Why The American Disdain For The Poor?

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.

4 thoughts on “Why The American Disdain For The Poor?

  1. JZ

    Honestly, it could be said that as many people who have a disdain for the poor have as much disdain for the rich. For every large company/CEO in the news seemingly taking advantage of it’s workers there are far more that provide good jobs, benefits and take great care of people in their employ…it’s just that you’ll never hear about those companies because it’s not interesting news. In the past I’ve dealt directly with folks who are on the welfare roles, most were cognizant of how lucky they were to be getting assistance and others were clearly scamming the system…one woman actually went as far as sharing her ‘formula’ with for how she was taking advantage of the program she was on. So, given that, I’ve seen first hand, in a relatively small way, the system getting worked. The real problem this country has is a perception problem…24/7 news, opinion, analysis from cable networks, the web, blogs from everybody and their brother ‘expert’ leaves many people with a muddled view of the true state of affairs…there’s no doubt in my mind there’s an equal , if not greater amount, of positive, good & fair dealings and situations going on in this world…I’m a firm believer in if you’re not happy with your lot in life, step in front of a mirror and give that person the hell they deserve…change it or live with it…the onus is on each and every one of us to make ourselves happy in this life.

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    1. Jean-Paul Post author

      As much disdain for the rich? I don’t think so. Plus, what disdain there is for the rich is certainly not directed at the rich in general but at very specific individuals/organizations whose actions usually speak for themselves. I don’t know anyone that paints the rich with a giant brush as greedy and self-serving, but I know plenty that do so for the poor. You seem to be doing so yourself with your “the onus is on each and every one of us to make ourselves happy in this life”. That sounds very much like “it’s your fault you’re poor”. Maybe I’m reading what you wrote wrong. Regardless, there’s a lot of privilege embedded in a comment like that.

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  2. JZ

    absolutely no privilege here Jean-Paul…everything I have, I’ve earned…who’s responsibility is it to make their way in this life, if not the individuals?…I don’t know what it’s like in your world but I can’t imagine sitting back and waiting for someone else to make my world right for me..likely won’t happen…there’s plenty of people I grew up with who have very spotty work records but amazingly consistent drinking & screwing-off records..now, they’re bellyaching about how poor they are at this late stage of their life….it’s about choices…like I said, if you’re unhappy, look in the mirror and lay the blame where it belongs.

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