The Poverty Blame Game


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Last week the Arizona Daily Star ran a week-long investigative series on poverty in Tucson. It was the first good reporting this newspaper has done in a very long time, and it was well done. Kudos.

Some of the letters to the editor in response to this series, however, have been horrific. The dehumanization and demonization of the poor as lazy, shiftless, greedy "takers" who are dependent on entitlements from the government has been a theme (by writers who say they are "retired," and thus receiving the entitlements of social security, Medicare and Medicaid if qualfied, and receiving the benefits of "ObamaCare.")

Where does all this dehumanization and demonization of the poor come from? And how does this square with the teachings of Jesus Christ, for whom these letter writers would no doubt describe themselves as "good Christians"?

This did not start with Willard "Mittens" Romney's 47% takers in last year's election. This has been a regular theme in the conservative media entertainment complex since at least Saint Ronnie Reagan's fictitious "welfare queen" driving a Cadillac over 30 years ago. The conservative media entertainment complex despises the poor, as they collect outrageous compensation for spewing hatred of their fellow man.

Case in point, John Amato at reports, Bill O'Reilly Smears Food Stamps: Encourages Parasites To ‘Take As Much As They Want’:

Bill O'Reilly has been going off the deep end even more than usual . . . disparaging those in need of food stamps. It's obviously aimed at promoting Bret Baier's Great Food Stamp Binge
special on FOX. With the economy still not helping the 98% of Americans
and the need for assistance to eat has grown, you might think that
conservative hard liners would at least ease up on the needy when it
comes to food (since bankers and mortgage lenders with the aid of many
conservatives helped destroy the world economy).

You might think that, but you'd be wrong.

Here's O'Reilly going off on the less fortunate:

The food stamp scandal, right now, 15 percent of the
entire American population receiving food subsidies,” the Fox News host
announced. “And some of those people are conning the system.”

O’Reilly said that the president was to blame for changing the work
rules for food stamps and allowing “anybody to get them if they know how
to game the system.”

“I take one look at this guy and he’s making money off the books,” he explained.

“Now I’m not going to make any accusation on national
television about how he’s making money, but this guy’s not just
surviving on food stamps. Alright? He’s making money. The rat life
entails a lot of different things.”

Go read media Matters article called: Fox's Shameless Misrepresentation Of SNAP Recipients to get an idea of what FOX is doing.

* * *

Conservatives always focus on the 1% that beats the system when they discuss government programs that assist the American people, and never the 99% that it helps.

* * *

Every since FDR implemented the New Deal, this is the kind of demonization we have seen coming from conservatives and it's as sickening as it has always has been.

Charles Blow of the New York Times had a must-read opinion last week on this topic, ‘A Town Without Pity’:

0810OPEDBLOWforweb-articleInlineToday’s America — at least as measured by the actions and inactions of
the pariahs who roam its halls of power and the people who put them
there — is insular, cruel and uncaring.

In this America, people blame welfare for creating poverty rather than
for mitigating the impact of it. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in
June found that the No. 1 reason people gave for our continuing poverty crisis was: “Too much welfare that prevents initiative.”

In this America, the House can — as it did in July — pass a farm bill
that left out the food stamp program at a time when a record number of
Americans, nearly 48 million, are depending on the benefits.

In this America, a land of immigrants, comprehensive immigration reform
can be stalled in The People’s Branch of government, and anti-reform
mouthpieces like Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan can warn that immigration
reform will be the end of the country.

And in today’s America, poverty and homelessness can easily seep beneath the wall we erect in our minds to define it.

* * *

But poverty isn’t easily written off as an inner-city ailment. It has now become a suburban problem. A report
this week by the Brookings Institution found that “during the 2000s,
major metropolitan suburbs became home to the largest and
fastest-growing poor population in America.”

Nor can economic insecurity be written off as a minorities-only issue. According to survey results published last month by The Associated Press:

“Nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at
90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the
biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than
76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or

How did we come to such a pass? Why aren’t more politicians —  and
people in general — expressing outrage and showing empathy?

Part of our current condition is obviously partisan. Republicans have
become the party of “blame the victim.”
Whatever your lesser lot in
life, it’s completely within your means to correct, according to their
logic. Poverty, hunger, homelessness and desperation aren’t violence to
the spirit but motivation to the will. If you want more and you work
harder, all your problems will disappear. Sink or swim. Pull yourself
up. Get over it. Of course, that narrow conservative doctrine denies a
broader reality: that there are working poor and chronically unemployed —
people who do want and who do work and who do want to work, but who
remain stuck on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.

In this regard, Republicans have all but abandoned the idea of
compassionate conservatism and are diving headlong into callous

But another problem may be more broad-based: the way that many Americans look at the poor with disgust.

As Susan Fiske, a Princeton professor who has studied people’s attitudes
toward the poor for more than a decade, told me on Friday:

“The stereotypes of poor people in the United States are among the most
negative prejudices that we have. And people basically view particularly
homeless people as having no redeeming qualities — there’s not the
competence for anything, not having good intentions and not being

Fiske’s research shows that people respond not only to the poor and
homeless with revulsion, but they also react negatively to people they
perceive as undocumented immigrants — essentially anyone without an

If some people’s impulse is to turn up a nose rather than extend a hand,
no wonder we send so many lawmakers empty of empathy to Congress. No
wonder more people don’t demand that Congress stand up for the least
among us rather than on them.

As Fiske so aptly put it: “It seems like Washington is a place without pity right now. A town without pity.

Are we a nation without pity?

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.