Screw the Poor

When did it become part of our culture to try and screw our neighbors and to openly despise the poor?

I cannot remember a time in my life during which contempt for the less fortunate was as celebrated as it is now. It’s practically a badge of dignified self-respect to publicly castigate anyone having a rough time. At least on the MSM.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe on the 20th, the talking heads discussed the stimulus package. Of particular contention were the funds intended to prevent foreclosures. As I have heard several times recently, everyone on the show seemed to fret that the money would go to unworthy recipients who are poor due to some personal fault, or greedy people who should never have dreamed of owning a home in the first place. They played a clip of Rick Santelli’s antics, whose recent rant struck a chord with poor-shamers. His “raise your hand if you want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage” got a chorus of boos from the floor of the stock exchange. The guys around him were livid at the thought.

Mary Kate Cary wrote an approving opinion piece in US News as a reaction. Basically, her point is that those lucky enough not to be touched by the recession- those who have kept their jobs and houses- are upset that the tax revenue from their good fortune will be used to help those less fortunate. They are angry that part of their tax dollars will help the poor and/or those facing loss of their home moreso now that we are facing an economic crisis as a nation.

For me, that draws a huge HUH?

What the hell is wrong with people? This “I’ve got mine- screw you” attitude is a national shame.

The Republican party seems to relish shaming the poor during the recession. The mass vote against the stimulus. The various governors talking like they don’t need and won’t take the money. It seems like they are happy to leave people in poverty in order to prove an ideological point.

The gloating, the schadenfreude, the utter lack of compassion… I think this is a really ugly way to react to those Americans suffering most during a national crisis, and it is not reserved to any party.

Why are we unwilling to help a neighbor? Why do we assume we deserve our home and our amenities, but call those facing foreclosure “greedy”? What better use for our tax dollars than to help those hit worst by a national crisis? Why has the thought of helping out the less fortunate become so viscerally repugnant to so many Americans?

When worst comes to worst, would Americans rather leave their compatriots out in the cold as punishment for their poverty because helping them out is too similar to the scary scary S-word: Socialism?

I haven’t seen a single TV discussion of the stimulus that included commentary from a person facing unemployment, foreclosure, or poverty. While they are being mocked in newspapers and on television screens around the country, they have not even been invited to speak on their own behalf. Their many voices apparently do not deserve the amplification accorded to the small circle of comfortable, employed and adequately housed pundits and politicians who bash them. Hardly a fair fight.

I guess I’m hoping that all of these writers, pundits and politicians simply do not speak for the majority of Americans. It’s just hard to believe that because somebody is reading their columns, listening to their radio shows and watching them on television.

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2 thoughts on “Screw the Poor

  1. Unfortunately our society has been steadily moving toward the idea of exclusively looking out for number one. Apparently this has gotten so bad that people expect their tax dollars to benefit only them directly. I am thoroughly disgusted by this state of affairs and do my best to share and teach compassion and kindness to those around me. Here was another good post along a similar line: http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/02/23/am-i-my-brothers-keeper/

    Best wishes.

    – Schev

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