Favorite

Attack the poor 

If there is a unifying motif to the labors of Congress and the Arkansas legislature this spring it is to make life harder and existence more intolerable for the poor.

What do Pope Francis and the Republican Party have in common?

I'm waiting.

Let's make it easier by eliminating possibilities, or at least one. They do not share a common admiration for Jesus' sermons that we should give to the poor and that if you are really rich your path to Heaven is to distribute your wealth to the poor and go among them. There must be millions of Republicans who at least share that sentiment even if like the rest of us they don't follow it, but it is scarcely evident in the national Capitol or Arkansas's — or many statehouses for that matter.

If there is a unifying motif to the labors of Congress and the Arkansas legislature this spring it is to make life harder and existence more intolerable for Americans who don't have or make much money or else find themselves socially unacceptable owing to some physical or mental condition. Though masked by discussions about disincentives and religious convictions, the purposes are as simple as that.

The tumult among Republicans over whether to scrap Obamacare altogether or just change a few key provisions to make the whole thing unworkable is altogether about how far to pull up the safety net for the poor — OK, and cutting taxes for the top tenth of 1 percent, drug companies and insurance companies that were levied by Obamacare to shore up Medicare and Medicaid. As part of the reform of Obamacare, Congress is about to start shriveling Medicaid (but after two more elections have passed) so that the needy, from indigents in nursing homes to the disabled of every description, will have to fight among themselves to preserve some access to medical care. The Trump and Ryan budgets — let's save them for another day.

Bills are flying through the Arkansas legislature to make it harder to get nutrition and medical help, to dictate exactly what nourishment the poor can get with public assistance (no more Snickers or 7Ups), to cut off medical aid for people who don't have payroll jobs, to reduce unemployment benefits (Arkansas is not quite at the bottom yet), and the list goes on.

Pope Francis must have had all the Washington news in mind when he gave an interview about the poor to an Italian magazine that serves the homeless and marginalized people. They asked a question that bothers us all. Is it your Christian duty to give something to the beggar at the intersection carrying a homemade sign, the bedraggled woman on the parking lot who asks for money to buy gas for her car that is stalled on the Interstate, the guy who needs a hot lunch or bus money to get to Memphis to see his dying mom or any of the other familiar lines?

Yes, the pope said, it is "always right" to give to the poor. People refuse to give to the homeless because it is likely to be spent on alcohol, not healthy food, or because they should stay in a shelter or find some kind of job. People feel better about not giving if they can think of plausible reason, he said.

" 'I give money and then he spends it on drinking a glass of wine,' " the pope said. "If a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that's OK. Instead, ask yourself what do you do on the sly? What 'happiness' do you seek in secret?" People should admit that they are luckier in life but seek their own guilty pleasures.

His message was larger and it was circulating in Washington and uneasily in Congress, especially the notion that it is wrong to try to segment the indigent according to the thousands of causes for their condition so that some are worthy of society's compassion and aid, others only barely and still others not at all. Francis also admonished Christians not to toss coins casually and refuse to engage the poor but rather to show respect and concern about their situation and not look down upon them as they would animals. He said he had found more genuine humanity and shared empathy in the slums of Buenos Aires than in the better quarters of town. He thought it was wrong to ban begging and the homeless from any quarter, a growing movement in American cities.

A Republican congressman who was instrumental in designing the Obamacare repeal offered a different take on the Bible than Francis's. Jesus didn't like the poor or else he would not have said they would always be with us. Jesus expects the government to kick the bums off the rolls and give them incentives to get a job.

When the Hutchinson administration was able to announce that 25,000 people had been forced off the Medicaid rolls for not following up on administrative requirements and that the Trump administration was about to give the state permission to end health insurance for many thousands more "able-bodied" people who for many thousands of reasons don't hold down payroll jobs, it was cause for celebration. Being a good Christian is so easy.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
    • Apr 27, 2017
  • Coal is over

    The free market's natural search for cheaper and more efficient energy has taken over and even President Trump and a governing party heavily in denial about climate change cannot stop it.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Race to kill

    You wonder if Attorney General Leslie Rutledge would be so eager to execute if her grandpa, Leslie Rutledge, who was imprisoned for killing neighbor Joe Beel and mortally wounding his brother Frank, had been sentenced to death in 1952.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015
  • No tax help for Trump

    The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
    • Apr 27, 2017
  • Coal is over

    The free market's natural search for cheaper and more efficient energy has taken over and even President Trump and a governing party heavily in denial about climate change cannot stop it.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Race to kill

    You wonder if Attorney General Leslie Rutledge would be so eager to execute if her grandpa, Leslie Rutledge, who was imprisoned for killing neighbor Joe Beel and mortally wounding his brother Frank, had been sentenced to death in 1952.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Viewed

  • Intracity tourism

    The issues that tug at my heartstrings are neighborhood stigma and neighborhood segregation, which are so prevalent in Little Rock. In my opinion, the solution to those problems is "intracity tourism."

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: O'Reilly's fall

    • So I did what women have always done: I found another job and quit before…

    • on April 29, 2017
  • Re: O'Reilly's fall

    • Knowing what processes are at work in a person's mind is difficult or even impossible,…

    • on April 29, 2017
  • Re: O'Reilly's fall

    • Sorry, Olphart. I wasn't thinking. Let's slam that door together. See how much noise we…

    • on April 29, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation