Confronting those who would redefine poverty | Street Jazz

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Confronting those who would redefine poverty

Posted By on Sun, Aug 7, 2011 at 11:46 AM

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are...Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas." - Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

There are certain things I try never to do early in the day, like reading Thomas Sowell over breakfast. But I must have had way too much to eat last Friday, because I finished reading the rest of the paper before I was done, and there he was, daring me to wade in and read his column.

And, boy, am I glad I did!

Well, no, not really. Sowell is just the latest in the recent line of folks who would like us to reconsider and redefine the words “poverty” and “poor” and perhaps, just perhaps, come to the conclusion that those rascals who hide behind the poverty label are not really so poor after all.

Citing Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, Sowell joins those would make a case that, hey, the poor are pretty well off.

According to Rector, 90 percent of the poor in the this county have air conditioning, which less than half of Americans had in 1970. Sowell, in his contempt for the poor, puts the terms poor and poverty in quotation marks throughout his piece.

Almost 75 percent of them own a motor vehicle, and nearly two thirds own more than one.

Just about everyone has a color television and cable or satellite TV.

They own microwaves.

They have more “living space” than the general population of other cities in the world.

Lots of them are fat.

Rector’s “data” has been cited with glee by several conservative commentators of late, given as proof that the War on Poverty, if it ever needed to be declared in the first place, has been won. Unlike our ongoing wars in the Middle East, we can declare victory and dismantle our army permanently.

Well, except for a few tiny holes in their arguments.

Yes, most people these days have air conditioning, but by and large, it’s already in the house, trailer or apartment before you move in. Not that many folks on Poverty Row are going down to Sears and plunking down money to buy a new air conditioning system.

And, yeah, most folks have vehicles, but what kind of shape are they in? How old are they?

Where are they buying them from? Major car dealerships, or from some guy who has a used car lot where you pay by the week, and if you miss a payment or two they come in the middle of the night and repo your car?

There is a reason so many car lots and furniture stores advertise, “No Credit? No Problem!” They are targeting those who, in Sowell’s peculiar world view, are no longer poor.

DVD players? Don’t make me laugh. What do the low end ones cost? 30 dollars?

And as for the poor owning color televisions? Well, just what century are you guys living in?

Oh, they have cable.

Microwaves - oh, my god! Microwaves!

Millions of words have been written about the diets of those who can’t afford to eat well. Surely Sowell and his fellow conservatives aren’t so ignorant that they can just cavalierly write about obesity in the ranks of the poor without some glimmer of self-awareness?

As for living space, unless folks are actually living in a hovel, does this mean that their lives are not worth caring about?

A lot of folks are joining the ranks of the poor every day. They already have air conditioning, color television (pardon me while I guffaw), microwaves and motor vehicles before they reach that exalted status of poverty. They are already residing - unless they get evicted because they can’t pay their rent or mortgage- in a certain living space.

Of course, in our zealous rush to create the new American Underclass, there is often an impatience that the poor are holding onto the last vestiges of the “good life,” and that they aren’t all living like impoverished hill folk in the Appalachian Mountains. Not that Rector and Crew would be inclined to help them much then either, actually.

We are living in a time when hordes of pundits and politicians have become hand maidens to the wealthy, doing their bidding at the drop of a hat, promoting their goals, and making sure that their every creature comfort is met and guaranteed.

In the meantime, in order to do so, they have chosen to heap scorn and ridicule upon millions of their fellow Americans, victims of the policies that they so gleefully and blindly support.

I met a man this weekend who works in a local factory who has just had his car repossessed. But it’s okay, Thomas Sowell and Robert Rector, he still has a cheap DVD player.

******

Oh, but Thomas Sowell has “street cred”

Yes, I know that Thomas Sowell grew up in a life of poverty, but when he left all of that behind, he seems to have left his empathy and compassion for others behind, as well.

*****

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Never lend books - nobody ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are those which people have lent me.-Anatole France

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