Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kill the Poor

Why do we hate the poor?

Dead Kennedys "Kill the Poor"

This issue is really at the front of my mind right now. First we have all the debt drama unfolding, with the right demanding we slash spending to programs like medicare, medicaid, social security, etc. And in fact, the right calls those of us who believe in helping our fellow citizens who are down on their luck as Socialists (and sometimes they call us Fascists - which shows that they don't understand the different "ists", but that's another rant entirely). Second, there is the anti-union fight. And third, there are the bills in FL and a few other states trying to make drug testing mandatory for all welfare applicants. This third one - specifically comments I saw made by online friends - is what really got me on my soapbox.

Back to the original question: Why do we hate the poor? My opinion is that our society hates the poor, because being poor is something they fear. Society views it as a disease. And by eliminating social welfare programs, they see themselves as inoculating themselves - we don't need social welfare because we're immune to becoming poor. And it feeds that 50's Rockwellian image of the American Dream - you too can have the house in the suburbs with a white picket fence and Betty Crocker in the kitchen, if you just work hard. Except, that is a lie.

Norman Rockwell painting
Most of you reading this fit squarely into the middle class. And you will work diligently all of your lives and never escape the middle class. Yes, some will make it big, but your chances of that happening to you are about the same as those of you getting struck by lightening. Your chances - especially in these tough economic times - of losing that stability and falling into poverty are significantly higher. But society doesn't like to think of that - we just want to sweep bad thoughts under the rug. Put our heads in the sand. Put our fingers in our ears while yelling "La la la I can't hear you!" Why? Because we want to believe we are safe.

The fact is, our economy is not getting better. Foreclosure rates are predicted to get worse. The unemployment rate, which is around 9.2% (almost double the "normal" rating of 5%) is predicted to stay high until around 2016. Inflation has almost trippled since January. This paints a bleak picture.

But we have ways of protecting the middle and lower classes so they don't end up living in a van down by the river. The protection comes from unions. Yes, unions protect the middle class. Unions ensure fair wages, decent benefits and protection from being abused by corporations. Unions are why we have eight hour work days, workman's compensation, sick and vacation time, etc.

Disbanding unions gives companies license to take advantage of their employees. It allows them to demand longer hours, and give less compensation. Without unions, what's to keep companies from reverting to near-slave labor conditions like those seen at the turn of the last century? And then we will see more people falling to hard times.

Despite these facts, the right wing wants to get rid of programs that help those in dire need. Medicare and Medicaid, for example are primarily used by impoverished elderly, children and single mothers, and the disabled. The right call helping these people Socialism. They call the poor lazy and say they are stealing tax payer money to support themselves and not contributing to society or taxes.

Let's examine why that is wrong: The elderly have worked and contributed to the funds for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. It is their right to now reap the benefit of programs they helped fund for years. And sadly, many of the elderly lost much of their invested savings when the housing bubble burst and killed the financial market. Fortunately, they are able to count on their medical needs being met with Medicare and Medicaid.

Children are the tax paters of the future. If we don't take care of their needs, we have no future.

Single mothers are most certainly not lazy sponges. Many single mothers work more than 40 hours a week - usually at minimum wage jobs (yes plural, because many have more than one job). Just to be able to keep a roof over their heads and not starve. Minimum wage jobs do not provide decent health care. These families depend on social welfare services.

Many of the disabled who use these services are former U.S. military. Denying them benefits after they put their lives on the line to preserve our freedoms is the ultimate hypocrisy.

Now, many of these same demographics rely on welfare. Some states are pushing for mandatory drug testing of all welfare applicants. Right off the bat, this kind of legislation says that we believe all poor people are lazy delinquents. But worse, it is unconstitutional. It is in violation of the fourth ammendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. In fact, this was already proven in court when Michigan attempted to create similar legislation, but was deemed uncontitutional in Michigan's Marchwinski v. Howard in 2003.

This legislation (as well as the FL Medicaid reform) is really a ruse. While on the face it looks like Rick Scott is trying to protect FL from junkies abusing the system, but in reality, it is a way for Mr. Scott to throw money to his own company, Solantic, which processes the drug tests.

Yes, there are some people who do abuse the system, and this is true of any system. Before the MI law was stricken, only 10 percent of welfare recipients tested positive for illicit drugs. This clearly illustrates that the mojority of people in need, are honest, law abiding citizens, many who currently do pay taxes, have paid in the past and will pay again in the future.

The bottom line is that we need to look at our fellow citizens as our family. We need to take care of each other. If we allow corrupt politians, pandering to corporate greed, to erode our infrastructure, this will be the lynch pin that is the fall of the American "empire."

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