Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category
So I’ve heard and read a lot of upset people responding to Kate O’Beirne‘s somewhat less than enlightened comment that kids who need help buying school lunches are victims of child abuse.
“The federal school lunch program and now breakfast program and I guess in Washington DC, dinner program are pretty close to being sacred cows… broad bipartisan support. And if we’re going to ask more of ourselves, my question is what poor excuse for a parent can’t rustle up a bowl of cereal and a banana? I just don’t get why millions of school children qualify for school breakfasts unless we have a major wide spread problem with child neglect.
“You know, I mean if that’s how many parents are incapable of pulling together a bowl of cereal and a banana, then we have problems that are way bigger than… that problem can’t be solved with a school breakfast, because we have parents who are just criminally… ah… criminally negligent with respect to raising children.”
It’s remarks like this that make me want to close my laptop and throw it out the window. I mean, where do I start?
Okay: First, Kate, poor parents aren’t confused about how to slice a banana. Some of them are single parents, raising children on their own. C&L supplies such an example.
Obviously she never met Jaelithe, who relied on the school lunch program to survive because her mother was young, single and poor, struggling to raise her daughter and get an education to better herself. Are these the words of an abused child, or just one raised in a world where the only outstretched hand was the government’s? Exactly what part of Jaelithe’s mother’s “self” should have given more?
But going hungry — that is a different story. That’s waking up in the morning hungry. Feeling, throughout the day, hungry. Lying in bed not able to sleep just yet because you are hungry. Dreaming about feeling hungry.
And there is not any trip to the taco place down the street and not a trip to McDonald’s instead and not a trip to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, either, because there is no money for those things. There is not even the option of a trip to the backyard for some homegrown tomatoes or cucumbers or strawberries because there is no yard when you live in a run-down apartment or a shelter or a car.
There is only your hollow-eyed mother who is hungrier than you are dividing the last stale crackers to make them last. Assuming that you are lucky enough to have a mother. And crackers.
See, in Jaelithe’s case, it’s not child abuse because the mother isn’t stealing from her child. She’s giving as much as she can, which unfortunately isn’t much. But Cruella de Vil Kate may be right about one thing: there may be abuse at play here.
Minimum wage is abusive if a single mother can’t support her child with her earnings. Employers are abusive if they fail to provide adequate wages, safety standards, hours, or health insurance for their employees. These things are very real obstacles, and are very much abusive practices, but a person like Kate O’Beirne isn’t interested in taking on institutions that can fight back. Her target is the poor.
And she’s not alone. James Joyner recently declared that unemployed people remain jobless because of their poor management skills. Seriously. And that’s not the most offensive part of what he wrote. (Joyner was responding to an interesting chart that shows unemployed people are less likely to vote than college-educated citizens).
An alternative view of the charts is that the unemployed are mostly people who’ve done an incredibly poor job of managing their own lives. … In this day and age, it’s simply irresponsible not to finish high school — or at least get a GED. Hell, you’re required by law to go to school through age 16. How hard is it to hang around another year and get that diploma?
If you haven’t passed out from all of that compassion blasting you in the face, let us examine this claim together.
What interests me about Joyner’s comment is the implication that people don’t deserve to work unless they’ve completed high school. Surely, this is a relatively new decree handed down by Lord James – one that would have infuriated many of our ancestors, who probably didn’t have very much education at all, and yet they managed to build the country, and raise their families, and live their lives.
For as many heartbreaking Jaelithesque stories as there are out there, I’m aware there are also a lot of young people who just aren’t very interested in school. And there are a lot of different reasons why they’re bored. Some have to do with the way classes are taught (teach the test, for example,) other have to do with lack of resources: one’s family is struggling to pay the bills, one’s school has crappy, outdated equipment, unchallenging curriculum, etc. If you live in a poor community and a couple of your friends lack supervision, get bored, and drop out to start working and earning money for their family, then you’re more likely to drop out, which may inspire another friend to drop out, and the domino effect spreads throughout the community.
However, I don’t see why the act of dropping out is any cause for immediate condemnation. So what if a young person drops out? I know that we’re supposed to tell every child they’re a beautiful snowflake that can Be All They Want To Be, but say that just doesn’t work and they drop out anyway. It happens. The important thing is that they are able to work, make a living, contribute to society, and go back to school if need be. The real snafu comes courtesy of all these extreme austerity measures and state budget cuts, which make it harder for dropouts to ever reenter the institution of education to receive additional training.
(Suffice to say, poor people aren’t the ones voting to cut these budgets. Unfortunately, they’re not the ones turning up to vote at all. That could be because they aren’t excited about any of their candidate choices, but that’s fodder for another post.)
It’s unsurprising that professional pundits are continuing their tradition of bashing the poor. After all, it’s Washington’s favorite past time, donchyaknow. Yet, it’s always nauseating to hear barely-known sycophants parrot the orders of the beltway elite in some clawing, desperate attempt to be taken seriously. I understand why billionaire and millionaire politicians vote to fuck the poor in order to protect their own interests, but when second-tier media pundits join in on the off chance one day they’ll be asked to sit in on Morning Joe, it’s really pathetic.
Bob Herbert wrote a very good column today about what he calls the “campaign disconnect” between Democrats, Republicans, and average Americans. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but essentially Herbert makes the argument that neither party has adequately addressed the economic desperation of citizens. Democrats have decided to humor the disastrous idea of austerity measures, while Republicans behave as though they’ve “lost their minds completely,” an assessment that I think is way too generous on Herbert’s part.
I prefer his latter description when he accuses Republicans of “peddling a fantasy that has already damaged the country profoundly.” That definition contains the acerbity needed to fully grasp how poisonous the GOP’s philosophy is these days.
Yesterday, I briefly recapped the blatant hypocrisy displayed by certain Republicans in regards to the stimulus. Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush, two “stalwart Conservatives” both greedily gobbled up stimulus cash before returning to their roots: bashing any recovery plan the Democratic administration proposes.
But hypocrisy aside, the GOP, and the elite in general, have genuine disdain for the underclass. The truly sad part is that they’ve brainwashed poor Republicans into going along with their scheme to permanently quarantine the undesirables. That’s when you get elderly people showing up at healthcare reform town hall meetings, screaming that they want the government to keep its hands off their Medicare. Sigh.
Senator Orrin Hatch proposed an amendment that would demand mandatory drug tests for welfare and unemployment beneficiaries because, as we all know, the only people out of work these days are worthless drug addicts. Sharron Angle implied unemployment benefits make people lazy, and that there are lots of jobs out there, but workers just refuse to buckle down and find them, and Rand Paul told them to quit being cry babies and go flip fries at McDonald’s so they can feed their children.
It seems like we see this same study every month.
The gap between the wealthiest Americans and middle- and working-class Americans has more than tripled in the past three decades, according to a June 25 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Yeah, but we’ve known that forever, right? Wages are stagnate, the majority of people have very little wealth (it’s much worse for women of color) while a smaller and smaller minority hoard all the cash.
I posted a question on Twitter: “How many studies need to come out showing the huge wealth disparity before the government acts to fix it?” and got the usual snarky, flippant response I’ve grown to expect and love from readers. The standard response goes like this: the government knows it’s a problem, but the rich, connected people are the ones in power, they benefit from this feudal system, and so they vote to preserve it.
I completely agree with that assessment, but there comes a time every few generations where that system becomes utterly unsustainable, and even the well-healed oligarchy must make some concessions to the serfs. Seriously – who in their right mind thinks this economic model can go on forever? Eventually, the whole thing will collapse and the rich won’t have a government left to protect their sweet little ponzi scheme. At this point, it behooves not only the poor to rework the system, but also the rich.