Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Shame of Poverty in America vs. “Shame on the Poor!”

As you may know, the Prince of Republican Presidential Contenders, Mitt Romney, said a couple of days ago that he “wasn’t concerned about the very poor, because they have an ample safety net.”  Naturally, he immediately began back-peddling and told CNN today that he had been taken out of context (as usual…) and actually said (or meant to say):  “I’m not concerned about the very poor.  We have a safety net there.  If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.  I’m not concerned about the very rich.  They’re doing just fine.  I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”

I’m not concerned about what Mitt Romney says or doesn’t say, because he’s already proven he’ll say anything he thinks will serve him at the moment.  What does concern me is that his remark reflects the climate of anti-poor sentiment that seems to be embracing the nation – at least Center and Right – and as usual, the ideas that people have about the poor range from just plain incorrect to hostile and unfeeling.  I guess that since everyone except the very rich is having a hard time, sympathy for those at the bottom is scant.  It also seems particularly negligible on the part of the previously poor who managed to rise above their station; a case of “If I can do it, you can do it, too.”

The problem is that not everyone can do what some others can.  And even in this post-economic-collapse-day-and-age, a lot of folks don’t understand that many very poor people do work and often at more than one job, but despite their best efforts they still can’t make ends meet and live mean, impossible lives.

The poor haters (and many people do hate the poor) still believe there are Welfare Queens; that there are “able-bodied men” who just refuse to work; that Food Stamps provide an ongoing luxury buffet; that Medicaid provides quality, readily-available health care; and that in general, the poor are just lazy, shiftless, irresponsible, drug/alcohol addicts – undeserving burdens on society who think they have everything coming to them.  It boggles my mind.

The impact of the attitudes of the “…very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling” are reflected in a White Paper on Poverty in America recently released by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University (not exactly a bastion of left-wing academia).  The paper provides all the horrific true facts about poverty the Center/Right refuse to acknowledge – just as they won’t accept the facts of climate change, Evolution, overpopulation, environmental imperatives, the dangers of de-regulation/ necessary new regulation, the insanity of an unrestricted free market, and the common-sense need for greater taxes from the very rich.  Etcetera.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I – a single woman with no living relatives, no assets, and outdated job skills – spent about a month on Welfare before the permanent Social Security disability benefits I am (here comes that word): entitled to (because I paid into the system for over 35 years) kicked in.  Welfare paid my rent and gave me $67 every two weeks for all other expenses, and I also got $150 in Food Stamps monthly.  Clearly, that gravy train couldn’t go on indefinitely!

Now, I receive those disability benefits.  I’m very grateful to have them, but they don’t cover all of my expenses.  I have no disposable income whatsoever.  I no longer get Food Stamps.  My health care is Medicare – an extremely expensive program that is managed so poorly, it covers almost nothing I actually need.  And the irony is, I’m not considered poor.  I sure do feel poor – but, obviously, that’s because I’m a lazy, shiftless, irresponsible, undeserving burden on society who thinks I have everything coming to me.

The true facts about the poor in America include the following: the vast majority of people on Welfare are white women and children.  Virtually all of the poor are severely under-educated.  Most suffer from both physical and emotional ailments.  Almost none have health insurance and Medicaid makes Medicare look like a well-oiled machine.  All live in what can generously be called sub-standard housing (crumbling urban Projects, rural ramshackle houses, and often broken-down cars and tents).  Many are outright homeless.  Most are chronically hungry.  All rely on the kindness of strangers (church groups, soup kitchens, hog-tied non-profit organizations).

And if the Republicans have their way, what little safety net the poor do have – that John Boehner actually called a hammock – will be unstrung to virtually nothing in the name of Debt & Deficit.  At the rate things are going, no matter who wins the White House in November, those who have nothing will soon have less than nothing – including Mitt Romney’s lack of concern.


JoyceClark said...

Life is certainly full of curves, I am still ducking the blows. I too am on Medicare & disability. I never in a million years would have thought I would be on the virtually "poor" side of America. I am grateful but angry at life. I lost most of my sight to diabetes 6 years ago, that took me for a loop!. I was a successful registered nurse who completed college & received a BS in human services & community health, & a masters in psychology. I worked with the so called down trodden.population with HIV/AIDS. I enjoyed every minute of my 25 years.I frequently recall those days of the Feather Ball where so many of the patrons looked as if they existed on one rice grain per week,& disgruntled when Jimmy Carter took the election that year.How those rich Republicans of 1976 must've felt to imagine it was almost the end of their world & the frivilous life they lived with their many cohorts. How excited we were to be able to get a few bottles of the most expensive perfumes while we watched them fight over the gift baskets that they could've purchased with the loose change in their wallets.So many American's are experiencing hardships on various levels.How many of the affluent have been victims like us everyday people? Jeanne, you once said that what we needed is a visitation from some beings from another galaxy..I agreed then .. I agree now ! There is not much (if any) recourse left..Beam me up Scotty !!!!!

Anonymous said...

quote: The safety net is not a hammock