Power groups in society often mock the lower classes and minorities to keep them at a distance and to justify their superior social and economic status. Blacks, Latinos, and Asians (and others) have been called various names to contrast them from the self-aggrandized white races. Poor people are called lazy welfare queens, unmotivated cheats, and a drag on society. Recently, Republicans have felt more comfortable to openly express these views.
One current example comes from Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kerns, who says that minorities earn less because they don’t work as hard. “We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.” (link)
That stereotype is completely untrue of course and ignores the reality of what it means to be poor and a minority in our society. Republicans make statements about the lazy poor to defend their alliance with corporations and the wealthy in society and to justify their policies against the poor such as cuts to education, heath care, and the social safety net in general. Republicans also denigrate the poor to create a wedge between the middling classes and the lower rung of society. If Congress, wealthy allies of the wealthy, can successfully lay the blame for the recent collapsing economy on the poor, then they win the debate. The strategy is to salute industry and capital while ignoring its responsibility for the loss of jobs and financial collapse while blaming the poor for being poor.
One way Blacks can get wealthy, or at least fit in, is by agreeing with the White power structure, like Dr. Williams does,
Dr. Walter E. Williams, a black man and economist, agrees. He says, “If you’re a poor adult in America, for the most part, it’s all your fault. That’s true, at least today, whether you’re black, white, brown or polka dot.” He adds,
Let’s look at poverty in female-headed households. Divorce and death of the father might explain a small part of why there’re so many female-headed households. But the bulk of it is explained by people having children and not getting married in the first place. For the most part, female-headed households are the result of short-sighted, self-destructive behavior of one or two people.
According to an NPR/Kaiser/Kennedy School Poll, the leading cause of poverty identified by both the poor (75 percent) and non-poor (65 percent) was drug abuse. Again, it’s not like you’re walking down the street and you’re struck with drug addiction; to use drugs is a conscious decision. Drug-users tend not to be very productive. They drop out of school, abandon their families, have scrapes with the law and don’t hold down jobs. Would anybody be surprised that poverty is one result of drug usage? (Williams)
What Dr. Williams is saying is that it’s your fault if you’re poor because you’re probably a slutty single mother or a drug addict. The rich like me are able to buy access and have laws passed to make us richer by taking money from you. Why don’t you buy influence from your own Congressman? From the Book, “A Patriot’s Guide to Right-Wing Thinking” by Tex Shelters
So, people think that the poor are poor because of drug abuse and that makes it true. If a majority of Republicans polled think Obama is Kenyan, does that make it true?
What’s better proof that there is no economic redlining or discrimination than having a minority agree with the paradigm laid out by the economic elite in society? And besides, Dr. Williams has his, and we have a Black president (though mixed race), so there is no discrimination left in society. Right?
The subprime mortgage crisis was a moment of truth for the high priests of the free market such as Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand. Blaming banks and bankers for creating unsecure loans and risky investments that collapsed is too much for the free marketeers to bear. The bankers and captains of industry were loath to admit blame in the economic crisis. Therefore, they worked with their Congressional and media allies to lay the blame for bad housing investments on the lower class homebuyers and ignore the clear reality that banks created the rules that allowed and encouraged these subprime loans in order to improve their bottom line. Why make paltry millions of the housing market when with a change of few rules you can make billions? The risky loans were of no consequence, for Uncle Sammy would bail out the moneylenders if anything went wrong.
The impetus for a big subprime market came from within the private sector, not from the poor: “innovation” by giant mortgage lenders like Countrywide, Ameriquest, and many others, backed by the big investment banks. And, to be blunt, it was some of Wall Street’s biggest players, not overleveraged homeowners, who received generous government bailouts in the aftermath of the crisis. (link)
In 2008, Republicans were trying to lay the blame of the housing crisis on Latinos and Blacks. They said that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) that encouraged loans to inner city minorities was to blame for the housing market’s collapse. However, the CRA was involved in a tiny portion of the housing market, and the loans were for low cost housing that would have a much smaller impact on the market if they went into foreclosure. The CRA only makes loans available to low income minorities and others who qualify. The CRA does not require loans to be made at all. Furthermore, the CRA loans have a lower default rate than subprime loans as a whole.
How could the Blacks and Latinos involved with the CRA, with a net income perhaps equal to one member of the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club owning Walton family, have such a great impact on our economy? They can’t, but they are convenient scapegoats for the right-wing defenders of income inequality in America.
Blaming the CRA for the housing crisis is another case of Republicans blaming programs to aid low-income citizens for our economic crisis. The current crisis was created on Wall Street and in major banks, not by the working poor of the United States. Read Nomi Prins book “It Takes a Pillage” for a more thorough description of the financial industry’s responsibility for the current housing and financial crisis.
After decades of “blame the poor” messages, the Republicans are now going directly after Medicaid, Social Security, and other programs set up during the New Deal. Ronald Reagan used the fact-challenged phrase “Cadillac-driving welfare queens” in his presidential campaign as a way to discredit programs for the poor and Social Security. (link)
Republicans are now demanding that we balance the budget on the backs of the poor while they try to sneak in further tax cuts for the wealthy. For more, see Paul Ryan’s Republican budget, then compare it to the fiscally sound People’s Budget. (link)
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer compared helping the poor to helping feed stray animals that continually breed. Also, Colorado state legislator Spencer Swalm said that poor people in single parent homes are dysfunctional. (link)
All this divisiveness seems to work when times are hard (and in general), and Republicans are banking on it. In 2007, 69 percent of Americans thought that the poor rely too heavily on government programs, and in 2009, it was 72 percent according to a Pew Research poll. (link) My question is, how many poor people were polled for this study about how the poor rely too heavily on government spending? The oil industry, the mining industry, pharmaceutical firms, and especially the U.S. agriculture industries depended on U.S. grants in land, subsidies, R & D money and protective tariffs for their companies. But somehow, poor people who need help surviving are the big welfare queens. (link)
The problem is that people don’t understand, or ignore, the causes of poverty,
“People ignore the structural issues — jobs leaving, industry becoming more mechanized,” said Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson, renowned for his study of the Philadelphia poor. “Then they point to the poor and ask, ‘Why aren’t you making it?’ ” (link)
And when you don’t understand the causes of poverty, it’s easy to blame the poor themselves for their economic situation. Inevitably, the question arises about drug addicts, and how they to blame for their poverty. However, there is no causal link between drug addiction and poverty. Some say it is actually poverty leads to drug addiction. (link)
The evidence showing causality between drug use and poverty is either weak or non-existent. One can see a correlation between poverty and drug use, but that does not prove causality. There is also a question of compassion for those less well off. However, Republicans side more with Ayn Rand, who despised government handouts, than they do with Jesus Christ, who sided with the poor as the gospels tell us.
For many in the United States, attitudes toward the poor range from hatred to misunderstanding. And, poverty hits minority communities the hardest. Even though African Americans are about ten percent and Latinos are about seventeen percent of the population, “Twenty-five percent of African Americans, 23 percent of Latinos and 9 percent of whites live in poverty. Overall, 13 percent of the U.S. population is poor.” (link) Does this mean that Blacks and Latinos are just less fit, as many Republicans might want you to believe? Are Whites just more capable and thus a smaller proportion is poor? Only racists and Republicans believe this.
We have a deficit that is growing too large to sustain. Republicans have decided that this is the moment to take advantage of this crisis and cut education, job training, head start, Medicaid, and other programs that invest in workers and people. Their hypocrisy shines through when at a time of deficits they decide to put tax cuts for their wealthy donors in Ryan’s Republican budget and state budgets around the nation while cutting programs for everyone else. Arizona cut corporate taxes, the Ohio budget proposes the same, as does the budget in Michigan and nine other Republican controlled states. (link) In the meantime, two-thirds of all U.S. corporations pay no federal taxes. If the deficits are so dire, one wonders why they would cut corporate taxes in the states and continue the corporate federal tax loopholes that serve to raise the debt further.
Republicans blame the poor and plan to make the poor and other non-rich people in society pay for the mistakes of the financial markets and banks while their millionaire and billionaire friends continue to get a free ride.
Is this really the kind of nation we want to live in?
Blame the poor while taking their money