Oh, if only I were poor…

Homeless-Family-Pic-2I envy the poor, or at least the far-right’s vision of what it’s like to be poor. You see, in the right-wing unreality bubble poor is no longer an affliction, a condition, or even an unfortunate happenstance—it’s a lifestyle choice. It’s kind of like being gay, but with a crappier wardrobe.

It turns out, the poor are only poor because they are good at hiding their assets in order to qualify for government handouts. It’s easier to play the system than work a real job.

Take the woman in the picture above. She could clearly be a paralegal at a law firm and have those kids in daycare. But instead she lounges outside with them, soaking up the fresh air and the stray dollars of the occasional sap walking by. She pockets all that money under the table, and then shows up at the welfare office once a week to plead her case and collect her stipend for her sloth. How do we know she’s an economic con-artist? If she were truly destitute, would she have luxury items like a stroller and 2 different colors of marker?  I think not.

But alas, I was raised with a work ethic. My parents taught me not to be dependent on anyone, and that hard work and determination could get me anywhere. So, I’ll probably never know the joys of hanging out on sidewalks all day raking in the cash, or of heading to the supermarket to buy T-bones and caviar with my food stamps.

Damn my mom and dad for giving me a conscience. Otherwise, I’d be on easy street—probably not driving on it mind you, but at least sitting on the curb with a clever cardboard sign. That would be the life.

And I’ve probably cursed my kids too. Like me, they grew up in comfortable suburban homes and got sent to good schools. They’ve never wondered where they were going to sleep at night or how they were going to get a meal that day. Hell, a food crisis in my house is running out of cheese sticks. But once they get a taste of the corporate rat race, the poor house is gonna look pretty damned cozy to them.

Woe unto my children, for they will never know the happiness to be found in the lethargic and slothful lifestyles of the destitute, resting comfortably in the hammock of social welfare programs. For they are condemned to work jobs and pay taxes and own homes and send their own kids to college some day. Oh, the humanity.

Fortunately, the Tea Party has a solution. Let’s cut out all these social handouts to the indigent, the working poor, the disabled, and other assorted barnacles on our great society. Let’s motivate folks to move back indoors, polish up their resumes, and fill all those open jobs. Tell that lady in the picture up there to scoop her baby up off the sidewalk and land herself a real man to take care of her.

And those that can’t turn that corner and pull themselves out of poverty by sheer force of will? Fuck ’em. Let ’em starve. Just like it says in the bible. We don’t need ’em anyway, and they’ll serve as an example of what happens if you pick your nose up off that grindstone.

Besides, getting all those people off welfare programs will lower the taxes on us hard working folks and assure my children will never again know tragedies like last Thursday… when we ran out of cheese sticks. Oh, the humanity.

16 thoughts on “Oh, if only I were poor…

  1. Thank God those that follow you know of your sarcasm or you’d be getting all those nasty grams on your post. Far right and tea partiers are such dirty words now. Wash your mouth out with soap.

  2. Well son of a gun. I should just stop now, no need to study when I could be lounging on a park bench somewhere

  3. Of course, transfer payments aren’t included in poverty statistics, so raising or lowering them won’t affect the official poverty line, everything else being equal. That’s with the gererous assumption that nobody getting said transfer payments could or would work in their absence. If there are people in this position, then lowering transfer payments will lower poverty.


  4. Are there better more accurate ways to define and track poverty? Sure. And we should do that. It might help to better understand root causes and assess impacts of remediation programs. But in some non-trivial number, the impoverished still exist and are not trending down. I don’t think any of the references above are arguing that the existence of poverty is a statistical ghost.

    Are there those that game the system? Absolutely. Any bureaucratic system suffers that fate, and we should continue to try and minimize that. But punishing the needy as a way to weed out a minority of abusers is frankly cruel and lazy. We don’t stop funding the military because they occasionally buy a $400 hammer.

    As to comparing our poor to the world, the point is accurate, but how is it actionable? I don’t think we’re going to start exiling our poor to Darfur so they feel better about their lot in life. The point of being a country is to act for our collective good. If we ever get that right, then maybe we’ll fix the rest of the world.

    And for the record, I’m not advocating just redistributing more money to the poor. Poverty in this country is structural and generational. We need programs to address those long term problems and grow this segment into productive members of society. Just throwing money at them may be simpler, but is just masking the real issue.

    I remain unaware of any real-world situation where lower economic classes of a society were starved into prosperity. Starved into an insurrection? Yes. But prosperity, no.

    The “lack of motivation” meme is simply a rationalization for not recognizing, funding, or working on the problem. As a society, we can decide we don’t care, but we also have to deal with the larger longer term issue of what will become of those people that we will choose to ignore.

  5. If the right ignores it, the left blows it out of proportion. The situation is not as bad as its made out to be. The data on poverty is garbage. You have no idea if the number of people gaming the system is a minority. There is a safety net in place. Poverty in this decade is not the same as it was in the 30’s. Let’s have a reasonable discussion of what to do about it instead of vilifying the other side all the time. You can be a reasonable person and believe many of the things proposed by the left contribute to the problem. There are serious questions as to whether minimum wage laws help the poor. Will a Democrat ever admit this? No, because they are pandering to the base. It doesn’t matter if what they do works, as long as it placates the voter.

  6. I’m all for having a reasonable discussion about what to do about it. But first we have to have some agreement on what it is. Sounds like you’re saying poverty isn’t likely a widespread issue, and even where it is, poverty isn’t such a bad state to be in. So from that perspective, is there anything to discuss?

  7. I’m saying poverty is a concept used by the left to claim some sort of moral high ground to rally their voters around. It’s a murky concept that is either not well defined, or wrongly well defined (college kids, really?). The left always wants to bring it up until the slightest suggestion that what they are doing or proposing might not be working. You might not want to throw money at it, but there’s a lot of people who think that is the answer. We are already spending quite a bit to combat it. In 2006, the average non elderly household in the lowest income quintile got $23,000 more in transfer payments than they paid in taxes.


    I’m saying poverty as defined by the census bureau, is a widespread issue and isn’t such a bad state to be in. I think the average person in “poverty” leads a somewhat normal life. I don’t think the average person in poverty is malnourished. The system works for most people. I’m sure there are exceptions. I’d like to know how and why the system is failing these people. That’s the sort of thing that we should looking into and discussing.

    Of course the moral high ground ends when we talk about other countries where people are literally starving in the street. We take care of our own. That’s not actionable. I think what you mean is our government has no business attempting to take on the problem of world hunger, and that’s true. People like Bill Gates and Bill Clinton are certainly taking action, as are many people through charities and churches. The more our government takes to “take care of our own,” the less that is available for these charities. I know its not dollar for dollar, but money goes a lot farther in the third world.

    So, yes, I think there is a lot to discuss about poverty. As soon as we define what it is and get some real data on it, then we’ll have our discussion.

  8. There are several elements of this I’m much in favor of. I do think we should require work for any able-bodied adult, even if that work is community service if no private sector options are available. And we should remove any incentive to be on welfare rather than work by thinking about more sliding scale benefits. In fairness, both the Reagan and Clinton reforms moved us in this direction. Yet it’s important to note that these are constructive reforms. They invest in an effort to remediate the structural problem. That’s a much different approach than just cutting programs to motivate the poor to help themselves, which is what the entry was originally mocking.

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