Posted by: coloradokiwi | October 9, 2007

Dipshit Alert: “The poor don’t exist….except to take our money”

Although you hate to give free press to people who are either willfully stupid or stupidly causing a stir, it’s still kind of tough to ignore the incredible idiocy behind these sorts of people. Again, much of this is just a kind of ranting, pissing into the wind to stir up their lefty counterparts in the blogsophere and elsewhere (hey, it worked!).

However, the kernel of what they say there has tremendous pull among the masses (well, not the poor ones–most of them). It is this: poor people have poor habits, and therefore not only do they more or less deserve what they get, anything we give them will be throwing good money after bad, at the expense of me and mine. It is unfortunately a very popular, safe, insulating thing to hold onto: it at once assuages one’s guilt and directs righteous indignation at one’s social inferiors. And of course it allows the myths of the robber barons to gain traction in policy debates.

But actually, I see a silver lining, whereby this sort of rhetoric can be turned against its purveyors. It seems to me that the the crux of their argument revolves around, “Well if the poor have cable…” I don’t necessarily wish to defend the people who have Medicare AND cable (we have to face facts, liberals, there really are millions of people like this–yes, I KNOW it’s not an equivalency, but appearances are nonetheless damning). But I will defend such folks here, because we need to shift the conversation. It’s not about how much stuff someone does or doesn’t have (to a point): it’s about whether they have adequate access to facilities, care, and the ability to move up the socio-economic ladder. Whenever someone brings up the old, “Yeah, but the poor have cable” argument, you can know for certain that they don’t understand what it means to be poor. Because it’s like this: if you have a relatively low paying, shitty job without health care, and in order for you to have private insurance it costs a couple hundred bucks a month (minimum), and odds are that if you get sick you won’t be able to take adequate time off because you’ll be fired, and so on and so forth, what’s the harm in taking a load off at the end of the day for $50 a month or less? And let’s be honest, cable TV in lieu of proper nutrition is different from cable TV in lieu of private health insurance. In other words: the cost of cable is minimal compared to the cost of living a secure life in which good health and free time are readily accessible. Yes, poor folks who have cable are making the “wrong” decision. So what? Is this a good enough reason to insist that we rescind all social services? It’s not enough that people be poor, they have to forgo any luxuries at all because you don’t want to pay less out of your pocket than it costs to get yourself your daily Half-Caff Double Macchiatto on your way to Dewey Screwem & Howe?

I’m not saying we subsidize cable TV and cigarettes, mind you. I’m saying we continue to support social services despite that some poor folks spend what little expendable income they have on cable TV and cigarettes (which, it bears reminding, is not how it really works in the vast majority of cases).

Anyway, since when has it been the American Way to punish people for making the “wrong” decision for their personal finances? Middle class folks who run up huge credit card debt to buy crapola are making the “wrong” decision, as well. But this doesn’t stop us from giving these folks tax breaks, or ridiculous financing deals on cars, or basically catering to their every whim in many areas. This extends beyond the purely economic sphere, mind you: what about all the fatties who cost the group health plans so much? Should we refuse them access to care because we know they eat at Denny’s? (Some say yes.) Either we as a society: (1) establish well-funded, well-managed social services that are intended to make life a little less shitty and difficult, regardless of whether this is seen as a hand-up or a hand-out; or (2) if we’d rather play the moral police, particularly with regard to personal finances, then this too should be spread out among all tax brackets, rather than merely policing the choices of the poor, who already have plenty enough to worry about thank you very much. (Note to rightwingers: this is a rhetorical device, not an invitation to mount your dream of policing the personal lives and choices of all Americans.)

I’m not wholly convinced that we can’t build in penalties and incentives, if people wish for social(ized) programs to be fiscally sound and accountable. But to deny people access to basic health care because (1) they’re ignorant and and in a handful of cases lazy and (2) you’re fucking heartless and greedy, is not a sound way to develop rational policy, in my book. I challenge anyone out there to justify how you can waste a lot of money on anything you like except, you know, human beings.

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Responses

  1. Listen, you are so right it hurts my johnson. I can never quite understand why angry extremists like that are so upset about the money they waste on the dregs of society who have no foresight and no vision, but they fail to complain at the money they spend to legally have foreigners murdered and uprooted by their own country’s military. AND THE UPROOTING AND MURDERING ISN’T EVEN WORKING OUT! I mean, unless murdering and uprooting was the goal in the first place. I have to believe that these same people are so filled with rage and spite (who knows why, since they seem to have comfortable lives) that they cannot but insist on dealing punishment to any and all who do not obey some nameless, faceless, poorly defined belief system that they all cling desperately to.

  2. Hey, buddy, just reading some of the good stuff on your blog. I know you wrote this awhile ago, but I thought I might toss a few ideas out there. Here goes!

    I don’t think people are angry about poor people having cell phones or cable. In any case, they shouldn’t be, as these things are relatively cheap. (I can’t help but point out that cable and cell phones, which require enormous investment and infrastructure, are cheap largely because of our market system. Cell phones especially. These nifty and useful devices are available to almost everyone because twenty years ago, the same people you skewer for drinking expensive coffee decided they needed to spend what was probably thousands of inflation-adjusted dollars for something the general public, and thereby the government, thought was frivolous. But what could be more useful to someone in a lower income bracket who’s starting his own business? Maybe health care.). And I don’t have a problem with someone opining about whether or not a person in any income bracket is spending money stupidly. Moralize all you want- the question isn’t whether or not you’re a glutton, it’s whether you’re a glutton on somebody else’s dime. You say you don’t want to subsidize T.V. and cigarettes, but money is fluid. Like it or not, if you give “a couple hundred bucks, minimum” worth of health care to someone who’s buying a couple hundred bucks of lotto tickets, then you, Joe Taxpayer, just bought Joe Dirt a bunch of lotto tickets. Now, I don’t think this is hardly ever the case. The fantasy welfare king/queen has stoked conservative fires for longer than you or I have been around, and the cable argument is just its latest form. But none of this has any significance if we’re talking about socialized medicine for all. Almost everyone accepts a graduated tax system, albeit to different degrees. But nobody complains about poor people having cell phones and driving on public roads. Public roads are for everyone. They complain, and rightly so, when people have cell phones, and other luxury items, and receive money meant to help people who can’t afford basic services. So no, having cable and a cell phone does not give us justification for rescinding all social services; it does, however, give us the right to rescind those services whose receipt depends upon abject poverty. I don’t have a problem with helping someone out, but I will suck a cock on Colfax before I pay for Warren Buffet to eat government cheese.

    I guess I’d also like a description of what you think health care in the U.S. should look like. There is a lot of real estate between basic benefits for the poor and universal health care. How do you pay for it? Everybody chips in, like a payroll tax? Tax the rich? Force people who can afford it to have some kind of coverage, like car insurance (I guess I favor something along these lines)? In general, I’d like to know how much tax you think people should have to pay. Is there a number you’re shooting for, or do we have to just keep shelling it out until we think everyone has what they deserve? What does a rich person have to pay to avoid being heartless and greedy?

  3. Ames, those are good points. And I think to some extent you’re right: to the extent that money is fluid, I DO resent it if Joe Dirt uses his welfare money to buy lotto tickets.

    However I guess what irks me is that beneath the veneer of sensible disgust that you describe is legit contempt, because I have heard over and over on talk radio and on political blogs about people even bitching about food stamps–which are specifically allocated to be spent at the supermarket. Now, if Joe Dirt buys Cheetos instead of celery–again, that’s too bad, but I’m not sure it’s worth getting all het up about.

    Also, as I said: it’s a bit rich for people to complain about how the poor waste their money (and in some cases this complaint is legit) when there is rarely if ever talk about how the middle and upper classes waste their money, too. Now, they latter two don’t waste taxpayer money DIRECTLY. But with regard to, say, racking up bad credit or defaulting on mortgages, who ended up bailing out Citibank? Who takes a hit when Countrywide’s stock goes down?

    To a great extent this was a situation of those companies’ own making (more on that some other time, maybe), but it was also because a lot of people were very, very stupid with their money.

    All I’m saying, really, is that we should really end all the disgust that’s aimed almost exclusively at poor folks.

    As far as health care: so much of it is well beyond my means to comprehend. I think when I have some more time I’ll post on this. As a short preview: I like Edwards’ ideas the best, but I think we may have to thrown in just a bit of Hillary’s plan in order to get there. And frankly I’m not 100% sure we have to raise taxes all that much if we spend money more wisely. I’d start by doing the politically incorrect thing and ransack the Pentagon.

    Yes…this requires a full post. I’ll get on it.


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