Archive for March 26th, 2014

Bashing the Poor

stewartpoor

Jon Stewart has recently taken on Fox New’s shameful and completely irrational effort to claim that the poor in America are moochers and are somehow ripping off the American people.   After FOX news responded to the first report, Stewart doubled down and completely demolished Eric Bollingsworth’s effort to “school” Stewart.   Why don’t pundits ever get that Stewart lives for such responses and uses them to create some of his best work?

Fox’s argument was straight forward.   The poor in America are moochers.  First, they aren’t really poor.  They have refrigerators, they can use EBT cards at organic markets, purchasing stuff like “wild organic salmon.”   To be poor, apparently, means you have to live in third world conditions, barely scrapping by.   Government aid should be used to buy the cheapest food possible, preferrably expired, definitely not organic.  And you shouldn’t have a television or any modern convenience since those aren’t actually necessary for survival.   If you’re not suffering, you’re not really poor.

Poverty is always relative; you compare wealth within a country, not to some objective standard that applies to the third world and the past as well as now in the US.

Poverty is always relative; you compare wealth within a country, not to some objective standard that applies to the third world and the past as well as now in the US.

The second point is that the poor are able to game the system.   But they can’t prove how often this happens.   Instead they find anecdotal evidence, like “Surfer guy” who did truly abuse the system, and claim that he “literally represents millions of poor.”   He doesn’t, they offer no proof that he does, they just try to ignite anger and emotion from their viewers.

Stewart’s ire is correctly tuned on Fox news here because they are engaged in a cheap propaganda ploy designed to support an ideology that argues against community or anything but the so-called “free market.”   Never mind that free markets cannot exist without a strong, effective state.   Unregulated markets collapse, because there is no check on the abuse of power by those with the most wealth and clout.

Fox relies on the ignorance of Americans about just how skewed wealth distribution is towards the very wealthy, and how far it is from the ideal Americans hold.

Fox relies on the ignorance of Americans about just how skewed wealth distribution is towards the very wealthy, and how far it is from the ideal Americans hold.

And, of course, poor people really live rough lives sometimes.  I know poor students who work 40 hours a week, study, and have to live off the cheapest food possible.  Yes, they do have refrigerators – and stoves, heat in winter, and cupboards.   Compared to the third world, or American life in the early 1800s, they have conveniences beyond belief.  They even have electric lights!   Often they have computers (necessary to study) and even a TV.   But that does not make for an easy go at things.

Single parents find the situation even more difficult.  To work they need child care, child care is expensive.  They want to feed their kids healthy food, but that’s more expensive.   To get good food for their kids, they often sacrifice their own diet.   They might have nice clothes for their kids and themselves – but usually that’s been purchased at a second hand or thrift store.   Or perhaps they find cheap made in china toys and clothes at Walmart.

Through 1979 the wealth gap was decreasing, since then there has been a radical relative shift of wealth from poor to rich

Through 1979 the wealth gap was decreasing, since then there has been a radical relative shift of wealth from poor to rich

So when the poor are demonized as moochers, it’s really a “big lie.”  The poor are worse off.  This affects nutrition, makes it less likely they will get adequate health care, dental care, and educational opportunities.   Yes, they will have a TV and a refrigerator, but won’t have access to what most of the country takes for granted.

I took my kids to swim at the fitness center today.   I skied all winter with them, amazed at how they mastered the mountain (and scary jumps) at such young ages.  I purchase shoes that help me avoid a recurrence of planter fasciitis.   My wife and I eat out when we decide we want to, and sometimes take all four kids (each of us has two from a previous marriage).   We’re hoping for a vacation this summer – nothing fancy, but getting away and doing something fun.   We’ll go to water parks, buy camping equipment, even if we use it in the backyard.   And while it was a stretch, we splurged on a hot tub.

Every well off family has these opportunities.  The very wealthy have no boundaries, they can’t spend all their money on stuff, so they look to invest it to create more money.   In theory that should be good for the economy, but in practice so much money seeking only to make more money inflated bubbles.

After taxes and transfers the US has the biggest gap in wealth in the industrialized world.  Our tax system is the least progressive.

After taxes and transfers the US has the biggest gap in wealth in the industrialized world. Our tax system is the least progressive. GINI index measures wealth distribution; the lower the number the more equal the distribution.  It is used by the CIA and seen as the best measure, especially in a comparative sense.

The poor struggle.  Drive through rural Maine, or the rural south.   Go into the inner city and look at living conditions.  Talk to people who are struggling.   It is perverse that a working class man not on welfare sees the single mother with an EBT card as the enemy, while the upper crust chuckle about how they rigged the game and make it seem like those with the least wealth and power are the problem!   Fox news is their propaganda wing.

 

Although the wealthiest Americans are the wealthiest in the world, our median - the middle of earners - is not close.

Although the wealthiest Americans are the wealthiest in the world, our median – the middle of earners – is not close.  Our middle class is worse off than most middle classes in the industrialized world.

So if you look at the real picture, the very wealthy have been using deregulation and a warped ideology to try to convince those losing out that somehow less taxes and less regulation is good for them.  More “freedom.”  That, again, is the big lie.   The most perverse aspect of all of this is how it’s built on massive debt.   That has created an economy that while still huge, no longer is sustainable.   Unless things change, Americans will soon look back at the 20th Century as the good old days now gone, nostalgic for the time America’s middle class was envied.  Those days are already gone, America is no longer the best place to live in the industrialized world, especially for the poor and the middle class.

Total debt  - public and private - is at unprecedented levels.  Only during the height of the great depression did it get close, and that was short.  This is a sign of endemic economic weakness.  Our foreign debt is 100% of our GDP - creating real vulnerability.

Total debt – public and private – is at unprecedented levels. Only during the height of the great depression did it get close, and that was short. This is a sign of endemic economic weakness. Our foreign debt is 100% of our GDP – creating real vulnerabilities.

The reality of these statistics will ultimately shape the politics of this country.   People are not going to take this, and they’re not going to take how wobbly our economy has become.   A few can still believe that somehow America’s the envy of the world and has the best standard of living, but that’s simply not true any more – and things are likely to get worse.

It’s important to break the misguided ideology of free markets, ultra low taxes and deregulation.  That does not increase freedom, it destroys the fabric of our society – and ultimately will send the US on a downward spiral.

 

Hard to read:

Hard to read: Box one, Trump (as Bill the Cat): My God, this is such a quality country.  Little Girl: What do you mean, Mr. Trump?  (2) Trump:  My Palm Beach cottage has 118 rooms, how many rooms does your cottage have?  Girl:  One, but we have nine beds; Reynalda sleeps in a box.  (3)  Trump:  I have a boat, do you have a boat?  Girl: When the plumbing breaks our sofa floats.  (4)  Trump:  I have a dream, a dream that one day I might get six points on margin for the Eiffel tower deal.  (5)  Trump:  What do you dream about?  Girl:  Dinner.   (6)  Trump: And imagine in this great, quality nation, folks like you haven’t strong folks like me up by their intestines.  (7)  Doll:  Yet.  Girl: Hush.

 

 

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