Off the top of your head, how many of your friends can you think of make less than $11,000 a year? Maybe they work some mind-numbing part-time job, taking cover charges and stamping hands at a strip club. Or if you're a bit older, how many families do you know of who have one person working, bringing in less than $23,000 to support a spouse and a couple of kids? There's nothing wrong with either of those things ... but those numbers are the poverty threshold in the U.S., and in my area of the country, it encompasses a fudging poopload of people (sorry, I'm trying to cut down on my cursing).
Poverty is a hot topic for politicians, but it seems like every time they open their mouths about the subject, stupid falls out. There's a huge part of me that wants to grab them by their orphan skin lapels and scream reason into their preciously oblivious brains, but the logical side of me knows it won't matter. There are some things they will just never understand. Things like ...
Not long ago, Newt Gingrich had his famous "janitor" idea, where he proposed that we pay impoverished students to clean up vomit and strewn feces part time at their schools. It sprung up a lot of debate, which I had little to no interest in beyond this key phrase: "Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. [...] They have no habit of 'I do this and you give me cash,' unless it's illegal." Not to be out-douched, Mitt Romney's now famous video hit the 'net, showing him calling 47 percent of the country "entitled" and saying that they believe they're victims and they want the government to hand them everything:
I realize these are both republicans, but that's actually not my point here. This isn't about philosophy, it's about pure numbers: A big ol' chunk of people living below the poverty line actually work. About 10.5 million of them, in fact, or a third of the people living in poverty. Of the households below the poverty line, 84 percent have somebody in the house who is working. So that whole bit about how these kids have no concept of what work is? That's a bunch of, uh, horse pucky. Two-thirds of poor children are in working households.
That's a far mother-frumpled cry from Gingrich's pretty broad statement. It's such a dramatic misunderstanding of what "poor" actually is, and it's dangerous because it paints a grossly inaccurate picture of people laying around their house, watching Family Guy and enjoying their "free money." Yes, those people do exist -- I've met them in person. I've drank their beer and dodged their roaches in their living rooms. At one point, my parents were those people.
This is how I remember my mom through most of my adolescence.
But of all the poor people I've known over the years -- and I have known a lot -- I have come across very few able-bodied, able-minded people who didn't do something to bring in some money. Even the ones who didn't have so much as a part-time job still managed to at least find temporary seasonal work mowing lawns, shoveling snow, or standing on street corners and playing the guitar with their penis.
So if the issue is that these people are watching reruns and collecting government checks, guess what: 91 percent of government benefits go to the disabled, elderly, or working households. Not a typo -- 91 percent. You're free to speculate that some of those people could try harder or are faking their disability or whatever, but there's no way the reality lines up with this politician fantasy of the lazy masses who just greedily rub their hands together while leeching their unfathomable riches from the always generous American populace.
"Here's all the crap I hate. Now don't bother me for another year."
Oh, while we're on that subject ...
Let me give you a quote from then-Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer of South Carolina that will make you step away from your computer so you can have adequate room to perform a full-on Hadoken at your monitor:
"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."
"Look at it. All it does is eat, sleep, and crap. Same with that dog."
Oh, Andre. You crazy piece of sh- ... work. Honestly, I was going to give you some major crap about that, but why bother? You're just one guy spouting off some insane piece of extremist drivel. It's not like you compared poor people to raccoons eating beetles out of the carcasses of dead rats. Wait, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning actually did that?
Yep. He was telling a story about a road project being disrupted by biologists who placed buckets of dead rats on the side of the highway to collect an endangered species of beetle, because sometimes science is weird. But at night, raccoons would come up and eat the beetles out of the rats. Then he went on to say, "They're not stupid. They're going to do the easy way, if we make it easy for them, just like welfare recipients all across America. If we don't incent them to work, they're going to take the easy route."
Right, the "easy route." Like spending money you don't have in order to attend college for four years, and then flail around, grasping for any job whatsoever in order to enjoy the frills and luxury of basic survival. Or does he mean taking "the easy route" by accepting government assistance and living the next year straddling the line between homelessness and malnutrition? The major problem I have with this isn't so much the ignorance as it is the insinuation that the poor are blithering genital heads (seriously, how does Prince do it?), who are constantly on the search for loopholes, allowing them to do as little as possible in life.
"I have a master's in 'Bring me a beer.'"
In reality, 47 percent of the impoverished 18 to 26 age group have actually been to college. Now, that doesn't mean they all graduated, but that's not the point. I don't know many people who had the motivation and presence of mind to enter into college and didn't also have a desire to do something special with their lives. Most people don't go to college because they were bored, though I will concede that it's why many people teach at colleges. OHHHHH, eat it, teachers!
See, it's not about intelligence, it's about trying. Politicians can't get past the idea that the only possible way to fail in America is if you sit back and do nothing. The idea that someone can put out the effort, yet not gain ground is inconceivable to them. Again, that doesn't mean that human leeches don't exist. I grew up doggone poor, myself. I've seen, firsthand, people who were content to cash their government check and then go back to sleep. But I know overwhelmingly more people who didn't want to be on assistance and busted their lovely lady lumps to escape. Some succeeded and some did not, but it sure as pickles wasn't for lack of trying.
"I am exhausted. But I'm exhausted with awesome shoes."
But, hey, if we don't let up on the poor, how are we going to flush all of the moochers and drug addicts from the system? Wait, did I just say "drug addicts"? That reminds me ...