Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out a Second Bill of Rights, or an Economic Bill of Rights, in 1944. Little did he know that 70 years later we'd still be fighting for what he knew this nation needed.
Any time conversations about wealth and poverty come up, people inevitably start talking about boots.
The standard phrase that comes up is "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," which is usually shorthand for "work harder and don't ask for or expect help." (The fact that the phrase was originally used sarcastically because pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is literally, physically impossible is rarely acknowledged, but c'est la vie.) The idea that people who build wealth do so because they individually work harder than poor people is baked into the American consciousness and wrapped up in the ideal of the American dream.
A different take on boots and building wealth, however, paints a more accurate picture of what it takes to get out of poverty.
Author Terry Pratchett is no longer with us, but his writing lives on and is occasionally shared on his official social media accounts. Recently, his Twitter page shared the "Sam Vimes 'Boots' Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness" from Pratchett's 1993 book "Men At Arms." This boots theory explains that one reason the rich are able to get richer is because they are able to spend less money.
If that sounds confusing, read on:
\u2026 He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of okay for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars\u2026\n2/5— Terry Pratchett (@Terry Pratchett) 1643144843
"The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet."
In other words, people who have the money to spend a little more upfront often end up spending less in the long run. A $50 pair of boots that last five years essentially cost you $10 a year. But if you can only afford $10 upfront for a pair of boots that last six months, that's what you buy—and you end up paying twice as much over a five-year period.
There are so many areas in which this principle applies when you're poor. Buying in bulk saves you money over the long run, but you have to be able to afford the bulk cost up front. A reliable car that doesn't require regular repairs will cost more than a beater, but if the beater is all you can afford, that's what you're stuck with. You'll likely spend the same or more over time than if you'd bought a newer/higher quality car, but without the capital (or the credit rating) to begin with, you don't have much choice.
People who can afford larger down payments pay lower interest rates, saving them money both immediately and in the long run. People who can afford to buy more can spend more with credit cards, pay off the balances, build up good credit and qualify for lower interest rate loans.
There are lots of good financial decisions and strategies one can utilize if one has the ability to build up some cash. But if you are living paycheck to paycheck, you can't.
Climbing the financial ladder requires getting to the bottom rung first. Those who started off anywhere on the ladder can make all kinds of pronouncements about how to climb it—good, sound advice that really does work if you're already on the ladder. But for people living in poverty, the bottom rung is just out of reach, and the walls you have to climb to get to it are slippery. It's expensive to be poor.
When people talk about how hard it is to climb out of poverty, this is a big part of what they mean. Ladder-climbing advice is useless if you can't actually get to the ladder. And yet, far too many people decry offering people assistance that might help them reach the ladder so they can start taking advantage of all that great financial advice. Why? Perhaps because they were born somewhere on the ladder—even if it was the bottom rung—and aren't aware that there are people for whom the ladder is out of reach. Or perhaps they're unaware of how expensive it is to be poor and how the costs of poverty keep people stuck in the pit. Hopefully, this theory will help more people understand and sympathize with the reality of being poor.
Money makes money, but having money also saves you money. The more money you have, the more wealth you're able to build not only because you have extra money to save, but also because you buy higher quality things that last, therefore spending less in the long run. (There's also the reality that the uber-wealthy will pay $5,000 for shoes they'll only wear a few times, but that's a whole other kind of boots story.)
Thanks, Terry Pratchett, for the simple explanation.
The mullet haircut has meant many different things. In the ’70s it meant you were a cool rocker such as David Bowie or Paul McCartney. In the ’80s it was the preferred haircut for hockey players and baseball dirtbags. The hairstyle also has a rich association with Southern culture and country music.
The mullet fell out of fashion in the mid-’90s when the flamboyant business in the front, party in the back hairstyle began to be seen as the epitome of trashiness. The haircut has been known by many names throughout history but would forever be known as the mullet after Beastie Boys released a punk rock B-side in 1994 called “Mullet Head.”
You're coming off like you're Van Damme
You've got Kenny G, in your Trans Am
You've got names like Billy Ray
Now you sing Hip Hop Hooray
Since then, the hairstyle has been so maligned that it’s usually only worn with a sense of irony or a complete lack of awareness. However, 11-year-old Allan Baltz of Jonesboro, Arkansas has changed the narrative around the hairstyle, by showing that a mullet head can be a person of not only style, but decency, with his recent charitable act.
In 2013, Allan and his twin sister Alice were in foster care and went to live with Derek and Lesli Baltz of Jonesboro, Arkansas. The children were only supposed to be with them temporarily before being reunited with their parents, but they soon realized it wouldn't be an option.
After living with the family for two years, the twins were adopted by the Baltz's.
"We were really terrified that we weren't good enough parents to keep them forever," Lesli told Southern Living. "So, we really worked through that a lot, and it became obvious that they were meant to be ours whether we felt like we were good enough or not."
During the height of the 2020 lockdowns, Lesli was looking for a way for the family to have fun. So they all began growing strange hairdos. Her husband grew a large mustache. Alice dyed her hair red and Lesli changed hers to teal. But Allan went the craziest by growing out a long, beautiful mullet.
He loved it so much that he took it up a notch by having it permed.
MULLET FINALISTS: Jonesboro, Ark., resident Allan Baltz, 11, is a finalist in the 2021 USA Mullet Championship. (Source: Lesli Baltz)\n\u25ba Hayden Henry, of Coushatta, Louisiana, also is a finalist\n\u25ba Voting ends Monday, Oct. 11. YOU CAN VOTE HERE \u25ba https://bit.ly/3mENars?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=snd&utm_content=ksla\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/nrZw8gsM9Z— KSLA News 12 (@KSLA News 12) 1633910435
"He thought it was hysterical. It was hideous, and it embarrassed his sister. Everywhere he went, people were like 'Nice hair, man.' He thinks it's the greatest thing, and he really owns it,” Lesli said.
Soon friends began to push Allan to enter the 2021 USA Mullet Championships competition. At first, he didn’t think he had a chance of winning the contest, but after learning there was a $2500 cash prize for winning the kids division, he was all in. Allan saw the competition as a way to pay it forward and help kids who are in foster care.
"He instantly was like 'Oh, OK. I can do it, and we'll give the money to kids in foster care,'" Lesli said. "He didn't hesitate. He didn't say, 'I can get a bike, then give some money away.' It was just instant that he wanted to give it away."
Allan submitted a photo wearing his father’s mountain biking sunglasses and his best suit. Because, let’s not forget, a mullet means business in the front. After weeks of campaigning, Allan won a decisive victory, gaining more than 25,000 votes.
During his campaign, Allan was vocal about what he’d do with the prize money, inspiring others to donate to his two charities, Together We Foster and Project Zero. The campaign and prize money resulted in $7,000 being donated to foster care charities.
"People also started volunteering … and donating clothing, beds, and diapers," Lesli said. "A few people that we know decided to start fostering because of Allan's story. The way that people hear it and it inspires them to do something about the foster care crisis is really incredible. We're just sitting back in awe and hoping that it continues to inspire more people to make a difference."
Allan’s generosity has helped countless kids in the foster care system. But he’s also done something else that’s pretty special. He’s brought honor back to the mullet.
This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015
Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.
If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!
Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.
Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.
Alan Taylor, a senior editor for the photo section of The Atlantic, noticed differences back in 2005 and decided to photograph them. From his Flickr album:
"The 1963 edition is my own, bought for me in the late 60's when I was a toddler, and read to tatters. The 1991 edition belongs to my kids today. I was so familiar with the older one that I immediately started noticing a few differences, and so have catalogued 14 of the more interesting differences here in this collection."
Taylor found 14 pages with differences between the original and updated versions.
Here are eight changes that reflect some of the progress society has made:
Images via Alan Taylor/Flickr, used with permission.
The original has a woman (bunny) in the kitchen, while the updated cover has both a man and a woman (still bunnies) in the kitchen. Also: The "policeman" bear changed to a woman, and the label changed to "police officer." The word "mailman" became "letter carrier," and a female farmer was added. Oh, and we went from a cat-mom pushing the stroller to cat-dad! Progress!
(The bunny brushing its teeth in the house was changed from a boy to a girl, but I'm not gonna read into that because hopefully all bunny-kids brush their teeth, right? I mean, for the sake of their little bunny teefs!)
While the gender of each role remained the same in the newer version (which is, unfortunately, pretty legit, given the glaring lack of female pilots in real life), the stereotyping was eliminated by making the "handsome pilot" more of an everyday "pilot" (raccoon?) and by turning the "pretty stewardess" into a regular flight attendant.
Shhhh: Don't tell the Starbucks Christmas cup haters this, but there are a lot more winter holidays than just Christmas. The newer version of the book included a menorah in the blank space to recognize those who celebrate Hanukkah.
...and the subtle change from "called to breakfast" to "goes to the kitchen to eat his breakfast" reflects that.
(Side note: Do Daddy Bears realllllly want to be treated like Kid Bears by being called to a meal, where they must promptly appear? I'm thinking not.)
And Richard Scarry's book was updated to reflect the late-20th-century realization that everyone belongs in the kitchen!
The updated version recognized that fact by changing "policeman" to "police officer" and "fireman" to "fire fighter." The ever-important job of cowboy was eliminated ( sigh ... how many career hopes and dreams were squashed?), replaced with a gardener and a scientist, both of which are filled by female characters. Three cheers for women in STEM! Also: The milkman was replaced by a taxi driver, but I'm pretty sure that was had to do with the fact that milkman (or woman) isn't a growing occupation any longer.
The newer version did away with the "beautiful screaming lady" (sigh... how many career hopes and dreams ... oh, wait — none) and replaced her with a regular "cat in danger." The "jumping gentleman" label was removed altogether, and the "fireman" became a "fire fighter" again.
We're still waiting for our football teams to get with the times, but the folks behind the Richard Scarry book update eliminated the "Indian" character that was wearing stereotypical clothing.
Florida State University recently led "the most comprehensive study of 20th century children's books ever undertaken in the United States." As you can surely guess, they found a gender bias toward male lead characters, even in books about animals — books like those by Richard Scarry.
Janice McCabe, the assistant professor of sociology who led the study, wrote:
"The widespread pattern of underrepresentation of females that we find supports the belief that female characters are less important and interesting than male characters. This may contribute to a sense of unimportance among girls and privilege among boys. The gender inequalities we found may be particularly powerful because they are reinforced by patterns of male-dominated characters in many other aspects of children's media, including cartoons, G-rated films, video games and even coloring books."
And we need changes to keep happening! Kids should be able to read books with same-sex couples and characters who have disabilities, for example, because those are everyday occurrences and books are a great intro to the world for kids.