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Condemning America's Poor For Being Poor; A National Shame

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From Homeless In Santa Barbara
Homeless In Santa Barbara
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Let's pick on the poor, trash them and call them lazy, shiftless Americans who don't want to work and are hooked on handouts from the government. Yes, let's condemn the poor for being poor; because if they would get off their butts and work like the rest of us they, obviously, wouldn't be poor. Why should self-sufficient, hard-working Americans like us have to pay for those who allow themselves to wallow in self-pity and then expect someone else to take care of them?

This country is laboring under the heavy burden of these lazy free-loaders who find work to be so repulsive. And where do we find the greatest examples of these leeches that simply refuse to even try to rise up from their pathetic, self-inflicted conditions? Most of them can readily be found in the 47 million Americans who use the government's Food Stamp Program to feed themselves and their families instead of working for their food.

And, please, let's not hear that same old excuse that 47% of food stamp beneficiaries happen to be children; so what, why should they get a free pass from the government? And what's the problem with the 8% of the recipients that are 60 years or older? Just too weak to work are they? And lastly there must be something really wrong with the balance of 41% of "those" people, a large portion who work in minimum wage jobs to support their families; you know the so-called "working poor" who supposedly can't make ends meet without help from the government.   If they're not smart enough to get a better job then that's their problem; why should the rest of us be penalized for their shortcomings?"

That's the kind of venomous language that I'm hearing coming out of frustrated Americans who are venting their anger on America's poor. The poor of this nation have become the primary targets of certain Washington politicians, together with many individuals in this society, who castigate them on internet websites. Listening to these attacks on the poorest, most vulnerable Americans makes me wonder, "What in the world is happening in this country, what is it that we are becoming?

Now let's listen to the voices of those who condemn the poor in this country for being poor. Here's a series of documented quotes that include all sorts of denigrating remarks about disadvantaged Americans, in particular those who receive benefits from the Food Stamp Program. The identity of the authors of these remarks will not be divulged; it's their personal observations I want to illustrate, not what their political affiliations may be.

"Poor people by and large are poor because they make horrible decisions", so they regularly choose immediate gratification."

"These people manipulate the system, hide their income in cash businesses on the side so that their government benefits aren't affected, fake disability regularly, and yes, are poor because they are on top of all of it, really, really, lazy." ""So, do I have sympathy for them?  No."

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"All pretty much drive late model cars, have flat screen TVs, eat to the point of becoming fat, and breed without care or concern of whether there are two parents in the family." "Yes, they are poor because they are on top of all of it, really, really, lazy."

Here's one of those craven politicians who responded to a constituent who was strongly opposed to drastically cutting food stamps for the young, elderly and poor; in reply he cited a Biblical verse: "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."  

"The poor just have it way too easy and it is time to stop their free ride." This well-known politician has strongly advocated massive cuts in Medicaid, children's health insurance, food stamps, and other programs involving the poorest and sickest Americans. To justify his views he says that "cutting off these benefits will prod the poor to stop being lazy and dependent and launch them on a trajectory of upward mobility."

One of the infamous hosts on TV opined that "And that is that some of the people who don't have enough to eat, it's their fault they don't have enough to eat." This guy who is extremely wealthy, has a reputation for looking down on his less fortunate fellow Americans; he often has labeled those on food stamps as drug addicts and even knows how Jesus would view this situation when he says, ""The problem I have, as I stated, is that you're helping one group by hurting another group and a bigger group, and so I don't know if Jesus is going to be down with that,"

This same host also has said, "And then they're not even going to buy food with it, they're going to buy booze and drugs with it."

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And lastly another TV "personality" said, " 44 million Americans sucking off the udder of the government." And " People who use food Stamps are like "The roof squatters' during Hurricane Katrina, waiting for the government helicopters to rescue them."

Why do these misguided individuals place the blame on Americans who are merely the victims of a dysfunctional government and a system of capitalism that it out of control? Instead of hurling insults at disenfranchised Americans why don't these angry critics go after the Wall Street thieves and crooks that not long ago created and spread fraudulent mortgages across the country, sucking millions of Americans into poisonous agreements that later caused massive foreclosures and sent many of them into bankruptcy and even homelessness? Sure we can call some of these people dumb but what the main blame falls on the scam artists, many of which should be sitting in a jail cell.

Why don't all these angry critics aim their wrath at the high level masters of Corporatism who continue to sell out their country and its workforce by transferring mega-millions of badly needed jobs to foreign slave labor, those who can't take their eyes off their bottom lines and never see the misery of so many of their fellow Americans? Why don't they focus their attacks on those craven, corrupted politicians who absolutely refuse to allow any new forms of job creation legislation to be enacted and, therefore, are highly responsible for this country's continued decline in jobs; and whose inactions have caused more and more Americans to work for the minimum wage and rely on government assistance programs?

When are we going to zero in on all these highly visible culprits who are so severely damaging this country and its society? We know the names of those on Wall Street who fit this description, those in Washington, and those in the Corporate World. Why do we continue to give them a "free pass" and a "free ride" and give them license to further ravage and suck the lifeblood out of this nation? Why don't these critics condemn the many corporations who use every accounting trick in the book to evade paying their share of taxes?

Now after we have heard the spiteful quotes of those who find the poor to be repulsive and disgusting, let's compare them with well-know quotes or passages that have a distinctly opposite meaning with regard to the poor, representing the moral side of this issue.

How about this one from that patriotic song, America the Beautiful: "And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea."

And this poem by Emma Lazurus that can be found on a pedestal located within the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

Maybe some of those who have made those disparaging remarks about this nation's poor, those who have no empathy for them, profess to be Christians; if so, here are words that they should think about very deeply: " Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

These continuous attacks on the poor are a clear illustration of how this country is being torn apart because of the deep divisions that have developed in this society. What we have in America is a tremendous inequality of wealth and income between those at the top of the income ladder versus those in the middle (that class of Americans that is slowly being decimated) and those on the bottom rungs. 

Something is terribly wrong in this country when a very few Americans, that 1%, possess a monumental portion of the nation's total wealth, while at the same time, we have nearly 50 million Americans who are living at or below the poverty line. That's not only morally wrong but it's also an economic disaster in the making. 

This is a monumental problem for this country and it is a sign that our system of capitalism is out of whack. In America we have an economy that, when it functions effectively, is largely fueled by consumer spending. How about this as a perfect example of a direct correlation; as more and more of wealth and income flows to the top the bottom levels are propelled on an opposite downward path. When that inequality is manifested, the result is a continuous loss of consumer purchasing power, the economy remains stagnant, and its foundations continue to weaken. 

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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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