's that old saw, if somebody calls you an ass, you can safely ignore them. If ten people call you an ass, you might want to consider getting yourself a saddle.

Something isn't coming across so that people get it.

Of course, we all bring our own axes to such discussions, and that has to be considered, but in your heart-of-hearts, do you really believe the BM v WM better-or-worse discussion can't be resolved?
Or do you believe you have an answer and are carefully trying to bring us along ... ?

Just askin'.

Anonymous said...

Steve: If you have any reference for these numbers that has more detail on how they are arrived at I would be interested. Its hard to interpret a statistic without understanding how it is computed. However, I'm going to venture guess on this wealth statistic that might in some sense put a different light on it. Many people have more wealth at retirement then any time earlier in their life and women tend to outlive their husbands, so I wonder how much of this wealth advantage that women have is actually in the hands of elderly widows.
On the lower pay stat, I wonder does any one know if this for women in the same job as a man or does it reflect that more women are in lower paying jobs?

Marty S

Kukulkan said...

My wife recently read a book titled (I believe) "Women Don't Ask," written by a woman. The point of the book was that women, as a group, are less aggressive negotiators then men, as a group, are. According to the book, women are less likely to negotiate salaries and raises than are men. I bring this up because everyone assumes that lower salaries means sexism (or racism). There may be other factors at work to explain salary discrepancies. I know of anecdotal evidence of companies that hire women at a higher rate than men in order to take advantage of the fact that women will accept lower salaries than men.

Josh Jasper said...

Since I have no context for what "controlling wealth" means, I can't really comment on that.

Wage disparity is in large measure a function of the top paying jobs being dominated by men. Just like politics are dominated by men. You have a few exceptional women who make it to the top, but mostly, it's men.

If you'd like to know how companies run by women, for women work out, there are a few out there.

I'd lean towards guessing that instead of putting men down, and restricting the wage growth and advancement of men, they'd be able to find highly skilled underpaid women to hire, and promote based on competence. This is borne out by abstracts of journal articles I was able to find, but as I'm not paying for the full articles, I can't be 100% sure of what they say.

is dangerous to measure women by men's standards

Most of the feminist arguments about wages and social influence are compiled by women. I'd say it's dangerous for a man to be telling women what their standards should be.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

On the lower pay stat, I wonder does any one know if this for women in the same job as a man or does it reflect that more women are in lower paying jobs?

My understanding is that it's some of both. Here's a relevant page:

I'm with you in suspecting that longevity may have something to do with the wealth statistic (though it's hard to tell till we know how it's computed).

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Wage disparity is in large measure a function of the top paying jobs being dominated by men.

Which makes for one of the difficulties in discussing how rich/powerful/privileged men are relative to women. In a lot of cases, the answer is, very much, for the mean man, and to a much smaller degree, for the modal man. And the men who are getting the biggest share of the gendered advantage in income aren't at all the same as the men who are getting the biggest share of the gendered disadvantages in, say, risk of violent death or probability of winding up in prison.

Steve Perry said...

"By the best numbers, about 360,000 white men died fighting to end slavery"

Careful there, Dan, on a couple fronts. A) The war wasn't just about slavery, but about a whole slew of other issues, including states' rights and economics. True, slavery was involved, but there was a point at which Lincoln allowed that he would not have emancipated anybody if he could have come up with any other solution. (His favor song, Lincoln's, was "Dixie," by the by.)

B) Combat casualties weren't that high -- 140K for the yankees, little over half that for the rebs, though a lot of people got sick along the way and are added to the totals of the dead on both sides, so they call it 360,000 for the North and 260,000 for the South. Some of these died far from enemy lines of the flu, pneumonia, and two dozen other illnesses that had little or no treatment.

The logic would say that more than a quarter million men died to keep slavery, but it wasn't that simple. Many of these fellows were fighting against what they saw as Big Government gone mad, and they saw themselves in the same light as the proto-Americans did in the Revolutionary War against King George and the British ...

Dan Moran said...

Steve Perry,

Fair enough. Accepting all you say, which I do -- nonetheless X number of northern soldiers did die to put a stop to slavery. This did them no personal good at all, which was my point.

No offense intended to Southerners, not even those who live in Oregon.

"I reckon I'm as American as anyone from Tennessee."

Anonymous said...

Since I love to point out how worthless most statistics are without a complete understanding of how they are compiled another problem with the wealth statistic is the question of how assets jointly held by husband and wife were treated. They could have not been counted at all, split equally or counted for both. Each would result in a different percentage number. I could make good arguments for either of the first two and the result in each case would have a slightly different interpretation.

Marty S

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Perhaps it isn't useful to have women as a category for this sort of discussion, considering that women's lives work out so differently. Afaik, women are also more likely to be poor than men.

A woman who controls a good bit of money (or at least has it in her name-- I've heard that rich women's money is more likely to be tied up in a trust than men's is) through whatever combination of earning, marriage, and/or inheritance doesn't tell you anything about that waitress in a diner who's obviously got some sort of hip problem. There are a lot of women in the latter situation or its equivalent.

I'm guessing that women's greater longevity explains both greater wealth and greater poverty. There's the risk of outliving your resources, and the possibility of getting compound interest to work in your favor.

As for the black wealth disparity, I've seen a theory that every huge financial scam hits black people harder. Frex, there were black people who qualified for decent mortages who were talked into variable rate mortgages instead. I'm sure the same thing happened to whites, but the only cases I've heard of are black.

The hypothesis is that no one tries to sell speculative investments (as in the dot com boom, where early people did make money) to blacks until the white market is saturated, and by then the prices are so high and the end of the bubble is so near that a lot of capital is sucked out of blacks-- and this happens every few decades, I think.

I've seen the lack of black wealth blamed on blacks keeping their money in banks instead of putting it in the stock market, but if taking risks is so likely to lead to disaster, it isn't surprising if blacks generally don't trust the stock market.

Mike Ralls said...

Anytime the Civil War is brought up on the internet the "It was about Slavery" debate always pops up. A good thought experiment is; If all the slaves in the US were magically transported to Africa sometime from 1789 to 1860, could you see the Civil War still happening? I can't. Remove slavery, remove the civil war, therefore the Civil War was about slavery. None of the other political disagreements in the period had the emotional and financial power to get masses of people willing to fight and die for them.

aa said...

Hi Steve, This is Anthony Bean. I moved to Florida last year and have met trained with Guru Santiago Dobles who is a Guru under Guru Cliff Stewart. I would like to know what you differences you've found in the training. I couldn't find a way to contact you other than your blog. I would appreciate if you could reply by me by email. Thanks Anthony

Anonymous said...

Mike in a sense I don't think the real argument on the civil war is over was it about slavery or not about slavery. I think the real argument is was it over the morality of slavery or the economic issues around slavery. IMO it was some of both, but more the economic issues.

Marty S

Steve Perry said...

No cigar for that one, Mike. If Columbus had taken a left at Greenland, then maybe we'd all be speaking Portuguese.

If the world had been flat, he'd have sailed over the edge.

If your aunt had wheels, she'd be a tea cart.

If, if, if.

Here's an if that is maybe not so far-fetched: If there had been no slaves, the south would have had sharecropping white trash working their fields -- a big part of the problem was about industrial economics versus agricultural modes, and yes, states rights were another big chunk of the disharmony. If it hadn't focused on slaves, it would have focused on something else.

Sure, the war was partially about slavery. But if you want to cast it as the enlightened north mounting a righteous crusade against the evil south to free the slaves, you will be writing fantasy. Go back and look at the slave states, where they were, and how they let go of the concept over time.

At its heart, the Civil War was about maintaining the union. Everything else ran second.

Start with Shelby Foote's three volume history and after you are done, come back and tell me how simple it all was ...

Anonymous said...

I was watching Chris Mathews on hardball last night. After a clip in which Larry Craig discussed a book he was writing, Chris Mathews made the statement "Dare I say Boises will be Boises". Where is all the outrage about how terrible MSNBC is and about Mathew's homophobia. I'm sure if O'Reilly made the same statement I'd be hearing about it.

Marty S

Mike Ralls said...

Steve P,

I've been reading history for the majority of my life and I've read plenty on the American Civil War, including Mr. Foote and I still regard it as one of the most morally one-sided wars in history. For a secular man as myself it's as close as flawed humans beings can get to having angels on one side and dark demons on the other. WWII comes close, but not many wars besides that are on the same level of good on one side and evil on the other.

> If there had been no slaves, the south would have had sharecropping white trash working their fields <

If there had been no slaves the South would have been settled around 1/5th or 1/10th as much. It was the money from slavery that brought people willing to risk the high mortality rates that everyone suffered who moved there in the days before disease theory.

> a big part of the problem was about industrial economics versus agricultural modes<

Every country in the world that industrialized went through that struggle, and it didn't cause secession for them. There were differences in 1860 in the north on that regard as well (Iowa, was very rural in 1860 and was very much against the tariffs). Didn't create secession, slavery did.

> and yes, states rights were another big chunk of the disharmony.<

The South was only for States Rights when it was on issues they disagreed with the national government about. When the national government agreed with them on issues, they were all for trampling states rights as much as possible (Dredd Scott decision, for example). And the only real States Rights issues that pissed them off to froth at the mouth were related to slavery.

> If it hadn't focused on slaves, it would have focused on something else.<

Completely and totally disagree. Only slavery had the economic force (given what a high percentage of southern GDP was tied up into slavery, they could not abandon it without radically changing their entire way of life) and the moral force to get hundreds of thousands of Americans to kill each other.

Nobody will face decimation over tarifs.

Here's a killer point: Look at the county-by-county support for secession. Then look at the ratios of slaves-to-free county by secession. There is a damn-near one to one ratio between the two.

>But if you want to cast it as the enlightened north mounting a righteous crusade against the evil south to free the slaves, you will be writing fantasy.<

That's about as accurate as saying that WWII was an enlightened America and Britain crusading against the evils Germans and Japanese to free Europe & Asia. It's not true in the sense that the US wared against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan because Japan attacked us and Germany declared war on us, and the US had Jim Crow, lynchings, and threw Japanese-Americans in concentration camps because and their race, and we had the evil Commies on our side doing most of the fighting, but in terms of a one sentence summary to tell children what the war was, it's not bad.

> Go back and look at the slave states,

Done it many a time;

Georgia Secession Resolution:

"... and whereas the abolition fanatics, assisted by the votes of free negroes,
who according to the decision of the Supreme Court, are not citizens of the
United States, and therefore have no right of suffrage, have succeeded in
carrying in the late election every Northern State except New Jersey, and are
about to elevate to the highest office in this government, men whose avowed
purpose it is, and who are pledged to wage an irrepressible conflict with
Southern rights and with that institution which is the foundation of Southern
prosperity and Southern society..."

"If you are tame enough to submit, Abolition preachers will be at hand to
consummate the marriage of your daughters to black husbands!"

From the South Carolina secession declaration:

"The Tariff is not the question which brought the people up to their present
attitude. We are to give a summary of our causes to the world, but mainly to
the other Southern States, whose co-action we wish, and we must not make a
fight on the Tariff question.... Our people have come to this on the question
of slavery. I am willing, in that address to rest it upon that question."

And here's the Alabama state government's address to the governor of Kentucky:

"Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise
than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern
people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions -- nothing
less than an open declaration of war -- for the triumph of this new theory of
Government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and
inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning
her citizens to assassinations, and her wives and daughters to pollution and
violation, to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans."

> where they were, and how they let go of the concept over time.<

I've read Albion's Seed and other books about the origins of the culture of various American colonies. I've also read books about the roots behind the holocaust. And?

> At its heart, the Civil War was about maintaining the union. Everything else ran second.<

At it's heart, the only reason the Union was in danger of not being maintained was because of slavery.

> after you are done, come back and tell me how simple it all was ...<

The North was no utopia for black folks, (although some areas were pretty good, Nantucket integrated its schools in the 40's, the 1840's.) but the South was a puss laden boil by comparison which is why Black folk were escaping it as best they could and almost no blacks from the North went south.

If the North's war against the South was not just and righteous war then there has never been a just and righteous war in history. The real tragedy was that the South never did admit it was wrong like the Germans have.

Steve Perry said...

"Nobody will face decimation over tarifs."

Really? Boston Tea Party doesn't count? No taxation without representation?

And as for just and righteous wars, I'll agree on that one -- there are no such creatures. WWII was a "good" war, only in the sense that the reason for the U.S. entering it was clear. Too late to help the German Jews. If ever there was a case for assassination, that was it. Loping off the head would have been so much less expensive than what it wound up costing.

War ought to be the last-case, last -choice -- it seldom is. Witness Iraq, foolish the extreme, unwinnable, terrible costs, and to no good end. If you think it was about freeing the repressed under a tinpot dictator, explain why we haven't invaded North Korea.

Not about the Axis of Evil, but the Axis of Stupidity. Ours.

Klller Angels? Sorry. I don't believe there were any angels on either side, and few, if any, pure motives. Soldiers charged the ridges because their commanders demanded it. "I here to free the slaves." Probably not the last thought of a gut-shot man dying on a battlefield.