Bill O 'Reilly has made a career of shouting into the wind. The author of "Who 's Looking Out For You " has long spun his propaganda under the guise of not spinning. Too often though we are left positively dizzy trying to keep up with his points, searching desperately for lucidity amongst the rancor. This past week however, the spin stopped long enough for us to get a clear glimpse into how he understands the wind into which he screams.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Bill felt it appropriate to let the country know that the blame for the horrors that befell the poor, need to be placed ...upon the poor. Actually, philosopher O 'Reilly goes as far as to actually blame the very state of poverty, upon the poor, as it is an act of choice in his eyes. In his article, "Children Need to Learn the Consequences of Poverty ", O 'Reilly starts off with some solid observations such as the fact that the government failed to protect those poor people, even though they had days advance warning and that they also failed to defend us against 911. Unfortunately for his readers, he then leaves those facts behind as he ventures into his thesis by saying that teachers need to ask children two important questions in relation to the fate that befell our fellow Americans down south.
1) Do you want to be poor?
Bill uses the latter question to dredge up the tired old republican talking points about how the government is inept; therefore it should be shot and left to bleed to death. He proceeded to regale us with stories about how the rich were able to simply turn on their ignitions to avoid the storm while the poor were left to the trappings of the Superdome. While this fact is true, Bill then takes the illogical leap to assume that because of this, the government cannot protect you if you are poor. Instead of holding local, state and federal governments responsible and demanding that they do protect the citizenry, he uses the tragedy to advocate for no government involvement. This apparently is the "if it is broke, don 't fix it " mentality. No mention about how Bush spent three days on vacation while people drowned. No mention of the outsourced levee project that led to the deaths of hundreds of Americans. No mention of how President Bush appointed a man he knew was lying on his resume and had no experience to head FEMA as a political payback appointment. Apparently to Mr. O 'Reilly, once you establish that the government failed miserably, you quickly move on to blame the fact that people decided to be poor.
That leads us back to his first question; do you want to be poor? This disgusting question reveals that Bill is apparently so busy spinning in his no-spin zone, that he must have lost his sense of balance. Not to be deterred, he proceeds to actually defend this position by saying that the reason people are poor has to be of their own doing because they have the following available to everyone:
2) Scholarships and aid galore for higher education.
3) Affirmative action.
4) Job Training
5) GED opportunities.
6) Military training.
I am unsure if Bill is actually arguing that forcing our children to attend school is somehow an evil socialist plot, but looking past that, there is little on this list that actually prevents poverty and some that are simply misrepresented. First of all, there are not "scholarships and aid galore " in this country today. The truth is that financial aid increases promised by this president have never been delivered while his polices have led to increases in the community college systems fees and tuition rates. Most "aid " packages are no longer in the forms of grants, but are in the form of loans, which by the time the student graduates, they can be ensured to be an indentured servant to their debt for quite some time. If the student drops out, then the loans are all called in. GED opportunities lead to high school diplomas, certainly not a ticket out of poverty alone. Most job training opportunities have also been sliced under this administration to underwrite their wars and those that remain are for mostly unskilled types of positions, which often do not lead the way out of poverty. About the only item listed here that I would wager Bill would like to push would be the military training option, which too often is all that is there for inner-city kids. It is always the poor kids that go off to die for wars started by the rich kids.
Perhaps the most telling quote of this article is in his summation, "The government can force your parents to send you to school but can 't force you to learn. If you do not develop a marketable skill, chances are you will be poor and powerless. " Once again looking past his apparent disdain for compulsory education, this quote clearly indicates that Bill O 'Reilly simply does not get it. His assumptions are all put upon the kids and parents, and absolves the system of all culpability. This "pull yourselves up by the bootstraps " mentality flies in the face of the harsh realities facing the people that actually live in poverty. The truth is that it is not an issue of will; it is an issue of opportunity. The opportunities that exist in the neighborhoods of Long Island, where Bill grew up, are simply not the opportunities that exist in the poorer neighborhoods. I spent some time in poor high schools. The children are routinely not challenged, or taught. Sure one or two may escape, but the republican right will have you believe that EVERY child in poverty can magically escape by simply "working hard. " The ugly inference buried in the sweet-sounding rhetoric is that if you are born into poverty, well it is just your own fault if you stay there. It says nothing about the education system in poorer areas. It says nothing about the drug problems in poorer neighborhoods. Nothing about the fact that in a lot of these cases, the parents themselves are uneducated.