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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.