Have you ever been trying to merge on the highway and you’re doing everything right but there’s this person who very purposefully speeds up so you can’t merge between him and the car in front of him? It seems to happen quite often. It’s as if the offender is trying to prevent a stranger from taking advantage of them in some way. In the end, they gain nothing and they actually risk injury by driving recklessly. This is similar to how many Americans seem to view the poor.
This view was highlighted beautifully by the surreptitious recording of Mitt Romney telling a gathering of rich people that 47% of the population are moochers. This is an incredibly galling statement coming from someone who made his fortunes by trying to create as many of those “moochers” as possible by taking over companies and firing people and then selling the companies. It’s like when your big brother grabs your arm and punches you with your own arm and asks you, “Why do you keep hitting yourself?” But he’s just one unconscionably rich person who has spent his entire adult life devoid of any contact with poor people. There were millions of others in the United States who were nodding sagely at Romney’s comments, though. Most of them cannot use Romney’s excuse of studiously avoiding poor people.
The problem, I think, stems from a pathological belief that everybody you don’t know is out to take advantage of you in some way. They just know that there are tons of moochers on welfare living off of their hard earned tax dollars despite not personally knowing a single one who is actually doing so. This makes no statistical sense. If the people you know who are or have been on welfare are using the system as they should, where are the moochers? And if you do happen to know a moocher or two that are taking advantage of the system, why aren’t you turning them in? “But I just KNOW that they’re out there somewhere!”, you might intone and you’d be right. It’s not that there isn’t waste in the system because there assuredly is. No system, governmental or private, has zero waste. The problem is that there is no proof that the welfare system is more corrupt than any other system in existence. And yet we have demands for more oversight and spending more money on rooting out waste when that money would be much better served just being given to the vast majority of welfare recipients who very temporarily need the money.
The House (and by The House, I of course mean Republicans) recently voted to cut food stamps by $39 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this will cause 3.8 million people to be dropped from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) next year. Most people on this program have jobs. The jobs our economy can provide them do not even meet the lowest standard of living. Thus the Supplemental portion of SNAP. Our society is so afraid of poor people right now that we elected 217 people to represent us who think providing the minimal amount of food subsidies to those who actually need it is too much for government to do. Who are these people? How did we get to this point?
Welcome to the United States of America where the only thing we seem united against is the poor. And we are all the poorer for it.