Monday, October 22, 2012

Politically Speaking, The Poor Are the Enemy

I’m noticing a lot of talk about “The Poor.” It is an impersonal non-descriptive term. The prior incarnations were applied to “The Women”,” The Negro” and “The Asian (well, in the past this would have been referred to as The Chinese)” followed by the word “Problem.”

During most elections, “The Poor” would be invoked as a badge of concern or at least a focal point of attention. This time is different. “The Poor” have become the enemy.

In December 2011, Newt Gingrich made a statement about how poor children don’t have a clue as to understanding responsibility, ethics or the habit of working. This, by implication, means that their parents don’t have those qualities either.




Think about that statement. Every single poor person in America is engage in illegal activities. Sound idiotic. Yet many people agreed with the ignorance of that statement.

When Gingrich asked the potential donors in the room had they ever babysat or performed yard work as a comparison to an imaginary poor child, who hasn’t appeared to do anything but breathe and eat Skittles, I guess you could work up a bit of indignation.

Perhaps their understanding of “The Poor” is what they see and hear in the local and national media. It is a distorted vision.

But that was the beginning of the wave of “The Poor” being transformed into the enemy.

There are memes of taxation and certain Ayn Rand plug-ins presenting “The Poor” as picking individuals and corporate pockets in order to receive healthcare, education, and food. There are people ready to tell you that, in their perception, have done nothing to deserve it.

Never mind that you can’t live a day in this country without paying some form of local, state or federal taxes. And many people who should know better ignore the fact of millions of poor people do work and have taxes pulled from their checks each pay period.

No, don’t let the facts get in the way of the emotionally self-validating “live and let die; it is not my problem or concern.”

The main kicker in “The Poor” is the enemy campaign is when a presidential candidate Mitt Romney states that he is not concerned with the 47% and the reason why he is not concerned:

“…These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. And he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. 

For the record, “The Poor” are hyper proactive about obtaining food, shelter and not walk around half naked.

Poor people take the jobs they can find. Many of those jobs are in the service industry or whatever employment is available. It bears repeating that many low wage jobs have been shipped to China, The Philippians and other countries.

We need to be really careful about defining who is worthy of concern or not. My understanding is that providing education was a non-negotiable part of the American experience. Have we decided that we now want a permanent class of illiterate citizens?

Are retired seniors unworthy of the money they invested in Social Security payments? Should disabled veterans have a time limit on re-entry support or medical care?  We do a terrible job of it now but we can do worse if we put our minds to it.

If you are not in the above groups and you do not make a lot of money what exactly makes you unworthy of being considered a full participant and recipient of the government’s resources?

There are real people behind the political rhetoric and quotes of the week. You wouldn’t know that from the political discourse of the past three years. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon after the election.

I do expect that if we as a people want to portray “The Poor” as the enemy there will be a price to pay.

From the thought, to the word, to the deed.

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