“Poor People Are Not Poor Because They Lack Money”

Nationally syndicated radio host Bill Cunningham on October 23rd, 2008: “The reason people are poor in America is not because they lack money, it’s because poor people in America lack values, character, and the ability to work hard.”

Nationally syndicated radio host Bill Cunningham on October 27th, 2008: “Among the so-called noble poor in America … [b]irth control is not used so illegitimate children can be brought into the world, so the mom can get more checks in the mail from the government. And then once the child is born, that is the key to financial riches in the poor communities — white and black — in America.”

Nationally syndicated radio host Bill Cunningham on December 4th, 2008: “[W]e’re about the only country in the world with fat poor people . . . the poor community, so to speak … have cell phones, they have pagers, they have telephones, they have cars, they have HDTV, and they have those things because they spend no money on food, because it’s all given to them for nothing . . . Why would a grocery store open in the poor community when everyone gets fed free and they eat too much?”

Nationally syndicated radio host Bill Cunningham on January 4th: “[P]oor people were not and are not poor because they lack money. They’re poor because they lack values, ethics, and morals . . . All that the mid-’60s and ’70s did to the black community was to pay black fathers money on condition that they not be involved in the lives of their children and that black mothers were told that if you married, it would have a painful consequence. If, on the other hand, you acted irresponsibly by producing children out of wedlock, you would have a positive consequence, because government would fund bad behavior.”

Why, gee Bill, ya got quite a chip on your shoulder against low-income people. How is it that you know so much about a category of people that you know absolutely nothing about?

Via Media Matters.


5 thoughts on ““Poor People Are Not Poor Because They Lack Money”

  1. The main issue here is the state of US’s radio waves. The history is usually not in dispute: basically AM came from near death to be a talk radio beacon featuring unprogressive voices like Bill Cunningham. It should be noted that in the history of radio, talk radio is a more recent development.

    Unprogressive is euphemistic but I would even expect most insightful conservatives to share a low opinion of him. Low opinion is also a euphemism.

    In order to create a new advertising medium, companies lunged to syndicate these voices and find audiences with disaffected people who are able to work or drive with a radio on all day.

    But, this AM talk model has faltered and is not as adept at finding advertisers as it once was. For one, car companies were a big advertising group and they are not using AM as much b/c no one’s buying cars anyways. The rest of the ads are what I like to call ‘misery ads’: booze, herbal weight-loss, erection enhancement, and debt relief.

    So, in the race for the bottom, these AM talk programmers may have eaten their own. I’m looking towards different lights in syndication to maybe bring about a different model. Delilah, for instance, is the living, breathing panacea: she has people call in and she tries to make them feel good. Basically the opposite of Dr. Laura. But, I believe her demo is females.

    Does anyone have any other hopefuls in talk radio that could eventually draw listeners to something better? In a country without state-run media (compared to Canada and lots of Europe), what could attract people who like to listen to this to listen to something else?

  2. Bill Cunningham comes echoes the conservative discourse on poverty pretty closely. The image of the fat and lazy welfare queen having more and more babies out of wedlock in order to get bigger welfare checks is one that has been with us for a while. I believe Ronald Reagan actually coined the term “welfare queen.”

    The conversation surrounding poverty in the U.S. focuses on individual behavior while ignoring factors such as social structures, the lack of livable wage jobs, disinvestments in cities, global mobility, etc. We, as a country, do not approach the problem comprehensively. We establish a norm, demonize those who deviate from that norm, and ignore the fact that certain policies and structures benefit some and punish others.

  3. @cp

    Well said. The proverbial “welfare queen” Reagan spoke of was a single instance of a woman who committed fraud against the welfare system, not actually a systematic phenomena.

    And of course the image of the welfare queen who refuses to work and keeps popping out babies for more checks is a colored image. It is meant to evoke a black woman, even though until the 00s, the majority of welfare recipients were white. Yet this image of the lazy, irresponsible black mother welfare recipient began in the 80s- another one of the coded racist messages that Reagan’s peeps were sending out to the part of their base that was racist.

    I feel like Mr. Cunningham is carefully avoiding using racialized language, but the history of his poor-hating ideas is in this racist Reagan stuff.

  4. Pingback: Fear and Loathing of the Poor « The Czech

  5. Pingback: Obesity, Like Poverty, Is the Result of Personal Failure « The Czech

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