Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com
It definitely seems as if this is the Year of Going After the Poor with a Vengeance for Republicans in the Arizona Legislature. Which is saying something, since these are people who have shown an abundance of enthusiasm for punishing low income residents for their (real or imagined) transgressions for several years now. Bills going through committees this session target poor people’s public assistance and voting rights, perpetuating narratives about their being shiftless and untrustworthy. (And the usurious lenders that Arizona voters drop-kicked out of the state in 2008 are back.)
The complete takeover of our state by Americans For Prosperity (funded by the Koch brothers) types in the 2014 election has created the perfect conditions for a total war on low income people. There’s not likely to be much push-back on it from the public as we non-poor Americans are a bunch of judgmental pricks about poor people’s life choices, as Bryce Covert of Mother Jones notes:
Food stamp resentment, as Arthur Delaney has coined it, is a year-round phenomenon. It’s when a random shopper decides that he or she has the authority to dictate what poor people buy with the food stamps that come to a tiny bit over $4 a day, on average. The reason: that this food is being bought with “our” tax dollars, so we should have a say in what it can buy.
It’s an old complaint, as Delaney documents. A 1993 Columbus Dispatch letter to the editor decried a recipient who bought “two bottles of wine, steak and a large bag of king crab legs” with food stamps. Beyond candy, steaks and crab legs come up a lot. Texas Representative Louie Gohmert told a story on the floor of the House about a supposed constituent who was buying king crab legs in line ahead of him with an EBT card. “Because he does pay income tax…he is actually helping pay for the king crab legs when he can’t pay for them for himself,” Gohmert claimed. Wisconsin State Representative Dean Kaufert told a similar story, but the person in line watched a food stamp recipient buy “the tenderloin, the porterhouse” with the benefits.
What is up with the crab legs constantly appearing in these urban legends?
The conviction that poor people are scamming the system dovetails nicely with the “just world” hypothesis, which is the belief that any bad predicaments people are in are the direct result of their own foolish or immoral choices. This “just world” view assumes that poor people are abdicating their responsibilities while not taking into account their lack of power.
But if the world were truly just, then these people would never get away with their actions.
When the housing market tanked a few years ago, the government rescued every bank and business (even a damned insurance company), while ignoring everyone else. I realized that the game was fatally lopsided, so I didn’t just walk away in middle-class shame, but rather I employed all my (extremely limited) cunning and deviousness to get a similar home before ditching the old one. I was able to cash in on low housing prices from a couple of years ago, coupled with low interest rates, to come out on top. The biggest barrier to getting a great deal was an almost overpowering need to behave like a middle-class sucker.
I was taught growing up to “keep my word” and that your handshake “meant something.” Yet businessmen and individual wealthy people make decisions that are far less moral than a short sale. People “incorporate” so they can avoid legal responsibility for individual actions. It works great. You can stiff creditors, declare bankruptcy, pollute daily and raid pensions to enrich individual executives. If it all goes wrong, like it has so often for Donald Trump, you can keep your mansions and individual fortunes. It is no accident that the best-paid CEO in America has never made a dime for the company. If regular Americans acted like corporations and the moneyed class, our country would collapse in a week from systemic theft, corruption and greed.
I always knew business was getting over on me, but I had no idea the extent until I started looking to short-sell. I first learned all I could about private home financing. I called up some shady investment groups around town and questioned them at length. I didn’t end up using them, but they were frank, informative and unashamed.
“Who would pay 11 percent on a home loan?” I asked.
“Rich people,” said “Bill” from the legal loan-sharking company. “The rich have terrible credit.”
Rich people = bad credit: Just let that sink in.
Bill told me in roundabout ways that rich people never pay a bill if there is any way around it. If something goes wrong in an investment or a business, they always preserve their own assets first. We’ve all heard the generalization that they’re lousy tippers.
I’m guessing they consume more crab legs per capita than the average food stamp recipient. In Arizona, such people are promised a boon in taxpayer funding for their progeny to attend private schools. It would come, of course, with no threat of a Gladys Kravitz poking through their grocery baskets looking for those crab legs.