Mike the Mad Biologist

I guess I’m so inured to wealthy conservatives complaining about how financially hard they have it that Republican Congressman Sean Duffy’s complaint about money wasn’t what bothered me about this utterance:

At a town hall meeting in Polk County, Wisconsin earlier this year, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) was asked whether he’d vote to cut his $174,000 annual salary. Duffy sort of hedged, and went on to talk about how $174,000 really isn’t that much for his family of seven to live on….

Here’s what Duffy says about his salary:

I can guarantee you, or most of you, I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you. With 6 kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I’m living high on the hog, I’ve got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now. Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks? Maybe, but at this point I’m not living high on the hog.

…Like all House members, Duffy makes $174,000 in taxpayer-funded salary every year. The Speaker makes a lot more ($223,500) and the party leaders and president pro tempore of the Senate make a bit more ($193,400.)

All of them make way more than most people in Polk County, Wisconsin do. The median household income there was $50,520 in 2008, according to Census data.

When I read this, one question popped into my head:

You have six kids. Why didn’t you use birth control like many people do, asshole?

Duffy’s household income is in the top five percent. If he is having a hard time supporting his family, then maybe he should have, I dunno, ‘planned parenthood’ a little better.

To use a phrase.

Or maybe personal responsibility is the sole purview of single minority women.

Comments

  1. #1 Ben
    April 2, 2011

    Since you don’t read your comments, this won’t be for you, Mike, but for people who might read your blog.

    Think hard before you post things like this. Why?

    Not because you are criticizing a guy who is not complaining about supporting his family – you are criticizing a guy who is explaining how he is living life and happens to be supporting his family on his income. He was asked if he would be happy to reduce his own income; he explains how his income is sufficient but not terribly lush because while the economy is increasingly tailored to dual income-no kids, he is having a traditional family and doing it on a single income. He leads a traditional life and has been meeting his own life goals in a world increasingly hostile to it – witness Mike’s hostility.

    Now, Mike has put it into his own hands to decide which of the six children he would prefer would never have been born. I don’t envy the rhetorical corner he has painted himself into. Maybe it is Evita? Or Paloma? Wait… can’t go killing off the girls… hmm. Xavier? Maybe Mike will double down and suggest three or four to eliminate.

  2. #2 stripey_cat
    April 2, 2011

    Oh, boy! I’ll bet there are plenty of families in the county supporting 6 or more kids, on less than median household income.

    I do find it generally fascinating that almost everyone seems to spend nearly all their income, and to view almost all their expenditure as essential. From somewhere fairly near the bottom of the pile, it can be quite amusing to watch.

  3. #3 Troublesome Frog
    April 2, 2011

    Ben:

    I think that the point here is that you really shouldn’t complain about “not living high on the hog” when the reason you don’t have much cash left over is because of optional luxuries. Having 6 children is an optional luxury. Having an adult in the house who doesn’t work is an optional luxury. I’m not saying that it’s wrong that he enjoys those things. He just incorrectly looks at them as pure costs rather than as optional nice-to-haves that he chose to have. I won’t even ask what all the debt is about.

    People in these income brackets often use how much money they have left over after consumption as a way to measure how “rich” they are. That’s what causes them to say stupid things like, “I’m not rich. I spend almost all of my income paying for a huge house and swanky private school for my kids, so I hardly have anything left over.” They think they have common ground with people who don’t have those luxuries just because their after-consumption savings are about equal. They don’t.

    Since the congressman has not made any public statements I’m aware of about poor recipients of government money having more children than they can afford, I won’t rip into him too hard. I think it’s just important to remember that even if you spend all of your money to live high on the hog, you’re still living high on the hog.

    Also–WTF is the connection between pointing out that somebody chose to have lots of kids and being forced to choose which ones to eliminate? Talk about a lame rhetorical gambit.

  4. #4 Darin =_|^•_
    April 3, 2011

    Wow, Ben. That’s quite the straw man you set up in your first sentence! I guess that comment absolved you of any followup comments, or any forethought as well … Lame.

    Enjoy your well earned respite jerking off the frothy load of BS you’ve been guzzling. Watch out for all that Santorum-’it’s starting to stain the teeth you have left :)

    Your God forbid that he pump some if his sanctimonious load somewhere else, and limit the number of brainwashed crotch-spawn he jelqs into this idiocracy …
    The fact is, this spoiled plutocrat hasn’t done dick-all that deserves anything above wellfare and food stamp payments. If that’s not enough to raise 6 kids, the problem is that the system payouts are too low, taxes to support the offshoring layoffs are too low, and what needs to happen is more funding to retrain folks in STEM career paths.

    Cheers!
    Darin

  5. #5 Ben
    April 3, 2011

    Darin: I don’t see any straw man in the first sentence. Mike told me he doesn’t read the comments.

    Frog: Since Mike suggested that the kids should never have been born, it isn’t a big stretch to ask ‘which ones shouldn’t have been born?’ Now, there is an a priori issue here; and I understand the rhetorical joys of ‘every sperm is sacred’ which is a reasonable counter strategy. I think Darin managed to bring it up somewhere in his difficult to follow insult. Perhaps he studied at the French Immersion Institute of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

  6. #6 Troublesome Frog
    April 4, 2011

    Ben:

    Since Mike suggested that the kids should never have been born, it isn’t a big stretch to ask ‘which ones shouldn’t have been born?

    Well, yes in fact it is. As you point out, there’s an a priori issue with the whole position. I’m not sure how you can point out the fatal flaw in your own argument and then ask why you shouldn’t make it.

    To make it clear: The mere fact that every person is a special wonderful snowflake in his or her own way does not mean that the answer to, “Should I have a child?” is always unambiguously yes. I suppose that the most obvious answer to the question, “If I wanted to have had N fewer children, which N children should I not have had?” is, “The last N children, whoever they happened to be.”

    Making it a referendum on which precious little child should be shot in the face is just a silly attempt to use emotion to avoid acknowledging an obvious point.

  7. #7 Ben
    April 4, 2011

    Frog;
    There really is a tension between the individual value of each person and the challenges the needs of these individuals pose each other. In this case, it is the six children, none of which should not have been born, and the financial and material demands they place on a family. These issues have been addressed in a variety of ways over the centuries; a procession of a million modest proposals. Mike presents another and scorns particular people for not embracing it. He is not alone in his myopia. That he has company does not make him right.

    That I can point out the issues with my own argument doesn’t immediately invalidate it; it just means that I haven’t presented a fully formed discussion of humanity, values and ethics, all in a few paragraphs. I’d rather be someone who recognizes the incompleteness of what I have presented than someone who expects all of life to be so trivial.

  8. #8 Troublesome Frog
    April 5, 2011

    Ben:
    I’m not clear on your position. If it’s, “Choosing whether or not to have more children is a complicated process and fertile ground for all sorts of philosophical wanking,” I’m totally with you. If it’s, “This guy clearly has enough money to support 6 kids, so suggesting that he should have had fewer for financial reasons is silly,” I’m all over that as well. If it’s “In order to suggest that somebody had too many children for his financial resources, one must select which child’s marginal cost exceeds his a posteriori marginal benefit,” I still think you’re simply playing rhetorical games. That position is total nonsense.

    The a priori value of the idea of a child versus the a posteriori value of a particular well-loved child isn’t a minor philosophical quibble. It totally invalidates the position. Nobody ever has or ever will use the after-the-fact value of a child they love in the “should I have a child” decision. If we did, we’d all keep having children until they were all on the brink of starvation. Imagine a man who has 80 children and can’t feed them all. He would probably agree that he has too many and it would have been better for his family if it was small enough for him to feed. That he wouldn’t be able to pick a particular one to leave to the wolves doesn’t change that fact at all.

    My quibble with Mike is not the, “Maybe you should have had fewer children,” response but the fact that implicit in that response is the assumption that Duffy takes the same position when cutting welfare for poor families with children. If I were a betting man, I would be that he has, but without the smoking gun of a quote somewhere, I’d have to give Duffy the benefit of the doubt.

    What I find appalling about Duffy’s position is not the hypocrisy of having “too many children” but the simple cluelessness reflected int he claim that $174K per year isn’t plenty of money to live a very comfortable life. It’s not just that he says it–it’s that he actually obviously believes it.

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