Posted by: Randy Allgaier | January 26, 2010

War on the Poor: Budgeting on the backs of those who can least afford it.


A few years ago I would have been shocked that any sentient being would have had the temerity to say what South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (who is running to succeed Governor Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford) said when he compared those on government assistance to “stray animals,” saying that the reason you stop feeding animals is that “they breed.”  Unfortunately, comments like this in our public dialogue no longer surprise me.  After all this is the world of the tea-baggers and the election of Senator-elect Brown (R-MA).

 Now let’s be fair.  I want to make sure you get the full flavor of Bauer’s remarks so let’s quote the entirety.  “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed,” Bauer said during a speech advocating that the government take away assistance to those who do not pass drug tests.

“You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply,” Bauer added, according to a report in the Greenville News. “They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

 Lovely isn’t it?

 Ever since the Governor of California released his FY 2011 budget I have been dumbfounded by the cuts to the social safety net that he has proposed and which I think are inhumane and even possibly illegal. 

 Last night however, the assault on the poor came crashing down around me.  I was at a meeting where the draconian measures outlined by the Governor were encapsulated into a 30 minute presentation. I knew about all the cuts- SSI payments being reduced to $830 a month, stripping away or severely cutting programs that provide important healthcare services to many populations- many of them working- but all of them poor- to name but a few.  If you are poor, disabled and/or old in California, you might do better with a tin can at a street corner begging for pennies and scraps of food. 

 The kicker is that all of these cuts are “essential” to balance a budget in California where  a hand full of legislators hold the legislature hostage because the budget MUST be balanced without one additional dollar  in revenues being collected.  Heaven forbid you add a dollar to the tax bill of someone who has a home, food and clothing, maybe a nice car, a swimming pool, lots of electronic equipment, maybe even i-phone and a plasma TV.  You MUST protect these people at all costs and not give a damn about people who are trying to live on less than $900 a month with a barebones system of healthcare- if they are eligible at all. 

 When I came home from this meeting feeling if my values had taken a beating, I turned on MSNBC and there was Rachel Maddow interviewing Jared Bernstein, Vice President Biden’s chief economist and economic policy adviser, where every other phrase out of the man’s mouth was about “protecting the middle class”.  Of course the President had just “reviewed the work” of the middle class task force.   There was also the little (okay, not so little) bomb shell to freeze non-security discretionary spending.  Translation from “government-ese” of  “non-security discretionary spending freeze”  means freezing many support programs that help poor people, disabled people- those that need a helping hand or else they may fall into the abyss.

There is a war being waged on the poor in this country.  Is it because we’ve had an economic disaster and being poor is too close to the surface and we must, at all cost, tamp it down and pretend the poor don’t exist?  Actually that is too kind and gives too much credit to the America’s ability to self delude (although we are pretty good at it!).

 The poor have no voice, they have no money to give to political campaigns, they have no wealthy lobbyists advocating on their behalf.  They do have a handful of progressive advocates who make little money who are smart, dedicated advocates from organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, Families USA and a smattering of others making their case.  But there isn’t much money behind those dedicated advocates.  The poor, as much as we try, have no voice.

 This nation has become increasingly callous and increasingly selfish.  We have a nation of people whining about taxes while people starve and go without healthcare.  Brick by brick we are dismantling the safety net for the most vulnerable in our society.  Democrats and Republicans are both going down this road.  Republicans because of the myopic view on taxes, Democrats because they are too scared to take a principled stand and “follow the money”.

 This will only get worse now that corporations have been freed to spend as much money as they want on political campaigns- in the name of free speech.  To me that is an insult to the first amendment.  Money is speech?  That gives Exxon more of a right of free speech than a single mother of two struggling to keep her family fed and sheltered.  Is free speech a commodity?  Are those that have money inherently more deserving of free speech than those without?  According to the Roberts’ Court- Yup!

 There is a war on the poor being waged in this country and the poor are losing.  Andre Bauer’s remarks about stray animals sound mainstream now, don’t they?

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Responses

  1. So, just to clarify …

    Big corporations can spend all the money they want to in order to buy campaigns, but reducing the price of lunch so that kids can have at least five real meals per week is bad?

    Once upon a time, I was a Republican. I sometimes look at things and wonder, “Was I ever that bad?”

    I’m ashamed to think that I was …

  2. “The poor have no voice” but with more and more poor, they could very well develop a voice of their own, taking to the streets in civil unrest.

    “The poor” now encompasses 39.1 million Americans. (This bad news has likely become far worse, as the research producing this number doesn’t include 2009 since full data hasn’t come out yet.)

    A record 36 million people –one in 8 people, and one in 4 children in the US—now rely on the food stamp program.

    Some 6 million Americans – one in 50 people in the U.S. are living on no income other than $100 or $200 a month in food stamps, according to an analysis of State data by the New York Times.

    http://moraloutrage.wordpress.com/2010/01/29/thirty-percent-of-americans-rapidly-approach-poverty/


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