4 Things Politicians Will Never Understand About Poor People
UPDATE: This was written in February of 2013. Since then, absolutely nothing has changed. Politicians still think poor people are living a life of luxury on the government's dime. US Representative Jason Chaffetz is now getting some well-deserved backlash for saying that poor people need to choose between an iPhone and healthcare. Rather than lose my mind and go on a six-hour profanity filled tirade, could someone make sure he sees this article? Actually, just show it to every politician, because this mindset isn't going away any time soon. Here's the original article:
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 ...
Poor Does Not Equal Unemployed
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 ...
Poor People Are Not Mindless Leeches
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 ...
Poor People Aren't Rampant Drug Addicts
"If you have enough money to be able to buy drugs, then you don't need the public assistance. I don't want tax dollars spent on drugs." -Jerry Sonnenberg
Amen, brother! Now, that's something I can get behind. And it looks like Kasha Kelley of Kansas agrees with us. So what do you propose we do about it? Oooh, poopydoodles, I just remembered that you're both huge advocates for mandatory drug testing for all welfare recipients.
"Yep, looks good. Here's your poor people money."
This is another hot debate in political circles because quite a few states have already adopted it, and several more are considering it. Why not? Yes, it was declared unconstitutional on grounds that it violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches, but other than that, it seems like a good idea. Drugs are a huge problem with the poor, and I most definitely don't want to be handing my tax dollars to someone who's just going to blow it on ... well, blow.
That's what all of these states thought, and some of them still think that. Then they did the testing and found out that, actually, the poor are pretty much as clean as the rest of us. In Arizona, out of 87,000 people they subjected to the test, exactly one monster-forkin' person tested positive. One. And Florida had just as embarrassing results: 21 people tested positive out of 51,000. That was right before a federal judge showed up and put a boot in their ... leg-hat, by blocking the law. Of course, that didn't hurt their feelings much since the program not only didn't save the state any money, but it actually put them almost $46,000 in the hole (must ... resist), even when you factor in the money they saved by denying applicants.
What really troubles me with this one isn't the occasional crackhead being booted from the system. It's the 6 year old that isn't being provided for, regardless of what illegal horsepoop their parents are putting into their bodies. As in all of these points, yes, those people do exist -- I'll never deny that. And yes, I think it's a dagnabbit falootin' shame that some of our money is going to crack instead of ... well, literally anything else. But that child is along for the ride, regardless, and pushing him deeper into poverty is unacceptable on pretty much every level.
Except that kid. That one's a piece of crap.
It's a total lack of sympathy on the parts of the people who are supposed to have the best interests of- oh, "sympathy." That's a good one. Let's remind politicians of that real quick before we forget.
You Don't Have Real Sympathy for the Poor if You've Never Lived It
OK, let's be calm here. Let's just take a deep breath and talk about this like the rational, well mannered, non-cursing people that we are. Here is an infographic that ran in the Wall Street Journal talking about how the new tax code would be "highly painful" for Americans. The graphic covers every possible scenario the Wall Street Journal can conceive of, from the single mom only making $260,000 a year to the retired couple trying to get by on a fixed income of $180,000:
Reading that dumb fucking mind turd of an image is like wiping my ass with my eyes. If you can look at that steaming pile of shit and not see what's wrong with it, you live in a different goddamn universe than the rest of us.
No, that didn't come from a politician, but this sure as hell does. That's Linda Sanchez, who is desperately trying to tug at our heartstrings by saying that she lives paycheck to paycheck. On her $174,000 salary. To pay for her multiple homes. Now, I understand that if you live a certain lifestyle and you're a limp dick at finances, it would be pretty easy to burn through that much in a year, but does that make us any more sympathetic? Fuck no, it doesn't. Even as one of the least wealthy members of Congress, she still earns three-and-a-half times more money than the average American household. And 16 times more than those at the very top of the poverty line.
So the question is, how can she possibly think of herself as poor? Because $174,000 a year is poor -- for a member of congress. They have no concept whatsoever of what life is like for someone getting by on what most working people make, let alone somebody subsisting on government aid. Although they can comprehend our income as a number, they cannot comprehend the lifestyle because they haven't lived it and they likely never will. You're not going to find these politicians hanging out in the poor section of town, scrounging change for weed (well, maybe Bill Clinton) -- they spend most of their time around other wealthy people -- other members of Congress (about half of which are millionaires), rich donors, high-powered business types, celebrities, etc. So their idea of "poor" or even "brokeass" is the pitiful bastard at the bottom of the chain who is living off of that measly $174,000 base salary because he or she doesn't have any other income on the side. Linda Sanchez is their version of poverty.
It's not even their fault -- you and I can be told about the horrors of living in the impoverished parts of Africa, where, for instance, any able-bodied person has to be pulled from work and school so that they can spend several hours of their day hauling a 70-pound jug of muddy, parasite-infested water several miles back to their home. But no matter how good the narrative and no matter how persistent the activist, we in no way have any idea what their lives are actually like. We can't know it because we will never live it. At best, we can feel sympathy for them and even donate some money to a charity to help them out.
"Just wanted to show you how much you would have gotten this week if not for me putting it back in my pocket right now."
But we hopefully wouldn't be stupid enough to think we can know what it was like to grow up there and to live under a completely different set of rules and expectations. And for the love of fuck, we shouldn't be so goddamned shit-ignorant as to somehow think they're putting one over on us when they get food aid ("Oh, please, I wish I could have afforded an AK-47 when I was 8.") But then I turn around and hear dumb fucking cockholes like John Fleming claim that after investing back into his businesses, his $6.3 million earnings only leaves him with $600,000. And when he continues flapping his stupid richlips and says that by the time he's fed his family, he only has $400k left, my eyes roll so hard up into my head I can visually inspect my own soul. And then I set all of my possessions on fire to prevent myself from doing it to his.
Though it still doesn't change the fact that he could replace everything I own with two hours of work.
And I realize that shoving all of the numbers we've cited right into their faces would do nothing -- all of this data is available to them, at any time. All of it would bounce right off their skulls because of that one time they heard about a guy on welfare who had an iPhone and a big-screen TV, and one time they read an email forward about a guy who gave money to a beggar only to see that beggar later driving a Cadillac. And dammit, they think, that has to be the way it is, because otherwise it means that well-meaning people can bust their fucking asses every day and still fall through the cracks. And that can't be possible, can it? "Quick! Find me a picture of a poor person buying lobster with food stamps so I can reassure myself the system works!" Oh, fuck you.
Well, I got through most of it without cursing. So lick my asshole.
For more Cheese, check out 5 Reasons Today Isn't Going to Suck and 5 Dismissive Arguments That You Only Use When You're Wrong.