July 26, 2010

Affirmative action: race v. class

Kevin Drum responds on Mother Jones to Democratic Sen. Jim Webb's op-ed "Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege" questioning affirmative action:
Class/income-based affirmative action has long struck me as an alternative that ought to get more attention than it does. ... Class-based program programs might, in the end, provide modestly less help for ethnic minorities than current policies — though well-designed ones might not. 

This is a common centrist misconception. It is widely assumed: There must be lots of black and Hispanic kids in the 'hood with 1300 out of 1600 SAT scores who are losing out to Chad Buffington of Lake Forest's tutor-aided 1400. I mean, there just have to be, right? So, All We Have To Do is institute class-based affirmative action and then we wouldn't have to have race-based affirmative action and we would still get a whole bunch of pretty smart blacks and Hispanics, almost as many as we get now. Why didn't anybody ever think of this before? After all, class is the reason that blacks and Hispanics average lower scores, right? It couldn't be anything else, of course. Right?
But they have some advantages too. For one thing, they help poor people. That's worthwhile all by itself. (Kahlenberg quotes William Benn Michael as noting acidly that currently the debate in higher education is mostly about what color skin the rich kids will have.) Beyond that, there's another benefit: for all the good it does, there's no question that race-based affirmative action has drawbacks as well. It makes employers suspicious of minority graduates, wondering if their degrees were really fairly earned. It provokes a backlash among working class whites. And it's open to abuse on a number of fronts. Class-based programs don't solve all these problems at a stroke, but they go a long way toward addressing them.

This isn't normally a subject I write much about. I've done only modest reading about it, and my personal background — middle class white guy born and raised in Orange County — obviously doesn't give me any valuable personal insight. But the status quo has done, and continues to do, a lot of damage to all sides. It's probably a fantasy to think that there's any progress to be made in our current fever swamp atmosphere, but a conservative concession on the reality of race as a continuing problem — think racial profiling, penal system injustices, health system disparities, etc. — combined with a liberal concession on emphasizing class much more than we have in the past, would almost certainly be a step forward.

How would living in Orange County, California on and off over the last half century not give you any valuable personal insight into this subject?

But the line I want to look into is Drum's criticism of race-based quotes: "And it's open to abuse on a number of fronts." 

I've certainly pointed out abuses myself. For example, Henry Louis Gates and Lani Guinier have complained for years that an ever increasing number of black affirmative action slots at Harvard are going to people who aren't descended from American slaves: people who have a white parent, and/or are descended from African or Caribbean elites. 

Of course, Barack Obama (Harvard Law, '91) is the classic example of this. His racial identity was so ambiguous that he had to write a 150,000 autobiography talking himself into believing he was black enough to be a black politician.

You often hear: How can anybody say that race exists when all you have to do is look at Barack Obama to see that not everybody fits into a perfect little box?

On the other hand, if you think Obama's race  is complicated, try to figure out what class Obama was from when he was applying to Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard.

- Barack Obama Jr.'s mother was on welfare for awhile.
+ His mother was working on her Ph.D.

- His mother got pregnant out of wedlock at 17.
+ His mother was accepted by the University of Chicago when she was 15.

- His father abandoned him when he was 2. 
+ His father abandoned him when he was 2 to obtain an advanced degree in economics from Harvard.

- He lived in a poor Third World country in a fairly poor neighborhood.
+ His Indonesian geologist stepfather was an oil company executive from a wealthy family and they quickly moved to an exclusive neighborhood in Jakarta.

- He came from a multiply broken family, abandoned by his father as an infant and twice by his mother, and had to live with his grandparents.
+ He lived with his grandparents on the tenth floor of highrise in a nice part of Honolulu with a fabulous view.

- He smoked a lot of dope in high school.
+ He smoked a lot of dope on the beach in Hawaii with his fellow students at the most prestigious prep school in the state.

- In college he hung out with Third Worlders.
+ They were rich Third Worlders, such as a son of a future prime minister of Pakistan.

- His maternal grandfather was a fairly unsuccessful salesman.
+ His maternal grandmother was a quite successful bank executive.

- His maternal grandfather was from a family with a shady reputation.
+ His maternal grandmother's family was quite respectable and academic-oriented. One of his great aunts became a statistics professor and great-uncle became the #2 man at the U. of Chicago library.

- His mother had to do lowly clerical work in Indonesia. 
+ She did it at the powerful U.S. embassy in Jakarta, where she got to know diplomats and CIA men.

- His paternal grandfather had been a servant.
+ His paternal grandfather was a large landowner.

- His father was a drunk.
+ His father's Master's degree made him a legacy at Harvard.

- His father got fired a lot.
+ His father was, when sober, an oil company executive and government official.

- His father was politically and ethnically persecuted. 
+ His father was, when sober, the protege of the CIA's main man to become President of Kenya, Tom Mboya.

- His father was the prime witness of his mentor's assassination by President Kenyatta's allies in 1969, and was hounded by the dominant Kikuyus after that.
- Well, that is a bummer.

I could go on and on. I know a lot about Obama, and I have no idea how to definitively categorize him as a young man by any usual ranking of class from low to high. (I might say he came from the Vaguely Academic Class, but I just made up that term.)

So, does class not exist?

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you think that Obama's boosters helped him by coaching him on writing a better college application letter, or simply told those colleges to let him in?

Wanderer said...

Ok, Ok. But where is the affirmative action discussion aimed at righting this injustice? --

Asians comprise 4% of the U.S. population, but 20% of Harvard undergraduates. Then too, between a quarter and a third of Harvard students identify themselves as Jewish, while Jews also represent just 2% to 3% of the overall population. Thus, it appears that Jews and Asians constitute approximately half of Harvard's student body, leaving the other half for the remaining 95% of America.Source

Is it right for 50% of Ivy-League slots to be allocated to 5% of the population?

fwood1 said...

Class is a social construct.

Anonymous said...

VA state colleges already have a de facto class-based affirmative action admissions policy. It's a lot easier to get into UVA or William and Mary if you're from rural VA than if you're from northern VA or VA Beach.

Anonymous said...

Steve, this is one of your best posts yet.

I come from a high IQ family and so does my wife. Our children not only inherited the genes for high IQ from both parents, but they also stand to inherit money and social connections / social skills.

Any sort of class based affirmative action will serve to take away some opportunity from my children and allocate that opportunity to children other than mine.

Now first of all, I understand that many of the people on this blog believe in devoting all resources to helping their own genetic offspring. There is nothing wrong with that point of view. I need not point out that Genghis Khan followed that path, and as a result, his DNA is present in hundreds of millions of people that are alive today.

Other people on this blog believe in helping people that are genetically similar to themselves. If a reader of this blog were of Icelandic ancestry, he might want to help other people with Icelandic DNA, but not want to help anyone with German or Danish DNA, on the grounds that Germans or Danes are too far from him genetically. Again, I respect this point of view - it is quite logical, but it is not my point of view.

Then we get to "white survivalists" people who feel that all whites are genetically related and that if they are white they should be helping other whites. So this group of people might want to see rich whites helping non rich whites, and perhaps they might like to see wealthy high IQ successful white people step back and offer affirmative action for other white people who are poor and unsuccessful. Again, nothing wrong with this point of view.

Steve, you have spoken of citizenism. Citizenism means that if affirmative action is going to deny some spaces at an elite school to my children and instead allocate those spaces to kids who grew up poorer than my kids, that the spaces should be allocated to citizens of the USA.

A citizenist would I think be ok with affirmative action that took spaces away from American citizens that grew up wealthy and allocated those spaces to American citizens that grew up poor (no matter their race) but a citizenist would be very much offended if a space was taken from an American citizen and given to a poor citizen of some other country.

Since I am a citizenist, I am strongly in favor of a class based affirmative action system, if and only if it can be implemented effectively.

While determining social class is hard, may I suggest the following method - Assume for a minute that the student applying to college or graduate school has a large extended family. Further assume that all his family members have accurately reported their income to the IRS.

Why not take the average annual income of the applicant's family members over the past 30 years, and use that as a proxy for the degree of opportunity that the child has had?

For these purposes I would include parents, grandparents, great grandparents, uncles and aunts.

If you are looking at two 17 year olds applying for college, and one of them comes from a family in which the average lifetime income has been $300 thousand a year and the other comes from a family in which the average lifetime income has been $15 thousand a year, I think it is very fair for affirmative action to provide a boost to the child from the $15 thousand a year family.

Again, I am a citizenist and I would allow affirmative action only for 17 year olds who are citizens AND who have two parents that are citizens. If a 17 year old has one or both parents who are citizens of some foreign land, I say no affirmative action.

Again, I respect very much that most people who post here are not citizenists, and I respect that most people here would rather see affirmative action that only helps people that they feel a genetic kinship with. But for those that are strict citizenists like me, I would like to hear honest blunt feedback on this.

stari_momak said...

- He smoked a lot of dope in high school.
+ He smoked a lot of dope on the beach in Hawaii with his fellow students at the most prestigious prep school in the state.


Wasn't there an old Mad Magazine feature that went something like this. At any rate, good work.

Anonymous said...

from WaPo yesterday:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/23/AR2010072304583.html

The authors suggest that the lack of black success is due to structural racism, not racist people. But the only structures I know of PROMOTE rather than hurt black applicants, test-takers, and college hopefuls. Correlation does not imply causation, and all that.

Anonymous said...

The rules don't apply if you're two out of three: really smart, physically attractive, charismatic. If you're all three, you make the rules. Class is irrelevant.

dearieme said...

"Vaguely Academic Class": ah, so he's rather VACuous, is he?

Mike said...

Putting the speculations about Obama to one side, it ought to be obvious that affirmative action does no good for a functionally illiterate black high-school dropout living in the projects. The key to understanding affirmative action is that IT ISN'T DESIGNED to help him.

Its purpose is to benefit the children of middle-class and higher-status blacks so as to keep them and their parents beholden to the establishment left. Without such racial preferences, the wealth-redistribution agenda of the left might be as unpopular with affluent black professionals as it is with their white counterparts.

Anonymous said...

Steve, surely you of all people should know that a difficult to classify case does not refute classification. (Your phrasing didn't sound sarcastic.)

There are already existing rules as to who counts as low SES. Barack Obama of Punahou HS would either have qualified as low SES or not. Either way, a strong argument could be made. There are complicated cases. That's not really an argument for or against Affirmative Action by SES.

ben g said...

If class-based affirmative action were based on parental assets instead of parental income, it would actually create about as much racial diversity as race-based affirmative action. I read (i forget where) that controlling for assets rather than income closes most of the black-white IQ gap.

Obviously the problem with assets-based affirmative action is that it would incentivize a short time preference/wasting of money.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question -- can an affirmative action handout recipient really graduate in the top 10% of his class (magna cum laude) from Harvard Law School where grading is blinded? I guess I don't really need to see Obama's LSAT scores to know if he belonged in the class of '91, Steve. That said, I love your stuff.

Anonymous said...

Just so you, in federal contracting Disadvantaged Business Enterprise has supplanted Minority Business Enterprise. My state also went that route.

The minority (SE Asian) business I work for grosses too much to qualify for DBE status.

I believe that trend also took hold in U California system admissions and grants - ? Income is a big deal now.

TH said...

Average IQ differences by race and parental SES from "The Bell Curve".

Jim O said...

Obama got his start in politics with a book about his preocupation with his ethnicity,and so did Webb
Compare and contrast.

Human Resource Drone said...

There must be lots of black and Hispanic kids in the 'hood with 1300 out of 1600 SAT scores who are losing out to Chad Buffington of Lake Forest's tutor-aided 1400.

You are so right on here mighty iSteve! It's true in the corporate world too. They believe this myth and then come down on you like a ton of self-righteous bricks when you can't come up with these guys and gals.

Anonymous said...

awesome blog post steveo

Piper said...

Sigh. "Class" based affirmative action (discrimination) will always "fail" in the estimation of people like Drum because "disadvantaged" (or poor) whites and asians greatly outnumber blacks and other NAM's, so without skin-color discrimination blacks and browns will not beat out whites and asians for any limited number of school or job places.

Statistically-ignorant leftists like Drum often advocate "class-based" discrimination until someone (typically a university administrator) clues them that it won't produce the racial mix people like Drum want to see.

I feel sorry for the good-hearted Americans who supported affirmative action 40 years ago. They really thought they would pay just once to fix the problem of black underachievement. In the 1970's white Americans were told "the reason blacks are academic failures is that they all have lower-class parents, which is the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. If whites accept one generation's worth of unqualified blacks shoehorned into middle-class jobs-- just one generation's worth of incompetent doctors and dimwit professors and innumerate accountants-- then the children of the affirmative-action beneficiaries, who will all grow up in middle-class households, will compete on equal terms with whites.

If that were all true it might have been worthwhile to pay the price. Sadly, it's not true. The children of middle-class blacks are no smarter than those of underclass blacks and cannot earn middle-class lives for themselves. Genetic reversion to the mean trumps environmental interventions.

Since people like Drum steadfastly refuse to face facts, they have all turned into racial fanatics constantly accusing American whites-- the same folks who generously consented to affirmative action when it supposed to cure racial disparity rather than perpetuate it-- of ineradicable racism.

Now Drum and his friends want to expand affirmative action and keep it going forever (which, in truth, would be necessary to keep refreshing the ranks of "middle class blacks").

I hope Drum someday gets his eyes opened so at everyone else can get some rest from his hectoring.

Isabel said...

A good test of socioeconomic class includes cultural capital as well as economic capital. Obama seems to have had a great deal of this, which would propel him at least into the middle class, if not the upper-middle class.

He had many family contacts, knew people with PhDs and important jobs throughout his childhood who could advise and inspire him and offer concrete aid or connect him with people who could. He was able to learn how the world works, and had an understanding of the wider world that put him ahead of others of the same (temporary in his case) lower economic class.

Yes, your parents' academic degrees do matter, although I don't know if they do in this affirmative action case (usually they do in my experience), as do their social and political contacts, and there is a body of literature that discusses cultural capital.

Art Deco said...

The difficulty with these programs, without regard to how the beneficiary is defined, is that they are exercises in patronage. They also render opaque the feedback which is unambiguously beneficial to people.

That aside, I suppose a benefit of these programs is that they provide for an exchange of ego satisfactions. Someone like William Bowen gets to be the benevolent patron, someone like Houston Baker gets gestures of obeisance.

Anonymous said...

This idea gets interest every 5-10 years. On the surface it seems attractive and just. But, it is little better than the status quo. My father had tons of money and he wouldn't put a cent toward helping his offspring and spent time in prison. My mom was off her rocker. On paper, my parents had tons of money, but I was left to my own devices at a young age.

My wife on the other hand comes from a more financially modest, but much more stable home. Which background would you rather grow up in?

There is no system better for the individuals and society than to one geared toward having the most gifted and well equipped win.

Someguy

Luke Lea said...

I think "affirmative action for all" might solve this problem if it were designed to reflect both the geographic (including rural/urban) as well as the full ethnic diversity of America that Sen. Webb talks about. Any residual class discrimination could probably be identified by comparing test scores and family income against admission rates. Legacies need to be abolished as a form of inherited privilege inconsistent with the tax-exempt status of educational institutions.

(University presidents should also stop cooperating with the U.S. News and World Report annual rankings, which weights their "opinion" of other schools more than any other single factor. Acceptance rates and yield ratios likewise are nobody's business.)

Congress has the power to legislate these changes, I think, and the courts would probably accede to them since no group would be singled out or discriminated against. Having a student body that reflects the geographic and ethnic diversity of America is hard to argue against, especially after Bakke.

Ivy League schools would have to do a lot more outreach for non-African Americans in the South and Mid-West than they do today. They need to do that anyway.

And btw, there is no need to cite Buchanan, Duke, Kevin McDonald, or the Occidental Quarterly to make this case. Unz, Webb, Douthat, Murray, and Sailer do just fine by themselves.

Harry Baldwin said...

Blogger Jim O said...Obama got his start in politics with a book about his preoccupation with his ethnicity,and so did Webb

Webb made his name with his Vietnam memoir, "Fields of Fire"(1978). He got an appointment in the Reagan administration 20 years before he wrote "Born Fighting."

JHB said...

Anonymous wrote:

Here's a question -- can an affirmative action handout recipient really graduate in the top 10% of his class (magna cum laude) from Harvard Law School where grading is blinded? I guess I don't really need to see Obama's LSAT scores to know if he belonged in the class of '91, Steve.

Professors know the grades that a student has received, and it's traditional to "bump" grades up or down before they hit the transcript. Furthermore, classes with 50 or fewer students aren't blind graded. Lastly, while class average is supposed to be a B+, that's not required of HLS professors, who can set the class average wherever they want.

If we knew the transcript, we could see which classes President Obama took. The HLS Course Catalog is online; some of those classes look as if they might be a lot tougher than others. Without knowing the transcript, without knowing the class size, and without knowing if the grades were "bumped," the Magna Cum Laude Law Degree means nothing.

Show me the LSAT score and the undergraduate transcripts, though, and I'll tell you if President Obama deserved to be in HLS in the first place.

Paul DeReno said...

That class became so subordinate to race in liberal discourse shows how the neo-liberals were almost as successful in taking over the Left-wing chattering classes as the Neo-Cons were at taking over the Right-Wing chatterers.

It seems fairly obvious to me now that the neocons and neolibs are identical and came from the same source. Note how the neoliberal icons (Bill Clinton, Al Gore) and the neocon icons (Bush, Buckley, Kristol) were connected directly to the CIA (Clinton through drug activities in Mena, the others through direct funding) and to other globalist interests.

The neocons and neolibs were/are globalist agents who were sent to capture the activist wing of the republican and democratic parties, respectively (Norman admits it, though I forget where, that he set out to convert the Republican party "against its will", he simply omits to mention whom he was working for.)

I cannot see how any other interpretation of events makes any sense. What do both neocons and neolibs want? Immigration, Invasion, and Insolvency. They are pro big business, pro Wall Street, and pro-multiculti and always pretty much have been. The neocons barely pretend to care about social issues and limited government and the neolibs have given up on talking class.

This is why you can't really find coherent rationales to what the neocons or neolibs believe, regardless of whether you look towards Israel or prestige or whatever else as the reason. Once you cease to consider them ideologues and begin to analyze them as paid propagandists they become easier to understand.

Someone ring up Paul Gottfried.

Anonymous said...

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3060907/Black-parents-give-birth-to-white-baby.html

Bohemian said...

Is there any question that Obama comes from an upperclass background?

Much of what Steve thinks is low class is just bohemian elite hippie behavior in choosing to opt out of and buck the system. Thinking money is the only class marker is very middle class American anti-intellectual.

Upper class bohemian hippie traits:

- Choosing to avoid the working world and a regular paycheck to pursue an utterly impractical PhD using welfare support.

- The few loose hippie chicks I knew also got knocked up young without concern for traditions like "marriage".

- His father abandoned him when he was 2. A popular trend among idealistic hippie chicks who make bad mate selections. His African father's polygamy, alcoholism, politics, failures didn't touch Obama as his father was really just a sperm daddy.

- He lived in a poor Third World country in a fairly poor neighborhood - a feature, not a bug, for his bohemian hippie mom to be "authentic". Even she recognized the time when it was prudent to send him back to the states for an elite boarding school education

- He came from a multiply broken family, abandoned by his father as an infant and twice by his mother, and had to live with his grandparents. Par for the course for offspring of flaky, self-obsessed hippie chicks.

- He smoked a lot of dope in high school - not much different from other elite students at Punahou.

- In college he hung out with Third Worlders - elites, especially the young, buy the Anti-American line and are often craven culture vultures about it

- His maternal grandfather was a fairly unsuccessful salesman - probably the guy Obama liked least in his family although who he'd most end up as without AA (hot air angry ideologue without any indication he had the stuff to make it in the real world in an honest job).

- His maternal grandfather was from a family with a shady reputation. Just goes to show the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Grandma had the reckless rebellious hippie idealism to marry her loser of a husband as did Obama's mom. If Obama were a girl he may well have continued the family tradition if race wasn't an obsession.

- His mother had to do lowly clerical work in Indonesia. A willing sacrifice to pursue her dream of going native for her research in Indonesia. At anytime, she could've jetted back stateside and joined the suburbian middle or upper-middle class no doubt.

Bill said...

Class absolutely exists in the US, and race policies enforce it. There is nothing quite like putting an ordinary white boy in his place by saying he had privilege (the "invisible backpack" race hustler Tim Wise talks about), while the affirmative action beneficiary did not.

The better sorts of white folks can crush their competitors through racial quotas -- just give all the slots that might have gone to talented working/middle class white kids to minorities. The smaller the minority the better. It's a lot easier to manage the Jews and Chinese than 200 million rednecks -- same as it ever was.

It's one of those mundane conspiracies that people ignore because they are too obvious. It exists at all levels, too. Say you're a Mormon judge in small-town southern Idaho. Give the "gentile" families a smackdown in divorce court, because they aren't as righteous as you are, and you cripple their kids.

It's just the way things work -- people look out for their own by stepping on others. Power is as much about the right to punish and oppress as anything else. America's founding fathers understood this, but that was a long time ago.

However, this is still a big country. I'd advise people without the advantages to simply look elsewhere -- there are still opportunities outside of the mandated "beautiful people" class, no matter how how hard they are trying to stamp them out.

Ordinary Americans should simply reject the Ivies as foreign. Go into different fields. Maybe the armed forces are OK, but they're starting to put those under a microscope as well. Just quit thinking this is "your country" and you'll have a far better perspective on things. This is how the Chinese survived the Yuan dynasty, and the Spanish the Almohads, and they came out of it stronger than ever.

Peter A said...

Obama is clearly upper middle class and had an upper middle class upbringing. If anything his life up through Harvard Law followed the same track of many scions of decaying WASP families I know. If Obama were named Eric Taft there would be nothing remarkable about him and he would be probably be a lawyer helping non-profits in Vermont, or running an organic shoe company in Honolulu.

spacehabitats said...

As a proponent of individual liberty, I oppose ANY federally mandated or funded affirmative action program.

Individual schools, on the other hand, should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of anything they like; religion, race, hair color, SES, left-handed Icelanders, etc.

None of them should receive ANY tax subsidies, directly or indirectly.

suggestion said...

Obama's class level obviously changed a lot growing up depending on who he was living with and how much money they were making. By the time he was ready for college, he was clearly upper class. His grandparents appeared to have enough money to send him to a university out of state and he was attending the state's most prestigous private school.

suggestion said...

Show me the LSAT score and the undergraduate transcripts, though, and I'll tell you if President Obama deserved to be in HLS in the first place.

Who cares about his grades at Harvard? What Obama has accomplished as an adult (becoming the first black president) is of far greater difficulty than any class at Harvard and should be more than sufficient to convince you that he is highly intelligent.

The only question I have with regard to his intellect, is why didn't he go to better university after high school? Not only did he have the benefit of affirmative action, but he also was coming out of an impressive high school (with okay grades), and had grandparents wealthy enough to send him out of state and he was obviously motivated to attend school away from home since he did. The fact that these four advantages were not enough to get him into a better school suggests to me that his SAT scores could not have been exceptional.

Still, his later accomplishments are so historical and racial politics in America are so difficult to navigate, that he must be very bright. I would guess his IQ is in the 120-130 range: High enough to solve the impossible problem of becoming president as a black man, but low enough that he wasn't accepted at a better undergrad school despite being a minority from an elite high school with the means and desire to leave his state.

sabril said...

I agree with JHB, and I would add that based on my experience, affirmative action does not stop with the admission letter. Not by a long shot.

Lefty school administrators quietly boost NAMS -- particularly blacks -- every step of the way.

Think of NAMS like star athletes at schools where athletics are important.

Anonymous said...

The weird thing about Obama is that he is fairly good looking. Both his parents were quite ugly.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with the person who said that affirmative action only helps middle class blacks. Affirmative action permeates society fom top to bottom. I worked some pretty bad jobs making it through college, and I saw plenty of empty skirt women and blacks moved into positions where they had no business being because the people who knew better believed that the low-level jobs could be performed/managed by monkeys.

Affirmative action makes American busineses uncompetetive from the bottom up. The chaos introduced into the workplace at entry-level jobs by affirmative action hiring and third-world immigration is jaw-dropping, and kills the careers of many who would otherwise work their way up the ladder in the cradle.

Anonymous said...

Got an appointment? He was secretary of the navy. That is a little higher up than some run of the mill staffer. He also won the navy cross. I still wonder what he is thinking half the time.

Anonymous said...

I went to school with some white kids who were capable of doing A work and would have been college material if they'd come from better families, but they came from the kind of backgrounds that people sometimes call trailer trash. They grew up with moms sleeping around and moving boyfriends in and out or had siblings with multiple fathers. Mom or Dad or both might have had a drinking problem or a reputation for sleeping around. Maybe Mom was the closest thing to the town prostitute and couldn't hold a real job for long. There was no money for college and even if the kids could have scraped together scholarships and Pell grants to go, they didn't have the family culture of finishing college. They ended up quitting school to work or take care of siblings or clean up whatever family mess they had left. And yet in grade school and in high school they were capable of getting A's in spite of all that disfunction. With mentors and financial assistance and someone to call when the car breaks down or the babysitter falls through or life falls apart in some other way, they'd probably be able to make it through college. Those are the people that class-based affirmative action should help -- bright people from terrible backgrounds. My family was firmly middle class, both parents are still together and have master's degrees, and I am something of a slacker because I don't have a master's and have a job that pays peanuts. My income level would probably put me in the bracket of getting some sort of assistance if I wanted to go back, but I don't have the screwed up family background. I'd count lower class as both income AND disfunctional family background.

Marc B said...

"It seems fairly obvious to me now that the neocons and neolibs are identical and came from the same source."

They have both taken over and become the establishment. It becomes apparent when listening to any of the neolib commentators speak so highly of warmongers Frum and Brooks while disparaging the likes of Rand Paul and Tea Party folk. George Bush and Bill Clinton were the internal "change agents", and their respective parties have never been the same.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Still, his later accomplishments are so historical and racial politics in America are so difficult to navigate, that he must be very bright. I would guess his IQ is in the 120-130 range: High enough to solve the impossible problem of becoming president as a black man, but low enough that he wasn't accepted at a better undergrad school despite being a minority from an elite high school

Representative democracy doesn't select for brains. Obama was running against a geriatric man who swore to continue the policies of the unpopular, polarizing George W. Bush.

If he's in the 90-95th percentile, then it seems odd he never really practiced law (or much of anything else), never published any academic writings, married almost 2 SD's lower, and appears frustrated and bored with complex matters.

Anonymous said...

I would guess his IQ is in the 120-130 range

Then you would guess wrong.

The tiny handful of known non-Ayers / non-Favreau / non-Davis pieces in the corpus are simply embarrassing.

He's no higher than 115, and even that's a stretch.

ben tillman said...

The weird thing about Obama is that he is fairly good looking.

Cuthbert Rumbold, Tommy Tuberville, and Popeye Jones say thank you.

ben tillman said...

I would guess his IQ is in the 120-130 range: High enough to solve the impossible problem of becoming president as a black man.

How do you figure that he, rather than his numerous sponsors and benefactors, solved this "impossible problem"?

Anonymous said...

i predict that webb will be president and that sailer will support him, and that by doing so steve will have to confront the fact that he is, like me and webb, a populist leftist.

cryofan

Veracitor said...

Anonymous wrote: "Those are the people that class-based affirmative action should help -- bright people from terrible backgrounds."

Actually, that was original reason for the SAT test: to identify bright kids from poor backgrounds. The SAT does that pretty well because it combines an "IQ" test with some subject-matter testing-- bright kids who've read a bit and learned some arithmetic make high scores even if their families, schools, and neighborhoods suck.

Using SAT scores as a key factor in admitting basically resolved the pressure for class-based quotas until society discovered that few blacks ever get high SAT scores (because most blacks aren't very smart).

Once the racial "disparate impact" of the SAT (and all other tests of mental ability) was recognized, and further recognized to be irremediable, race hustlers (a) denounced the SAT as racist* and (b) demanded simple racial quotas ("affirmative action") in college admissions and everything else.

*The SAT is not racist. It's blind-graded and it predicts college performance about as well for blacks and whites. Actually, it overpredicts black performance, probably due to restriction of range in the sample of blacks who take the test. The SAT's disparate impact is the same as the disparate impact of all intelligence tests-- a smaller proportion of blacks than whites possess high intelligence.

none of the above said...

ISTM that Obama just breaks the common US categories of both race and class. That is, you can classify him in some way, but he's going to be an outlier.

And I'll agree with suggestion that once you've managed to be elected president, I'm inclined to think that tells me more about your abilities and potential than your grades or SAT scores. (This is as true of Bush as of Obama, obviously.)

Truth said...

"How do you figure that he, rather than his numerous sponsors and benefactors, solved this "impossible problem"?"

Let's try to get to a High school level here, Ben. No one gets to be a president without "numerous sponsors and benefactors", they only difference is that they are usually related to them. (although Barry and Cheney are cousins).

I guess you believe that John McCain graduating 841st in his class and making a mess of everything he accomplished in life up until age 40 got to the nomination by the sweat-of-his-brow, huh?

Boy George, Gerald Ford and Ronald Regan were geniuses, huh?

At times, I really believe that the impending NWO takeover of this planet couldn't be much worse.

catperson said...

How do you figure that he, rather than his numerous sponsors and benefactors, solved this "impossible problem"?

That's how he solved the problem; by figuring out how to inspire powerful sponsors and benefactors to help him. Motivating others to work on your behalf is the key skill of a good politician.

Anonymous said...

"They grew up with moms sleeping around and moving boyfriends in and out or had siblings "

It doesn't pay to be responsible. I consider myself to be a complete sucker for trying to do the "right"
things such as not taking drugs and sleeping around.I am sure there are people in my building on Section 8 who partied it up and had a few kids and now live off the gov't while I have to go to work to help and support them.They might have some scummy boyfriend who lives with the woman but doesn't tell the gov't. He could make decent money, while they get the apt for free and don't have to pay daycare because she can stay at home. I heard this exact scenario from someone.

ben tillman said...

That's how he solved the problem; by figuring out how to inspire powerful sponsors and benefactors to help him. Motivating others to work on your behalf is the key skill of a good politician.

You are so naive. He was selected and groomed. He didn't manage anybody.

ben tillman said...

"How do you figure that he, rather than his numerous sponsors and benefactors, solved this "impossible problem"?"

Let's try to get to a High school level here, Ben. No one gets to be a president without "numerous sponsors and benefactors", they only difference is that they are usually related to them. (although Barry and Cheney are cousins).

I guess you believe that John McCain graduating 841st in his class and making a mess of everything he accomplished in life up until age 40 got to the nomination by the sweat-of-his-brow, huh?


Wow. How does the fact that McCain benefitted from sponsors and benefactors contradict my claim that Obama's rise was due to his sponsors and benefactors?

catperson said...

You are so naive. He was selected and groomed. He didn't manage anybody.

If that's true, it might be even more impressive. He showed so much potential that he didn't even have to manage anyone, they recruited him.

Isabel said...

"I heard this exact scenario from someone."

I have never seen any statistics on the class of origin of whites on various forms of public assistance, but as someone who grew up lower middle class, I never knew anyone on public assistance until I clawed my way to the lower rungs of the upper middle class (off and on for various periods of my life) and then I observed it fairly frequently, especially with new single moms from UMC backgrounds.

It had never even occurred to me that I could have a kid on my own and for that reason alone have rent, childcare and college paid for. Jeez I probably would have taken advantage if I had realized it sooner.

B Lode said...

How does the fact that McCain benefitted from sponsors and benefactors contradict my claim that Obama's rise was due to his sponsors and benefactors? - ben tillman

Truth thinks that he can make us feel bad by pointing out that a couple of RINO Presidents were sort of dippy. I'm not kidding - he thinks the people on this blog are mainstream Republicans.

Truth said...

"Wow. How does the fact that McCain benefitted from sponsors and benefactors contradict my claim that Obama's rise was due to his sponsors and benefactors?"

We'll try it again; the guy finished THIRD FROM THE BOTTOM OF HIS CLASS in college, got shot down and captured where he squealed like a canary, and possibly BLEW UP AN AMERICAN AIRCRAFT CARRIER by accident.

IF his rise wasn't "due to his sponsors and benefactors" what the hell was it due to, talent?

Truth said...

"Truth thinks that he can make us feel bad by pointing out that a couple of RINO Presidents were sort of dippy. I'm not kidding - he thinks the people on this blog are mainstream Republicans."

No, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is quite, incredibly simple: ALL U.S. Presidents are puppets. Once cannot win the backing of the world's supercorporations without being a puppet. There have been exactly 2 presidents in my lifetime who have had SOME degree of autonomy Regan (possibly the most harmful U.S. president since Andrew Johnson) and Nixon. What happened to them in office; One was kicked out, one was shot.

It's not that complicated.

Anonymous said...

"How can anybody say that race exists when all you have to do is look at Barack Obama to see that not everybody fits into a perfect little box?"

Barack thinks that he fits into a perfect little "Black" box on his census form. I think the decision to (very publicly) eschew from acknowledging the truth of his mixed-race ancestry is very illuminating into the inner workings of Obama's manufactured identity.

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