Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Poverty is not just in the pocket


I’m mentioning this not because of the merits of the argument, but because it doesn’t have any. It’s just a bunch of right-wing ideologues who think simplistic and infantile solutions count as insight.

No, the real value of this discussion lies in what it says about conservative leaders in America. They want everyone to think everything is their own fault. Not only does this jibe with their stated* belief in rugged individualism, but it also conveniently absolves them from any responsibility or sense of duty in solving our problems.

(*-I say “stated,” because no conservative ever says, “If you’re against abortion, don’t have one” or, “Greed is a mental disease.” This attitude is limited strictly to conservative bugaboos.)

Conservatives love to tell poor people that they need to get an education, to not have unwanted children and to get any job they can — all the while gutting public schools, dumbing down sex education and making sure every job is “any” job. Even if the key to a good life really was that simple, the GOP seems to want to make it harder for the disadvantaged to get there.

Meanwhile, they insist that support for the Democrats (who they jeeringly call the “Democrat Party”) is illegitimate because the party offers something for its supporters. That’s a pretty stupid thing to criticize on its face, because that’s what all political parties do — the Republicans, after all, don’t offer nothing (at least, not to their base). They do offer nothing to the poor and minorities, and then can’t understand why that doesn’t work for them.

As far as beckoning voters goes, “Vote for me and I’ll make sure you don’t collapse into devastating homelessness” is a pretty low bar. No wonder we’re in such dire economic shape — every Democrat is on welfare. That’s a huge bloc!

In reality, I have never met a poor person who delighted in being poor. Likewise, I don’t know any rich people about to chuck it all to get on the Earned Income Tax Credit gravy train. To say nothing of the struggling middle class, which Boortz doesn’t either.

Boortz’s rhetoric ignores what should be obvious to every American — sometimes terrible things happen to good people, and good things happen to terrible people. People can work full-time at well above the minimum wage and still struggle. Sometimes educated people have to bite the bullet and take a job that requires no education. Sometimes people lose their jobs through no fault of their own and cannot find another one. What makes wealth for one person can result in poverty for another. The world is not a straight game of individual cause and effect, nor is anyone an island. Any decent debate will acknowledge those truths.

Too bad Boortz and everyone like him live in a fantasyland where the only thing keeping a homeless man from being Mitt Romney is laziness, and where dog-whistle (and blatant) racism is OK — as long as it’s white on black. For everyone else, racism is an excuse.

If embattled conservatives wonder why they’ve seen their support erode so much in recent years, they need look no further than this article. It’s one thing to undercut the American poor via greedy policies intended to make the rich richer and to pander to racist tendencies — it’s another to be so naked about it. If mainstream Republicans don’t disavow such rhetoric, then they deserve poor showings at the polls.

And I’ll feel as bad for them as they do for the plight of the impoverished.

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